Posts Tagged ‘Lyttonsville’

Is the Future CCT headed for gridlock?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Preliminary Engineering by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) for the Purple Line and Future CCT is nearing completion. MTA has begun its second round of neighborhood work group meetings to present the next level of design to the public. Purple Line/CCT design features were presented for the Bethesda Station area on December 18, 2012 and for the Lyttonsville and Woodside Station areas on January 16, 2013. The most recent powerpoint presentations, sketches and maps for those areas are available now at the MTA website.

A sample of the information available at the MTA website for neighborhood work groups Bethesda, Lyttonsville and Woodside:

Purple Line and CCT bridges over Rock Creek
Proposed Purple Line and CCT bridges over Rock Creek
(source: MTA at www.purplelinemd.com)

Partial map of Future CCT at Rock Creek
The future Purple Line and CCT alignment at Rock Creek
(see MTA Lyttonsville Map for a more complete view)

The new MTA drawings show some changes from prior CCT plans, including:
1) The new 5-7′ wide sidewalk alignment through the Bethesda Tunnel, with the main trail shunted to the surface route (surface route not shown – that is under design by MCDOT),
2) The north-side location for the switchback connection to the Rock Creek Trail,
3) A new underpass alignment under the Purple Line tracks that is closer to the Rock Creek bridges,
4) A trail bridge over the CSX tracks that is further north from the Rosemary Hills Elementary School, and
5) A new, grade separated crossing under the east end of a proposed new Talbot Avenue Bridge.
These changes reflect some difficult trade-offs, but by-and-large can result in a high quality off-road trail from the center of Bethesda into the center of Silver Spring. While the decision to take the trail out of the Bethesda Tunnel and across Wisconsin Avenue at-grade has been a disappointment, the trail would have only one other at-grade crossing between Bethesda to downtown Silver Spring (at relatively quiet Stewart Avenue in Lyttonsville). At-grade crossings at three state highways (Connecticut Ave., 16th Street, and Colesville Road) on today’s Georgetown Branch Trail would be eliminated.

All of this planning is in serious danger of going onto the shelf, with no progress for building either the Purple Line or for completing the CCT for many years to come!. The facts:

  • All funding for Purple Line planning ends in 2014, and there is no funding available for construction to begin.
  • To avoid a shut-down of work, the state must submit an application for a “Record of Decision” to the FTA this summer to get federal construction funding. The application must include a credible financial plan to show how the state will meet its proposed 50% share of the construction costs.
  • The state transportation trust fund has been depleted and the state has no money to start any new highway, bridge or transit projects. The state cannot submit a credible financial plan for its share of the Purple Line unless a serious transportation funding package is approved by the state legislature now that will restore the Transportation Trust Fund in the immediate future.

The impact of the uncertainty in state funding for Purple Line upon completion of the CCT is already showing – with the recent accouncement that funding to build the CCT is being delayed: See Montgomery County projects tied to Purple Line delayed

If the governor and state assembly do not act in this legislative session, it will likely be many years before the transportation funding issue is addressed again in any substantial way. Next year is an election year and little will get done that involves political courage. The Purple Line will lose its place in line for federal construction funding. It could be many years before the project can be revived, and much of the design work will then need to be updated.

If the Purple Line project stalls, progress on completing and paving the Future CCT between Bethesda and Georgetown will also stop. We will not get the right-of-way in the CSX corridor that is crucial to completing the trail.

There is no alternative trail alignment for an off-road trail into downtown Silver Spring that does not require using CSX right-of-way in several places. But CSX has a strong general policy of not allowing any trail uses within its right-of-way. Purple Line project manager Mike Madden confirmed in an email exchange with me on November 26, 2012 that MTA had sent Purple Line plans to CSX for comment last fall, and CSX had responded in a letter to MTA to indicate it would not grant right-of-way for any trail use. MTA responded in turn with a letter to CSX to request that an exception be made for the state Purple Line/CCT project. Mike Madden told me at the 16 January Lyttonsville/Woodside neighborhood work group meeting that CSX has not yet responded to this request.

CSX right-of-way needed at 16th Street Bridge
The grade-separated trail crossing under the 16th Street Bridge
is one of several places where CSX right-of-way is critical
(source: MTA at www.purplelinemd.com)

The state has considerable leverage it can use to bring CSX to the negotiating table regarding right-of-way for the Purple Line and CCT. CSX has many business interests statewide that are before the state for consideration, including requests for increasing its freight infrastructure capacity along its Brunswick Line. CSX cannot easily brush the state request for CCT right-of-way aside so long as the state makes the CCT an integral part of its high priority Purple Line project. But if the Purple Line project stalls, CSX right-of-way negotiations with the state will stop. Montgomery County has no leverage to bring CSX to the negotiating table for a trail-only project.

