Posts Tagged ‘Silver Spring Transit Center’

Is MoCo abandoning the MetBranch?

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Cycle MoCo reports that Montgomery County is requesting state funding to establish BikeShare, including at Silver Spring and Takoma Park. But at the same time the Montgomery County Executive is moving to kill the only planned trail connection between Silver Spring and Takoma Park – the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

County Executive Ike Leggett has released his proposed FY13-18 CIP budget, and his budget proposes two changes for the county’s section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail:

  • All funding for r.o.w. acquisition and construction is deleted from the CIP budget.
  • The proposed route, if it is ever built, has been thrown out of the CSX corridor and across state highways.

The previous approved FY13-16 CIP budget contained over 12M$ for trail design and for r.o.w. acquisition and construction of the section of the MetBranch from the Silver Spring Transit Center to Georgia Avenue. This section of the MetBranch was to have been completed by FY16. Under this new proposed budget there is no funding for any r.o.w. acquisition or construction through FY18.

To add insult to injury, the new proposed budget also shows that MCDOT plans to change the route of the MetBranch Trail, if it is ever built. The MCDOT plan would eliminate the grade-separated trail crossings planned for Georgia Avenue and E-W Highway and instead force the trail across both of these busy state highways at-grade.

The MCDOT proposed MetBranch route down Philadelphia Avenue.
Source: Proposed FY13-18 MetBranch CIP budget

The County Executive and MCDOT want to take the trail down Philadelphia Avenue across business driveways of the many small auto repair shops along the way, and across both Georgia Avenue and E-W Highway at-grade. This proposed trail route is not new. It has been proposed by MCDOT and rejected several times at public workshops, Planning Board hearings, and County Council proceedings over the past 10 years in favor of a route along the CSX corridor with a trail bridge over Georgia Avenue and a trail tunnel under Burlington Avenue (E-W Highway).

MCDOT proposes that the MetBranch cross Georgia Avenue
at the light at Sligo Avenue.

I’ve posted here about the foot dragging by MCDOT throughout the MetBranch project history. But this new threat to the project is breathtaking in its inconsistency with the hype we are hearing from the county. Just as Montgomery County tauts BikeShare as proof of its commitment to increase cycling in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, it proposes cutting the most important cycling and walking infrastructure in this area.

The MetBranch Trail is not quite dead in Montgomery County yet. The Montgomery County Council has overridden efforts from the County Executive and MCDOT to gut the project in the past, and will have the opportunity to do so again during the upcoming budget deliberations. But this proposed budget is the most serious threat to the MetBranch Trail that I have ever seen.

At the new transit center.

Friday, April 8th, 2011

The economic impact of the Purple Line upon the Takoma/Langley Crossroads was addressed on April 1 by a panel moderated by Councilmember Ervin, and reported by The New Ave at Is Purple the New Green?. Panelist Marsha Kaiser, Parsons Brinkerhoff/Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), presented a powerpoint presentation on recent modeling by MTA. The presentation included several renderings of the CCT between Bethesda and Silver Spring that were similar to those we have already seen in prior MTA workshops and briefings. But one, showing the CCT at the Silver Spring Transit Center, is new:

Source: MTA Benefits of the Purple Line Light Rail Transit (pdf)
Click on the image for a larger view

This new sketch is the first rendering I have seen that shows how the completed CCT will pass through the new transit center. The MC DOT webpage Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center has photos of the center under construction and many renderings of how the completed transit center will look, but the CCT has been missing from these renderings. I’ve posted here at Close, but still waiting about how MTA has been slow to show how the CCT and Purple Line will both fit together in the space available at the Silver Spring Transit Center.

The new rendering illustrates the relative elevations of the CCT and Purple Line over Colesville Road at the north end of the transit center. The Purple Line is shown as on an aerial structure high above the level of the Metro and CSX tracks. The Purple Line must take a high elevation to cross over from the south/west to the north/east side of CSX just north of Colesville Road (out of view to the right side of the drawing). The Purple Line holds this high elevation through the station. The CCT is on a lower aerial structure, at about the same level as the Metro and CSX tracks. You can see (barely) a cyclist at that level in the drawing cutout on the right. (The red arrow is my addition.)

