Silver Spring Green Trail
The off road trail link to the Sligo Creek Trail system:
The Green Trail is the planned off-road trail link to the Sligo Creek Trail. The Sligo Creek Trail is part of the the Anacostia Trubutary Trail System. When complete, the Green Trail will be 1.1 miles long and will extend east from the Silver Spring Transit Center at Colesville Road to the Sligo Creek Parkway. It will be a sidepath trail on the north side of Wayne Avenue.
Complete from Colesville Road to Cedar Street:
The Green Trail is already complete in the Central Business District (CBD), from Colesville Road to beyond Fenton Street, ending at St. Michaels Church near Cedar Street. This section has an approx. 8′ wide asphalt biking path and also a separate 5′ wide concrete pedestrian path. It passes by the Discovery Headquarters, the Wayne Avenue Parking Garage, and Whole Foods. It crosses Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street at-grade in pedestrian crosswalks.
Sharing Wayne Avenue with the Purple Line:
An approx. 0.7 mile section remains unfinished east of the CBD from Cedar Street to the Sligo Creek Parkway. The original plan called for separate bicycle and pedestrian paths to be built, similar to those in the already completed section. But construction was delayed pending Purple Line decisions. Now the Purple Line design alternative with light rail on Wayne Avenue has been selected by the state. The Green Trail and the Purple Line will share Wayne Avenue east of Fenton Street.
The plan for the Purple Line calls for Wayne Avenue to have four traffic lanes, with the two center lanes being shared by light rail and motor vehicle traffic east of Fenton Street. Left turn lanes would be added at several key intersections to reduce traffic congestion. The roadway must be widened to accommodate these new turn lanes, and also for a center median transit station at Dale Drive. The Green Trail would be built as a single shared use path for both cyclists and pedestrians, approx. 8′ wide, instead of the dual path in the original plan. This section of the Green Trail east of Cedar Street will be completed with Purple Line construction.
An 8′ width is not great, but will do:
Use of the Green Trail outside of the CBD will be much lighter than we will see on the future Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch Trails throughout the Silver Spring area. It is a disappointment to see the Green Trail plans be scaled back from two paths, one for pedestrians and one for cyclist, to a single shared use 8′ path to accommodate the Purple Line. But an 8′ trail width should be adequate for the Green Trail east of Cedar Street.
The Green Trail will not protect trail users from motor vehicle conflicts in the same way that the Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch Trails will. The Green Trail is a sidepath trail along a busy roadway, it will have many busy street and driveway crossings along its length. Several of these crossings are especially hazardous, such as at the Wayne Avenue Garage where sight lines are very poor, and at the Whole Foods parking lot where cars routinely enter and exit the lot without looking for trail traffic.
Sidepath trails like the Green Trail often create a false sense of safety for novice bicyclists. It may be more dangerous to cycle on the trail than on the roadway because there can be fewer conflicts with turning and crossing traffic when on the road. Many cyclists who are comfortable riding on quiet streets and who know this area will avoid the Green Trail and use other routes, especially east of the CBD where there are alternative routes on quiet residential streets.
Elsworth Drive is a good on-road alternative to the Green Trail. It is a quiet residential street east of the business district, and is already signed as an on-road bike route.
Elsworth Drive is an alternate on-road route
The Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch Trails will use trail bridges and underpasses to keep trail users separate from motor vehicles at all roadway crossings through the entire Silver Spring urban area. Both of these trails connect to very significant destinations. Neither of these two trails have good alternate routes. These trails will need all of their planned 10′ width and maybe more to handle heavy trail traffic safely. In contrast we can expect the Green Trail to be much less heavily used, especially east of the central business district.
The Green Trail is compromised by its numerous at-grade street and driveway crossings. But nonetheless the Green Trail is very much needed at the Silver Spring Transit Center and in the CBD, where all the streets are jammed with motor vehicle traffic and there are few options for non-motorized travel. It will also be useful to reach local destinations on Wayne Avenue beyond the CBD, and as an all off-road link to reach the Sligo Creek Trail for those cyclists who feel uncomfortable riding on even quiet streets.