Paving the existing Georgetown Branch Trail between Bethesda and Lyttonsville will also likely remain gridlocked without the Purple Line, for several reasons:
1) The county council will be extremely reluctant to approve funding to pave the existing trail so long as there is any hope that the trail will be torn up and rebuilt for shared use of the corridor with transit in the not-to-distant future. Transit use has always been proposed for this corridor since the county bought it in 1988 – in fact the corridor would never have been purchased by the county if not for this future shared transit/trail use. Even if the Purple Line stalls, the need for better rapid transit between Silver Spring and Bethesda will only continue to grow. Neither East-West Highway nor Jones Bridge Road can be expanded to have the dedicated transit lanes that are essential for “rapid” transit on these congested roads, at any reasonable cost and impact. This Georgetown Branch transportation corridor will continue to be the only, and obvious, choice for better east-west rapid transit, whether as light-rail or as Bus Rapid Transit. Trail supporters cannot reasonably expect that this corridor will be surrendered to them for exclusive trail use if the Purple Line stalls.
2) Transit supporters will vigorously oppose placing anything in the Georgetown Branch corridor that may make it politically more difficult to advance transit in the future. I believe some limited trail development is worthwhile and should proceed in this corridor – I was in the lead in advocating for opening the Rock Creek Trestle in 2003. But I cannot dispute that “Save the Trail” advocates have used “we got here first” to build opposition to transit in the corridor, with no regard to the fact that the trail would not exist today if not for the promise of future shared transit and trail use.
3) There will be significant oppositon to paving the trail from local neighorhoods and other users. Pam Browning, past president of “Save the Trail”, was on record in opposition to paving the trail unless it is done without replacing the existing gravel path and without cutting any trees. Those conditions are, of course, impossible to meet. There are many other local residents, joggers, and recreational cyclists who would like to see the Interim CCT stay as it is – uncrowded and natural. They fear paving will open the CCT to speeding cyclists.

Trail users should be very concerned that the Purple Line is in danger of stalling because the state Transportation Trust Fund is running on empty. If the project stalls then completing and paving the future CCT will stall along with it. If that prospect bothers you and you live in Maryland, then now is the time to contact your Maryland State Representatives and urge them to fix the Transportation Trust Fund.

New Lyttonsville West plans for the CCT bear watching

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

The MTA briefed its new plans for the Purple Line in the Lyttonsville area at a March 14 neighborhood meeting. The Gazette summarized the plans at Residents pleased with revised Lyttonsville Purple Line plans. I think trail users can be pleased with the plans, but with one important issue that bears watching closely as the design is refined – that is the proposed trail underpass near the Grubb Road/Terrace Drive access path.

The MTA has made the March 14 presentation materials available on its website at work sessions – Lyttonsville Area. The presentation includes this map of the new CCT alignment:

The CCT is on the neighborhood (south) side of the Purple Line
(click on the map for a larger view)
(source: MTA work sessions – Lyttonsville Area)

A larger areal map of the proposed new arrangement is at Map of Refined Lyttonsville Alignment. It shows details much better than the map above.

Overall I like the new proposed trail alignment better than the previous one that I had reported on here last fall. This new plan returns the trail to the neighborhood (south) side of the Purple Line project, for easier access to the trail from the neighborhood. This trail access is most improved in the area of Kansas Avenue and of Talbot Avenue at the east end of the Lyttonsville neighborhood, where the prior plan had the trail cut off from the neighborhood by the Purple Line tracks.

The new plan does have some drawbacks, however. One is that it will have the trail cross Stewart Avenue at-grade. While traffic there will be light and safety can be managed, it is nonetheless a loss from the previous plan that would have realigned Stewart Avenue there and would have given a grade-separated trail crossing.

Proposed location of CCT underpass near Grubb Road
(source: MTA Map of Refined Lyttonsville Alignment)

But the biggest concern I have with the new plan is at the western end of this area study – near the Grubb Road/Terrace Drive access path. The new plan proposes to keep the trail on the north side of the Purple Line from the west, then cross under the Purple Line tracks to the south side in an underpass just to the west of the Grubb Road/Terrace Road access path. MTA asserted at the March 14 meeting that their studies were showing the previous plan, to bring the trail under the Purple Line at the Rock Creek bridges, was proving to be creating too much difficulty and expense for the bridge designs. MTA has decided it will be easier to keep the trail on the north side of the Purple Line across Rock Creek and Rock Creek Park and to make the crossing with an underpass at this new point farther to the east.

I think MTA will be forced to reconsider this new plan for a trail underpass, because the existing terrain in this area will not support an underpass. The Purple Line will need to stay low as it climbs up from its Rock Creek bridge. The old B&O railbed (and the existing Interim Trail) are in a cut at the Grubb Road access for this reason. The Purple Line will not likely be elevated much higher than the existing old railbed is here, because that would force the Purple Line to climb too steeply from the Rock Creek crossing. But the trail cannot easily stay at an elevation that is even lower than the Purple Line, to cross in an underpass here, without being in a very deep cut, or in a long tunnel. Either will be very undesirable.