MTA has recently placed revised engineering drawings of the Purple Line on its website at that show the CCT and the Purple Line alignment, including through this area.

While this rendering shows much more than we have seen before, it does not show important details about how the future CCT will work in the transit center. Sketches of the center and south end of the transit center are needed to show how the CCT will cross the pedestrian access ramps to the MARC platforms (and hopefully how the bike/ped traffic conflicts will be managed there), how trail users will access the bus, Metrorail and light rail services, how the CCT will connect with the MetBranch Trail, and where the bike parking will be.

This rendering is a good start at helping us understand how the CCT will pass through the station. There is still much important planning work to do.

Close, but still waiting.

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

On Sept. 13 the MTA Purple Line project team briefed the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail board and guests on the status of the future CCT design. Overall the meeting went well, with substantive new information presented on recent changes to plans for the trail. This included more information on the trail at the Bethesda Tunnel, at the crossing of Rock Creek, and at the Talbot Avenue crossing of the CSX tracks. There was a good question/answer exchange about how the state and county intend to find funds for the trail construction.

Notably absent from the list of “what we learned” from last night was more information about how the CCT will come through the Silver Spring Transit Center. That is a major disappointment. But MIke Madden of MTA assured the CCCT board that a major effort is underway to prepare substantive conceptual designs for this area. They expect to show them to the public within a month or so.

The schematic of the transit center available now
at leaves many questions unanswered.

MTA is working with county planners at MCDOT and MNCPPC to develop two concepts for the trail through the transit center. One concept would have the trail pass through the center mainly at or about the second level as I had speculated in my previous post. The other concept would have the trail pass through the center mainly at the third level. A trail at the second level could have less elevation change and could connect to transit center destinations more easily. A trail at the third level might have fewer trail/transit user conflicts. MTA intends to develop both concepts, prepare three-dimensional models so they can be more easily visualized, and bring them to the public for input. I left the meeting feeling optimistic that this piece of the transit/trial planning puzzle will be in place soon.

I also left the meeting feeling that I do not have the patience I would need if I had to do Mike Madden’s job, i.e. to present the concept to the public. Overall the questions from the board and guests were substantive, and many of the concerns expressed deserve to be taken very seriously. But there were also concerns expressed by a few guests that appeared designed to show the Purple Line in the most unfavorable way possible, and that were just silly.

One issue raised that qualifies as the most hysterical objection to the Purple Line that I have heard to date was the deep concern of one guest that the cats in her neighborhood would be run over by the Purple Line. The planned fencing and retaining walls would not be adequate to keep the roaming cats off the tracks. MTA must protect the cats from the Purple Line!

Won’t anyone think about the kittens?

I am currently owned by two cats. I protect them from being run over in the street by keeping them indoors, as the Mont. Co. law requires and the SPCA strongly recommends. My last three cats all lived to be 16+ years old. I do not think it rational to ask MCDOT to build my neighborhood streets and the nearby highway in cat-safe cages so my cats can roam free safely. Yet this was apparently what this person was requesting for the Purple Line at the meeting, and at least a few of the guests appeared to be buying into the plea. I would not have the patience to answer this respectfully – this can not be taken seriously unless one is so biased against transit one can no longer think.

Mike Madden did answer, explaining that MTA could not place the Purple Line in a cage that is so tight that a cat could not get through at an acceptible cost and impact. He appeared (at least to me) to answer the question respectfully. That is his job as a public servant. He does it much better than I could.

I will share more that we learned about the current MTA trail plans in posts over the next several weeks.

Filling a big hole.

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

There is a big hole in Silver Spring that needs to be filled.

The huge hole that was blasted out of bedrock for the Silver Spring Transit Center is now being filled with reinforced concrete decks for the bus bays and kiss-and-ride lot.

transit center construction on 09/07/2010

The Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center under construction (09/07/2010).