We need to watch this proposed trail crossing very closely as it evolves. I think as MTA gets into the design process, MTA will find that it needs another location, likely to the west, where the trail crossing will not have to go to war with the existing terrain.

Keeping it in balance at Lyttonsville

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The MTA returned to Lyttonsville for a neighborhood meeting on Oct. 3, to follow-up on questions raised during the Sept. 13 Lyttonsville neighborhood work group meeting. As reported in the Gazette at Silver Spring residents question Purple Line redesign, some local residents remain very unhappy about the MTA proposal to “flip” the CCT to the north side of the project and to move the maintenance facility to the east side of Lyttonsville Place. Residents expressed strong views that this proposed change was a major “supersizing” of the storage yards and maintenance facility from anything that they had been shown before, and many felt the neighborhood had been blindsided at the Sept. 13 meeting with this major change. The two major concerns of local residents about the future CCT appear to be that the proposed flip would cause the loss of shade along the trail and would make access to the trail more difficult.

I saw little at this second meeting that would change my first assessment of the new plans for the CCT at Lyttonsville. I feel that the Lyttonsville Civic Association representatives and neighbors are greatly overstating the significance of the changes the MTA is proposing. The CCT can work well in this area with the new proposed alignment, provided proper attention is given to several key design issues. In particular, the new proposal should be tweeked to keep more green buffer along the trail and to improve the local access routes.

Warning: This is a long post. If you would rather not get into the neighborhood issues, then skip down to the discussion of the CCT green buffer and local access issues.

The scope and size: Not greatly increased from before.

Numerous speakers at the meeting complained bitterly that the MTA was greatly expanding the scope of the project at Lyttonsville with little prior notice. Claims were made that this was the first time MTA had shown that the project would take all of the area between the Georgetown Branch Trail corridor and Brookville Road. It was even asserted by one speaker that the plans for double tracking and running transit vehicles on headways as short as 6 minutes in the Lyttonsville area were new. These assertions, though certainly heartfelt, simply do not line up well with the public record. MTA has posted links to the presentation material for the two meetings on its website at Lyttonsville station area work group. The MTA presentation given at this second meeting addressed the history of the project, and is available as a pdf file at Oct. 3, 2011 MTA Presentation.

One can find from the history that the transit alignment was described clearly as being double tracked at Lyttonsville, and running as frequently as 6 minute headways, as early as 1990. (See, for example, the pdf file 1990 Georgetown Branch Master Plan, p. 44, for specification of double tracking along the northern side of Lyttonsville neighborhood.) The maintenance facility has grown considerably from that shown in the 1990 plan, but it was shown nearly three years ago, in this sketch presented at the Nov. 2008 public hearing, that the maintenance facility would require taking many of the businesses on the south side of Brookville Road from Lyttonsville Place to Stewart Avenue:


Lyttonsville Station as presented at the Nov. 2008 Public Hearing
(source: Oct. 3, 2011 MTA Presentation)

The Oct. 3 MTA Presentation also showed drawings that had been presented to the community in Feb. and Oct. of 2009 where all of the businesses on Brookville Road to Stewart Ave. would be impacted except one (the Counter Intelligence showroom) at the Stewart Avenue corner. Claims being made by the neighborhood that the project suddenly grew dramatically with the plan shown at the September 13 meeting don’t hold up.

Neighborhood disturbance: Little worse than what is there now.

The changes from that earlier LPA plan and the new plan do not much change the total scale, but they do change relative positions substantially. Those changes are:
1) The location of the trail, Purple Line tracks, and storage tracks are flipped, mostly with little change to the overall project footprint, to put the trail and Purple Line tracks on the north side of the project further from the Lyttonsville neighborhood.
2) The maintenance building is moved to be east of the Lyttonsville Place Bridge and closer to the Claridge House.
3) A 200 car, two level parking garage is new to the project, to be built south of the maintenance building, and
4) Stewart Avenue will be realigned with a new bridge over the Purple Line, bringing the project closer to the homes at the end of Albert Stewart Lane.

The MTA pdf file Design Option Roll Map shows the location of these features. MTA also presented the following sketch to show relative locations at the Claridge House:


The maintenance building and parking garage near the Claridge House
(Click on the image for a larger view.)

The MTA presentation makes several important points about the impacts of these changes on the neighborhood:
1) The noisiest and most active part of the system is the main Purple Line tracks and station, and they have been moved to be substantially farther from the Lyttonsville neighborhood.
2) The maintenance building is expected to be relatively quiet since work is performed inside. The storage tracks may be noisier with activity from shuttling vehicles back and forth. Switching the maintenance building location with the storage track location can help reduce the noise near the Claridge House from the prior plan.
3) The new configuration allows through movements on the storage tracks, which should reduce the amount of shuttling needed to access the vehicles.

Many residents at the meeting appeared to be very skeptical of the MTA claims that the new configuration would not seriously degrade their neighborhood. But I think an obvious fact was largely ignored by the neighbors during the discussion – that while the Lyttonsville residential area is very attractive, the area between the north side of the residences and Brookville Road is a noisy dump, and could hardly be made worse by the Purple Line. One only needs to walk around the area and listen to realize this is true. I especially encourage those who think they already know the area to do this. People who live in an area quickly become deaf to the constant noises that are in the background, and need to consciously listen to experience it as it really is.

I offer the following two Google Map views as a poor substitute for a walking tour:


View Larger Map
Behind the Claridge House, where the two level
parking garage is planned.

On my two most recent visits to the area above, a heavy front-end loader was busy moving materials in the landscaping yard near the Claridge House swimming pool. The engine noise and backing signal noise it was generating easily exceeded anything that would come from a light-rail vehicle.


View Larger Map
Looking toward the back yards of homes on
Albert Stewart Lane from Stewart Avenue

I regularly see a forklift noisily working in the Serra Stone staging yard immediately behind the homes seen in the view above. Stewart Avenue serves dozens of businesses, and there are nearly 200 parking spaces and vehicle loading spaces associated with those businesses. This draws considerable heavy truck and delivery vehicle traffic in addition to the automobile traffic. I am not convinced that removing the Serra Stone yard for the Stewart Avenue realignment, and adding automobile traffic from 200 Purple Line employees coming to the new parking garage, will have a heavy impact on the homes in this area compared to what is there now.

Shade on the CCT: Little difference from the prior plan, a green buffer should be added to either plan.

Several neighbors commented at the Oct. 3 meeting that the new Purple Line plan left the CCT with no shade through the Lyttonsville Station area. The trail would be adjacent to Brookville Road, and the MTA plan shows no green buffer at all between the trail and either Brookville Road on one side and the Purple Line tracks on the other side.

This is a big issue, but it is not a new problem that results from the “flip” from the previous plan. Close inspection of the previous plan, shown in the pdf file LPA Roll Map, reveals that the previous plan also left the CCT without shade through this area. The future CCT is pushed south from the current location of the Interim Trail, pushing into the industrial yards and eliminating the thin line of trees there now. The CCT would be left with no buffer from the treeless industrial yards. This issue must be addressed, regardless of whether the plan is flipped or not.

Trail supporters need to press MTA and other decision makers to provide some green space alongside the CCT in this area to preserve the trail experience. The Impact Comparison map suggests how this can be done:


MTA Impact Comparison map
(Click on the image for the full map.)

The map above shows the areas as shaded in green where the proposed “flip” would reduce the impact from the previous plan. There is considerable green area on the south side of the Purple Line project adjacent to the WSSC facility, west of Lyttonsville Place. I propose that area be reclaimed for the project, to expand the total width of the project to enable the storage tracks and Purple Line tracks to be shifted south by 10-15′. This shift would create space for a 10-15′ wide planted buffer along the CCT at the north side.

Expanding the project on the east side of Lyttonsville Place to also create room for a planted buffer there will have more impact on the properties along the south side, but nonetheless this should be seriously considered. The new “flip” plan has moved the Purple Line tracks farther from the Lyttonsville neighborhood than before – we can move the tracks 10-15′ south and still have the main line tracks be farther from the neighborhood than in the prior plan. In my view having the mass of tracks and trail be softened by adding a green strip with trees beside the trail would more than compensate the view from the neighborhood for having a slightly wider total project. And the experience for both the trail user and transit user will be greatly improved with small trees and green space alongside.

This is important – we need to get more green space into the design, and we can do so if we make it a priority.

Local CCT access: Give attention to the four bridges.

Residents of Lyttonsville are understandably concerned that moving the CCT to be alongside Brookville Road will make access to the CCT more difficult for them. But there is a trade-off here, since those working at the Army Walter Reed Annex and the businesses in the industrial park will find it easier to reach the CCT. If the MTA goes forward with the new plan, the design should incorporate upgrades to all four bridges crossing over the Purple Line so that Lyttonsville residents have the best local access to the trail possible under the circumstances.

At Grubb Road: The MTA drawing for the new plan shows that access to the trail from Grubb Road/Terrace Drive to the CCT will be by a new pedestrian bridge over the Purple Line where the access trail to the Interim Trail is now. But the plan also shows a long switchback ramp on the south side of the Purple Line to gain the elevation needed for the bridge to clear the Purple Line. I believe this switchback is not needed, and that a cursory inspection of the area by MTA will confirm that little more is needed here than a short ramp.