There is another hole that needs to be filled – the void in information about how the Purple Line, Capital Crescent Trail, and Metropolitan Branch Trail will all fit together in the transit center. I’ve posted previously on the Purple Line concept plans available from the MTA giving clues on how the trails can meet here, at
Bringing the MetBranch into the Transit Center. But to this date neither the MTA nor the County has shown any conceptual plans in enough detail to show how the trails will connect, how access will be provided from the trails to the transit center, and how conflicts between trail users and transit users will be managed. MTA renderings of the transit center and the Montgomery County transit center project description give little useful information about the trails at the transit center, or for that matter any of the trail along the one mile CSX corridor section. Contrast that with the many renderings and videos MTA presents on its website and that MTA has shown at briefings to the Planning Board and County Council about plans for the future CCT west of Rock Creek.

The MTA will have opportunity to fill in this information gap when it briefs the CCCT Board at its Sept. 13 meeting, see the meeting announcement at It is a strategic goal of the CCCT to complete the trail into downtown Silver Spring and connect it seamlessly to the MetBranch Trail. The future CCT section from Rock Creek east to downtown Silver Spring is equal in length to the section from Rock Creek west to Bethesda, and is even more technically challenging along the CSX corridor and at the Silver Spring Transit Center. Hopefully the CCCT Board will give the MTA the opportunity, and the requirement, to show how the CCT will connect through the Sarbanes Transit center.

MetBranch takes a step forward

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

May 27 Update:

Today the Montgomery County Council took a formal vote to give final approval to the FY 11 Operating Budget and FY11-16 CIP budget, see Press Release. The final approved CIP budget includes $12.1M to design Phase 1 and 2 of the MetBranch Trail, and to construct the Phase 1 section from the Silver Spring transit center to Georgia Ave., including a new trail bridge over Georgia Avenue.

The schedule in the CIP program description for the project shows three parts:
FY11-12: Complete final design
FY13-14: Negotiate agreements with property owners and acquire needed right-of-way
FY15-16: Build

Thank You! especially to District 5 Councilmember Valerie Ervin, and T&E Committee Members Roger Berliner, George Leventhal, and Nancy Floreen for inserting this funding into the CIP budget to “correct” for County Executive Leggett’s earlier omission.

May 20 Update:

The County Council tentatively approved the Operating Budget and CIP budget this afternoon. While there are many cuts in the Operating Budget, the CIP budget survived largely intact. The CIP budget relies on different funding sources than does the Operating Budget, such as long term bonds, so it is much slower to respond to a downturn in tax revenue.

The good news for advocates of the Metropolitan Branch Trail is that funding for design and construction of the Phase 1 appears to have survived the reconciliation process.

March 2, 2010:

Late Tuesday afternoon all three Montgomery County Council T&E Committee Members (Floreen, Leventhal and Berliner) voted to accept the recommendations of the Council Staff on the proposed CIP budget for the bikeways projects, including funding the design of the entire County MetBranch Trail section starting in the coming fiscal year, and land acquisition and construction of ‘phase 1′ including the bridge over Georgia Ave. The decision came late in the day so that Councilmember Valerie Ervin could attend the discussion. The staff recommendation is described more fully here.

Looking north along the path of the future
MetBranch Trail at the Silver Spring Transit Center.
The Transit Center is on track for a June 2011 completion.

This is a big step forward for the MetBranch Trail. But the project still has to survive the “reconciliation” process between now and the final vote of the nine member Council in late May. That reconciliation process must pare down the budget recommendations from all of the Council committees until the total budget is within the allowable limit. Some worthy projects will be cut. Our advocacy to the Council must continue so this much improved MetBranch funding and schedule can survive this process.

M-NCPPC staff: ‘north side is best’ (updated)

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

March 4 Update:

The Planning Board has endorsed the staff recommendations with only minor changes at their March 4 work session. The Planning Board staff will now incorporate the approved text changes into the Functional Plan draft, and will bring the final draft back to the Planning Board at an April session for a final Planning Board “sign off” to transmit to the County Council.