The old Brookville Pike crossed over the B&O Railroad tracks at this location for many years. The crossing is shown in the 1918 Right-of-Way and Track Map of the Southern Metropolitan Railroad Company, and the map has an annotation that the Mont. Co. Council authorized the removal of the bridge in 1967. The western abutment to that bridge is still in place and can be seen from the Interim CCT.


The eastern abutment to the Brookville Pike Bridge,
across the Interim CCT from the Grubb Road access path.

Brookville Pike worked with the existing grade in the area to get enough elevation to clear the railroad – it used no switchback. When the Grubb Road access path to the Interim Trail was built in 1996, the western bridge abutment had to be removed so the path could be cut into the hill to get down to the railroad grade. There is no need for a switchback here for a new pedestrian bridge if we use the existing elevations in the area effectively.

At Lyttonsville Place: Under the new plan, anyone wanting to reach the CCT or Purple Line Station from the Claridge House area will need to use a rebuilt Lyttonsville Place Bridge. Traffic on the roadway is heavy and fast. It will be essential that the new bridge have a generous pedestrian and bicycling path with a physical barrier separating it from the roadway. I would suggest at least a 5′ sidewalk and adjacent 8′ bicycle path on the east side of the bridge. This pathway should extend the full length of Lyttonsville Place to Michigan Avenue.

At Stewart Avenue: As for the Lyttonsville Place Bridge, the new Stewart Avenue Bridge will be an essential crossing for area residents to reach the CCT and Purple Line Station. It will also need a strong pedestrian/bicycle path on its west side. The path should extend down Stewart Avenue to Kansas Avenue.

At Talbot Avenue: Under the new plan, local access to the CCT that had been planned at the end of Kansas Avenue and Michigan Avenue will be lost. Lyttonsville residents who want to go east on the CCT from the general area of Rosemary Hills Elementary School will want to access the CCT via. Talbot Avenue and the Talbot Avenue Bridge. This access would be important even under the old plan, because pedestrians will strongly resist walking north to a Michigan Avenue access point if they intend to go south on the CCT.

The Talbot Avenue Bridge is planned to be extended at its west end to accommodate the Purple Line, but to remain with the same center span structure in the same location. Little can be done to improve pedestrian access on the narrow bridge itself. But motor vehicle traffic patterns to the bridge are not expected to change, and the tight curves and stop signs slow motor vehicles so that the bridge works reasonably well now to carry the existing Georgetown Branch Trail traffic. We can live with the bridge much as it is for local trail access, the future CCT through traffic will not be using the bridge.

But more can be done to improve the one block of Talbot Avenue that leads up to the bridge. Motor vehicle traffic is faster and more intimidating on Talbot Avenue than on the bridge. A sidewalk should be planned along the west side of Talbot Avenue from Lanier Drive to the stop sign at the end of the bridge.

The CCT can work with the proposed new alignment.

I regret that this post is so long, but there are many issues to consider in this new MTA Purple Line plan. I believe that when everything is considered, there are fair trade-offs. The CCT can work about equally well under either an alignment on the north side or south side of the Purple Line in the Lyttonsville area – provided good attention is paid to the trail and local access as the design progresses. The MTA has made a reasonable case that the proposed change will make the Purple Line work better. Trail users and the community should give the MTA proposal fair consideration.

Lyttonsville follow up meeting Oct. 3

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

The MTA Purple Line project team has scheduled a follow up meeting to address questions raised at the Sept. 13 Lyttonsville Station area work session and reported here.

MTA map of Lyttonsville Staion area

MTA map of Lyttonsville Station Area

From the MTA email meeting announcement:

“…We wanted to make you aware of a meeting being held on the Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) Purple Line Project. Members of the Lyttonsville and Rosemary Hills communities have requested that the MTA come out and provide additional information on the plans proposed for this area. The meeting will be held on Monday, October 3, 2011 at the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Center at 2450 Lyttonsville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910 at 7:00 pm.”

“At the MTA’s meeting held on September 13th, information was presented on some design changes that are proposed for the Lyttonsville Station area. These new proposed plans included a change in the layout of the yard and shop, which would result in a change of where the tracks are located and moving the station to along Brookville Road. At this upcoming meeting the Purple Line Project team members will present additional information, requested by the community, which relates to those proposed changes.”

MTA will also be returning to the area two days later, on Wednesday, Oct. 5, to hold a Connecticut Ave./Chevy Chase Lake Station area work session at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, 7 p.m.

New Lyttonsville area Purple Line/trail plans

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Cross posted at GreaterGreaterWashington and at Washcycle.

MTA has posted the materials it presented at the Sept. 13 Lyttonsville neighborhood work group meeting. The presentation and project maps are on their website at Lyttonsville station area.

The most useful of these project maps for understanding the new plans for the future CCT through this area is the Design Option Roll Map.

Lyttonsville station area Purple Line map
Partial view of the Design Option Roll Map
(Click on image for the full map.)

I will attempt to list the significant changes for the CCT in the area plan, from the Rock Creek Park east to the CSX corridor. I recommend that the Design Option Roll Map be used to follow along.

  1. At Rock Creek: The CCT remains on the north side of the light rail tracks. The prior plans called for the CCT to switch from the north to the south side of the tracks at the Rock Creek trail bridge. The new plan holds the trail on the north side. The trail bridge is simpler since it does not have to twist under the Purple Line bridge. The access ramp from the CCT down to the Rock Creek Trail would be like before, except that it would be built on the north side of the berm. (Note that this access ramp is still under discussion between MTA and M-NCPPC. There are concerns about cost and the impact on the trees on the side of the berm, and a decision could be taken to just continue to use the existing connection on Susanna Lane.)
  2. At Grubb Road: A new bridge will carry the access path across the Purple Line tracks to the CCT on the north side. The drawings show a long switchback ramp to provide the elevation needed for the new access bridge. But the access path is roughly along the same alignment as the old Brookville Road bridge that crossed over the B&O tracks here long ago. The old bridge abutment can still be seen on the north side of the corridor from the Interim CCT. The railbed elevation is already well below the elevation the access path has now, and I believe the extent of the switchback ramp shown in the drawing is grossly overstated. When I asked Purple Line project manager Mike Madden about this, he indicated the ramp in the drawing was only conceptual and was not based on any elevation measurements, so it is likely overstated in the drawing.
  3. Grubb Road to Steward Avenue: An access trail paralleling the main trail. The drawing shows two trails alongside each other along the south side of Brookville Road. The main CCT is the wider trail (to be 12 feet wide) that is next to the Purple Line tracks. It goes under the Lyttonsville Place bridge and under the relocated Stewart Avenue bridge. The access trail is the narrower trail (to be 8′ wide) that is adjacent to Brookville Road and between Brookville Road and the main CCT. It serves as a Brookville Road sidewalk and also gives access to the main CCT between the Lyttonsville Place and Stewart Ave. bridges. The access trail crosses Lyttonsville Place and Stewart Avenue at-grade at the north end of the bridges.
  4. At the Lyttonsville station: The CCT is on the north side. Under the old plan, the Purple Line tracks and station were on the south side of the storage tracks in this area, and the trail was on the south side adjacent to the industrial lots through this area. Under this new plan, the trail and PL tracks are flipped to the north side closer to Brookville road. Note that MTA is considering moving the transit station location further east, closer to Stewart Ave. This would place the station closer to the entrance to the Walter Reed Annex – the area’s largest employer.
  5. At Stewart Avenue: A grade-separated crossing. It is proposed to shift part of Stewart Avenue to line up with the main entrance to the Walter Reed Annex, and to have Stewart Avenue cross over the CCT and the Purple Line on a new bridge. The old plan had both the trail and transit crossing Stewart Avenue at-grade. This change would remove the only at-grade roadway crossing on the CCT between Bethesda and Silver Spring, making the rebuilt trail 100% grade separated.
  6. At the CSX corridor: A relocated trail bridge. The CCT would cross over the CSX tracks on a new bridge similar to the old plan, but the bridge would be shifted to the north closer to Kansas Avenue. This would not be a significant change for the trail, but does reduce the impact of the Purple Line on Talbot Avenue. Talbot Avenue could remain as a two way street as it is now, and much less r.o.w. would need to be taken from the several homes on Talbot Avenue.

Overall I consider flipping the CCT from the south to the north side to be roughly an even trade for trail users. Access will be slightly more inconvenient from neighborhoods to the south, but easier from the neighborhoods and businesses on the north. The trail will be closer to Brookville Road – with more traffic noise. But it will also have a new grade-separated crossing at Stewart Avenue. Much like the lengthy discussion of north vs. south in Bethesda/Chevy Chase, your preference will be determined largely by whether you live or work on the north vs. the south side of the corridor. As always, much will depend on the details to be developed during the next design phases.

The MTA map of the Impact Comparison shows that the overall footprint of the project is little changed through this area. A few feet of r.o.w. would be taken on the north side, but a comparible area is spared on the south side. The notable exceptions are the parking structure for the Purple Line maintenance yard employees that would be built where the car storage lots are now, and the realigned section of Stewart Avenue that would be built where the landscaping stone storage yard is now.

Some residents from neighborhoods on the south side of the project are making claims that the new plan will impact them much more than the older plan, Proposed Purple Line stop for Silver Spring raises residents’ eyebrows. But I don’t buy it. The most active part of the project, the Purple Line main track and station, are moved farther from the south side neighborhoods. The storage tracks and maintenance building are only a few feet closer to the south side residences than in the older plan, and still have good separation from the residences. The parking structure will be closer to the Claridge House high-rise, but will a parking structure used by the approx. 200 employees really be that much worse than the car storage lots and landscaping business lots that are there now? Detailed noise studies have been promised by MTA.