February 26, 2010 post:

The Montgomery County Planning Board will take up the Purple Line Master Plan at its March 2 4 work session. M-NCPPC staff released their recommendations to the Planning Board, available online here (caution, big pdf). The staff recommendations are only advisory to the Planning Board, but the recommendations are usually accepted at least in part so they are important.

The staff recommendations address several important design features for the Trails:

1) The Capital Crescent Trail should be on the north side of the Purple Line in the Georgetown Branch Corridor:

The M-NCPPC staff examined the assertions of the Town of Chevy Chase that the trail would be better if on their (south) side, and saw many of the same things I posted about at “Flipping” the CCT south. In particular, they performed a survey of all properties that had buildings within 80 ft. of the center of the corridor r.o.w., and found that the number on each side was about equal. They also looked at the terrian and concluded it would be more expensive to build the trail on the south side. Staff noted that the East Bethesda Citizens Association (EBCA) was strongly opposed to moving the trail to the south side. The EBCA testimony states in part:

“The trail should run along the north side of the ROW, as presented in the Plan as proposed by the MTA in the AA/DEIS, released for comment on Oct. 17, 2008. The placement of the trail on the north side of the ROW will facilitate a grade separation between the trail and the adjacent transitway, significantly enhancing the safety of persons using the trail and providing for a much more satisfying trail experience, generally. EBCA is strongly opposed to any suggestions for moving the trail to the south side of the ROW (as has been discussed by the Town of Chevy Chase). Such a move would sacrifice the very important safety features provided by the grade separation, which is much desired by EBCA residents, and all trail users for that matter.

The EBCA testimony also expressed strong support for the two direct local access points from EBCA to the trail. (One of these would be completely lost, the other would become via. a tunnel access, if their Town of Chevy Chase neighbors prevail and have the trail move to the south side.) EBCA represents over 1200 households northeast of the Town of Chevy Chase, and on the north side of the corridor.

2) The Lynn Drive access path should receive attention for safety improvements during Preliminary Design:

M-NCPPC staff agreed with the Town of Chevy Chase that there are safety issues at the Lynn Drive access path crossing of the Purple Line tracks that need to be addressed, but felt the crossing design can be made to be safe. Staff referenced the design standards used by the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon or Tri-Met, the transit agency serving the greater Portland, Oregon area. Tri-Met’s general approach to planning and design is to eliminate hazards where possible, then mitigate or warn.

More specifically, the approach is to:

– Eliminate hazards through planning and design where feasible.
– Mitigate unavoidable risks by providing safety treatments in instances where planning and design does not allow for the elimination of hazards.
– Provide warning devices (passive or active) where neither planning, design, nor safety treatments effectively eliminate identified hazards or adequately reduce associated risks and hazards.
– Determine whether an identified risk or hazard that cannot be eliminated or mitigated is acceptable.

M-NCPPC staff mentioned bells, signal lights, and automatic crossing gates as possible warning devices that could be considered for a Lynn Drive path crossing.

Staff noted the obvious problem with the Lynn Drive path – it’s route directs path users going to the schools to a very hazardous crossing of Montgomery Avenue at East-West Highway, described at Keeping the children safe. Staff questions whether it would be better to change the pathway route entirely, and suggests several other routes that could give a safer crossing overall.

3) The Purple Line should not have single track sections:

The M-NCPPC staff recommends that the Purple Line should be double track over its entire length. Staff agrees with the MTA finding that any single track section would too seriously compromise the level of service of the transit system. I believe that whether the transit is single track or double track makes little difference to the trail user experience compared to other transit/trail design features for the reasons outlined at Off track on one track.

4) The CCT and MetBranch should connect in the Transit Center with as little interference with pedestrians as possible:

M-NCPPC staff noted the strong concern expressed by WABA and other stakeholders that the CCT and MetBranch should connect well in the new Silver Spring Transit Center.

Stakeholder concern is focused on the need to develop a design that allows the two trails to safely connect without requiring cyclists to dismount or conflict with transit passengers. The challenge is creating a design that brings the Capital Crescent Trail down to grade east (or south) of Colesville Road to meet the Met Branch Trail, while avoiding conflicts with pedestrians in the plaza area in front of the Metrorail station entrance and transit passengers on the bridge connecting the Transit Center with the MARC tracks. A rendering of how the Met Branch Trail would pass between the Transit Center (on the right), the MARC/Metrorail (elevated and to the left), and the MARC bridge in the foreground, is shown in Figure 11. The Purple Line is not shown but essentially would be elevated (higher than the MARC / Metrorail tracks) above the area where the Met Branch Trail is shown.

path of MetBranch Trail into transit center

Figure 11. Looking north on the MetBranch Trail at the Transit Center

The staff report describes ongoing efforts at MTA to design this connection.

Currently, the MTA Project Team is examining how and where to bring the (eastbound) Capital Crescent trail down (after crossing Colesville Road) to grade to directly connect with the Met Branch Trail, while minimizing conflicts with pedestrians in the plaza area in front of the Metrorail station entrance and transit passengers on the bridge connecting the Transit Center and the MARC tracks.

Path of CCT at transit center

Source: M-NCPPC staff recommendations on the Purple Line Master Plan

The MTA has identified three potential solutions in which the Capital Crescent Trail is elevated over the plaza area and then either passes: a) over, b) under, or, c) intersects the MARC bridge, before connecting with the Met Branch Trail at grade. The last example is not ideal because it brings higher speed cyclists and high-volumes of transit passengers into a common area, creating safety concerns.

The M-NCPPC recommendation for the Master Plan: “Every effort needs to be made to insure a direct and safe connection that avoids conflict between trail users and transit passengers. The staff agrees that the Plan wording should be revised to better describe the overall location of planned connections.”

5) The Master Plan language should show the combined buffer and Green Trail as at least 13 feet wide, with the Trail having a minimum 8 ft. width:

The M-NCPPC staff recognizes that the AASHTO guidelines for a shared use trail call for a minimum 10′ width, and that trail and neighborhood stakeholders want a separate trail and sidewalk for the Green Trail. But staff found several areas where it does not appear possible to provide more that 13′ total for buffer and trail without severely impacting adjacent properties. Staff therefore makes this recommendation, to communicate that a trail wider than 8′ is being considered in some areas.

The staff recommends that no change be made in the plan that would suggest anything other than a minimum of thirteen feet of combined path, sidewalk or buffer be dedicated to the Green Trail in the area where it is adjacent to the Purple Line.

The staff does believe that the Plan’s current wording of at least eight feet wide does not make it clear that the current planning is based upon providing a minimum of a total of 13 feet from the curb line on the north side of Wayne Avenue for some combination of path, sidewalk and buffer. Staff therefore recommends that the following modification be made to the Public Hearing Draft Plan:

f. Delete the phrase “at least eight feet wide” on page 24 and insert a new sentence: “The combined trail and buffer will be at least 13 feet wide with a minimum 8 foot wide trail. “
This revision would better communicate the intent that a path wider than eight feet is contemplated in some areas and that trade-offs will be required in considering the ultimate configuration.

The Planning Board has the work session of March 4 and one more in April before they will make their final recommendation and transmit the Master Plan to the County Council for final approval.

Getting to the bottom

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center construction will turn from digging to building soon. Most of the massive hole has been dug, and blasting has begun into the solid bedrock to prepare it for the foundation structures.

transit center construction on Jan 28, 2010

Transit Center construction on Jan. 28, 2010
photo from obz3rv3r’s photostream

By this time next year we should be able to see the pedestrian ramp in the new transit center that will be the north end of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. It will run across the foreground of the photo above, from the entrance to the Metro Station on the left to the south end of the new transit center to the right. And there the new trail section will likely end in a patch of mud and dirt. With MCDOT still only just thinking about maybe starting to resume work on the rest of the trail in Montgomery County.