New plans for CCT at Lyttonsville

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Updated with a gmaps aerial photo at 6 pm on 09/15/11

I haven’t posted to this blog recently because the summer has been a quiet period for trail development in the Silver Spring area. But planning activity is picking up now that summer is over.

The MTA briefed local residents on new plans for the Purple Line and CCT in the Lyttonsville area at a neighborhood work group meeting this Tuesday, Sept. 13. The Gazette reports on this meeting at Proposed Purple Line stop for Silver Spring raises residents’ eyebrows. The new plans are significanly different than shown before – the future CCT and the Purple Line work yard are flipped in their positions, so that the CCT is proposed to run along the north side of the Purple Line transit/trail corridor from Rock Creek to the CSX corridor.

I was at the meeting, and my first impression is that this change is roughly neutral for the CCT. The Gazette report mirrors the very negative reaction of the local residents, and is very inaccurate. For example, the Gazette reports the CCT will be moved to the north side of Brookville Road, but the new plan does NOT put the trail on the north side of Brookville Road at all. The new plan has a few benefits for the trail and community that the Gazette does not mention, for example providing a new grade-separated crossing of Stewart Avenue for both the Purple Line and CCT.

MTA promised to post the drawings on their website in a week or so. I will revisit this issue here as soon as the drawings are available, and will show then point-by-point what the changes are for the proposed CCT. You will see why I am so critical of the Gazette report – the drawing shows the Gazette is just so wrong on some of the big “facts” they reported.

Update:

I am being taken to task by local residents for my assertion that the local area is so industrial that the proposed changes will not detract seriously from the back yards of the south side residents. While we wait for the MTA Purple Line plans to be posted on the web, I offer the Gmap aerial view below to support my claim. The nearest residential back yards are on the Albert Stewart Lane cul-de-sac, the yards seen below in the lower right corner. They are now separated from the Interim CCT by the landscaping storage yard seen in the center, and will still be separated from the Purple Line storage tracks and Purple Line transit by most of that industrial area after the project is built. Claims that these back yards will be harmed by the Purple Line are gross exagerations.

I also invite everyone interested in this topic to walk or bike the trail here, see the existing uses, and judge for yourself.


View Larger Map

CCT Crossing of CSX

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Cross posted at thewashcycle.com

The MTA announced at the County Council Purple Line Master Plan work sessions last July that plans for the future trail crossing of CSX at Talbot Ave. had changed. A Google map of Talbot Avenue and the CSX tracks is below.


View Larger Map

The previous plan was for the future CCT to go between Talbot Avenue and the back side of Rosemary Hills Elementary School, and to cross the CSX tracks on a new trail bridge a few feet south of the historic Talbot Avenue Bridge. But Montgomery County Public Schools strongly requested that the trail cross the CSX tracks north of the school. The MCPS was concerned that if the trail were to pass immediately behind the school, it would require a high retaining wall that would badly impact the school.

Behind Rosemary Hills Elementary School

The MCPS has a valid concern. The school sidewalk behind the school is already pinched between the existing retaining wall for Talbot Avenue and the wall of the school building, and is heavily used by students and staff. A higher retaining wall there would be oppressive.

MTA announced to the Council at the July worksessions that they had developed a new plan that would have the trail cross to the other side of the CSX tracks before it reached the back of the school. The trail would be elevated on a ramp alongside Talbot Avenue and would cross the CSX tracks to the Hanover Street/4th Ave. area. Talbot Avenue would be shifted a few feet to the west and part of Talbot Ave. would become one-way. Additional right-of-way would be taken from five private homes along Talbot Ave. MTA did not present much detail at the Council worksessions.

The Sept. 13 briefing to CCCT provided more detail on the new plan. Parts of the MTA Plan and Profile drawings for that area are shown below.

Trail ramp between CSX tracks and Talbot Ave.
(click on image for a larger scale image)
Source: MTA Plan and Profile – Trail, Sept. 2010

Trail bridge over CSX tracks to 4th Ave.
(click on image for a larger scale image)
Source: MTA Plan and Profile – Trail, Sept. 2010

The first of the two plan views above shows the location of the new trail ramp between Talbot Ave. and the CSX tracks, from Michigan Ave. to Lanier Drive. That drawing also shows the additional right-of-way that must be taken from the five homes between Michigan Ave. and Lanier Drive to allow Talbot Ave. to be shifted to the west.

The next drawing shows the location of the new trail bridge across the CSX tracks, from the intersection of Talbot Avenue and Lanier Drive on the west side (Rosemary Hills side) to the corner of Hanover Street and 4th Ave. on the east side (North Woodside side). It also shows the trail alignment along 4th Ave. The trail will cross Talbot Avenue at the end of the single-lane Talbot Ave. Bridge.