There is a huge disconnect between what is being done to build the MetBranch Trail at the new transit center and elsewhere in D.C. and Takoma Park, and the foot dragging that continues at MCDOT for their part. There will be more on what we need to do and who we need to contact on this blog soon.

Bringing the Met Branch into the Transit Center

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Cross posted at GreaterGreaterWashington.

I’ve had an epiphany about how the Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail/Metropolitan Branch Trail can both fit through the constrained design space at the new Sarbanes multi-modal transit center. I’ll share it here – caution, you may find this post tedious if maps and plans are not your thing, or if you understood the concept plan all along.

The Silver Spring Metro Station

Looking north at the Silver Spring Metro Station
from the north end of the MARC platform. (Nov. 4, 2009)

The concept plan to bring the future Capital Crescent Trail into the new transit center from the north end is easy to envision. There is room for the trail to be built along the east side of the CSX/Metro tracks and at about the same level as the CSX tracks, to be supported on a new elevated trail structure. The Purple Line will also be coming into the center from the north end and on the same side of the CSX/Metro tracks as the trail, but supported on new structure at a higher level than the trail. The Purple Line must be much higher as it enters the station from the north, because the Purple Line must cross over the CSX tracks from the west to east side immediately north of Colesville Road. Under CSX rules, the Purple Line structure must clear the CSX tracks by at least 27′ at the cross over bridge. Light rail tracks cannot change elevation quickly, so the Purple Line will remain well above the future CCT as it comes into the transit center from the north side of Colesville Road.

The Silver Spring Metro Station

The Purple Line tracks and station platform will be along
the east (right) side of the CSX tracks, and higher than
the “gull wing” roof over the Red Line Metro platform.

I had not understood the concept to bring the Met Branch Trail into the transit center from the south, however. I assumed the Purple Line would be gradually dropping elevation as it approached the south end of the transit center, to come much closer to the trail elevation. I had heard reassurances from MTA and County planners that space had been reserved for both the Purple Line and trail, but I couldn’t envision how the south end of the MARC platform, the two Purple Line tracks, and the Met Branch Trail could all fit between the CSX tracks and the new transit center bus platforms if they were at about the same level. And there was the problem of how to have the Purple Line cross the Met Branch Trail as the Purple Line made its turn east toward Bonifant Avenue. The MTA transit center renderings to date don’t show anything to clarify this.

The Purple Line alignment at the transit station

The Purple Line alignment at the transit station.
Source: (See LPA-13 at “Conceptual Plans”,
See LPA-12 for alignment over Colesville Road)

The MTA conceptual plan above shows where the Purple Line will turn east at the south end of the transit center. The Met Branch Trail is not shown. It will be along the east side of the CSX corridor as it enters the transit center area from the south.

MTA engineers commented at the MTA Purple Line focus group meeting for downtown Silver Spring on Nov. 2 that it would be tight for them to bring the Purple Line “down” to meet the elevation of Bonifant Street after leaving the transit center and turning east. The Purple Line must meet the existing Bonifant Street elevation east of Ramsey Avenue to continue east on dedicated lanes on the south side of Bonifant Street. But Bonifant Street is much higher than the CSX track elevation, so why is it a tight fit to bring the Purple Line elevation down to Bonifant Street? Those comments prompted me look more closely at the MTA Purple Line elevation in this area (available online at at Maps and Graphics / Conceptual Plans / pdf file LPA-47).

The MTA Purple Line elevation drawing shows the tracks staying at a constant high elevation through the transit center and then rising as the Purple Line begins the turn east toward Bonifant Street, to stay well above the ground level. The highest point for the Purple Line tracks is near the middle of the turn. I had not understood the plan because I had missed the key point that the Purple Line will stay high, even climb a little at the south end of the new transit center, to accommodate a new Bonifant Street/Ramsey Avenue road connection called for in the Ripley area development plans.