The major drawback to this plan for trail users, compared to the old plan, is the new trail ramp. The ramp will be about 500′ long and will have a 5% grade to elevate the trail for the bridge over the CSX tracks. This total elevation is about the same as required in the old plan to cross CSX, but the old plan followed the grade of Talbot Avenue for a longer distance to beyond the Talbot Ave. Bridge to gain the elevation needed, for a gentler grade. The new ramp also separates the trail from the end of Lanier Drive, so local trail traffic going to/from Lanier Drive will have to follow a detour to access the ramp. Overall I consider the new plan to be acceptible for trail users – it is a reasonable compromise to spare the school from a severe impact.

I have heard some concerns about safety on the trail along 4th Ave. at the crossing at end of the Talbot Ave. Bridge. I don’t think that is a serious issue. That three-way intersection has an all-way stop. Motor vehicle traffic has to take turns on the one-lane bridge, creating regular gaps in traffic flow when trail users can cross the road. The old plan called for the trail to have two at-grade roadway crossings on the west side of the CSX tracks: Michigan Ave. at the corner with Talbot Ave.; and also Lanier Drive at Talbot Ave. These at-grade crossings would have been no better than we will now have at the end of the Talbot Ave. Bridge.

There was some discussion at the CCCT meeting about the impact this new plan will have on the five homes that will lose parts of their yards. It can be seen from the first of the two drawings above that the three homes on Talbot Avenue closest to Lanier Drive would only be slightly impacted, because of the orientation of the homes on their lots and the minimal amount of property to be taken. The two homes nearest to Michigan Ave. would be impacted more heavily and should be given significant compensation for the “taking”. Converting Talbot Ave. from two-way to one-way on this block would be a minor inconvenience. Lanier Drive/Pennsylvania Ave. is a good alternative route for the little through traffic that now uses this street.

Trail users need to go to the MTA meetings! I’ve touched on some of the major trail features of the newest Purple Line/CCT plan in this blog series. Many other design issues came up at the Sept. 13 CCCT meeting: details of access paths and crossings all along the trail; questions about retaining walls and fences between rail, trail, and neighborhoods; adequacy of the sound barriers; trail access at the transit stations, etc. These “details” will be important to the quality of the trail. MTA will be holding public “work sessions” on different aspects of the Purple Line design – including work sessions focused on different parts of the trail. It is important that trail users attend. MTA needs our perspective. Contact MTA at www.purplelinemd.com to be put on their list to receive meeting announcements.

Forgotten neighborhoods.

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

A new sign is marking the Talbot Avenue entrance to Lyttonsville, at Milepost 0.0 of the Future Capital Crescent Trail:

neighborhood sign

On the Georgetown Branch on-road trail at Talbot Avenue.

The new Lyttonsville neighborhood sign marks an entrance to a small but historically significant community. Lyttonsville was founded in 1853 when Samuel Lytton, a freed slave, received a parcel of land from a white landowner. It was a predominantly African-American community for most of its history, but in recent years the cost of homes in this neighborhood has risen and the community has become very racially diverse. See the Gazette article For new Lyttonsville residents, an enlightening look at the past.

Lyttonsville, and its adjacent neighborhoods, can provide welcome diversity along the Trail. The MTA analysis of neighborhood characteristics in the future Purple Line service area, using year 2000 census data, found that the Lyttonsville/Rosemary Hills/Rock Creek Forest neighborhoods were 42% white, 31% black, 7% asian and 19% “other”. By contrast, the Chevy Chase neighborhood was 92% white, 3% black, 3% asian and 2% “other”. See trailequity.pdf for more information on other neighborhoods along the future CCT, and the racial profile for all of Montgomery County.

It was very annoying to watch the Purple Line Master Plan public hearings at the Planning Board, and very recently at the County Council, and to see a small group of well orchestrated Purple Line opponents from Chevy Chase neighborhoods dominate the testimony with their message that they will refuse to make any accommodation to build the Purple Line and finish the trail. Lyttonsville and the other neighborhoods east of Rock Creek need the Purple Line for better transit. They also need the Trail to be completed to give them safe off-road trail access to each other, to Rock Creek Park and to downtown Silver Spring. If the trail is completed to downtown Silver Spring, the number of people with easy access to the trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring will be doubled, the trail will be directly connected to many more important destinations, and the trail users may start looking a little more like the rest of Montgomery County.

The plans for the Purple Line transit and trail incorporate all of the best design practices to protect the integrity and safety of the future Capital Crescent Trail, see MTA’s Fast Facts about the Purple Line and CCT. I hope our County Council will hold fast in their awareness that this is not just about Chevy Chase, and continue to strongly support the Purple Line transit and trail.