Aerial view of Ripley development area

“Midtown Silver Spring” site in the Ripley development area
Source: Planning Board Sept. 18, 2008 archived agenda (pdf file at item#5)

The Montgomery County Planning Board has approved site plans for tall residential buildings on both sides of Ripley Street – the “Midtown Silver Spring” project shown above and also a “1050 Ripley” project immediately opposite on the south side of Ripley Street. Site plans for both projects show similar plans for Ripley Street to be extended to connect to Bonifant Street, to improve area street circulation.

Site plan for Ripley project

Plan to extend Ripley Street to Bonifant Street, room is reserved
for the Met Branch along the CSX tracks (trail not shown).
Source: Planning Board July 3, 2008 archived agenda (pdf file at item#4)

The highest Purple Line elevation shown in the MTA conceptual drawing corresponds to the location over the Ripley Street extension where the extension comes out at the end of Bonifant Street. The Purple Line is more than 20 feet above the existing ground elevation there, to allow the Ripley Street extension to pass under the Purple Line. The Purple Line will begin to descend to meet the grade of Bonifant Street after it has cleared the Ripley Street extension.

Looking toward Bonifant Street

Looking up toward Bonifant Street from the MARC platform.
The Ripley Avenue extension and Met Branch Trail will be at grade,
while the Purple Line tracks will be elevated.

In brief, the CCT/Met Branch can stay at the same level as the CSX/Metro tracks through the transit center and beyond. The Purple Line is planned to stay much higher through the transit center and around the first part of its turn east at the south end of the transit center. The Met Branch Trail can easily pass under the Purple Line at the south end of the transit center, for a straight and grade separated crossing. Because the Purple Line stays elevated, the trail can be partially under the Purple Line structure through the entire transit center to make room for more than a full width trail within the space reserved for the project.

This is only a concept plan at this time. It is a long way to final design and construction. But it is reassuring to see the MTA Purple Line plans and the County area development plans are consistent with each other and will support a direct, level CCT/Met Branch Trail alignment with no at grade crossings of either roads or rail.

A Silver Spring bike station?

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

The D.C. bike station at Union Station is opening today. I’ll say more on that this p.m., after the opening ceremony. The bike station opening is already prompting Washcycle to ask what happened to the bike station in Silver Spring.

bikes at the Silver Spring Metro
Bikes at the S.S. Metro station

A bike station was initially proposed to be an integral part of the new Silver Spring Transit Center that is now under construction. But Montgomery County DOT withdrew its early support and the new transit center design has no bike station. The new transit center design, as I last saw presented in 2007, does not increase bike racks and bike lockers over the number that were available in the old station. The Silver Spring station was the most heavily used transit station in the State of Maryland before the new expansion began. Use is expected to nearly double overall by 2020. Three new regional trails are being built to meet in the transit center. More bike parking is already badly needed here.

The vision for a Silver Spring bike station is still alive, in spite of Mont. Co. DOT’s unfortunate decision to withdraw its support for a location inside the new transit center. The south east corner of Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue was used as a jughandle for buses to turn into the old transit center, and is still being used as a bus stop during construction of the new transit center. The jughandle will be closed when the new transit center opens. In July, 2007 the Mont. Co. Planning Board agreed to trade a small park at the south end of the old transit center for the jughandle site. This agreement gives the Mont. Co. Department of Parks control of the jughandle area for a new park, dubbed “Jughandle Park”. M-NCPPC planning staff have recommended that an area at the rear of this proposed new park (at the side nearest the Discovery Building) be reserved for a future 1500 sq. ft. bike station.

The jughandle at Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue will be closed. A bike station is proposed to be built at the rear of a future “Jughandle Park”.

We now have a great location on publicly owned land that has been recommended by the Planning Board for a bike station. But no funding has been committed for construction. The bike station design and construction must be included in the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Budget as a new Department of Parks project. The bike station will not happen unless the Department of Parks can be convinced that the bike station is needed and is appropriate as part of a new “Jughandle” urban park.

Crossing Colesville

Monday, July 6th, 2009

July 6, 2009 update:

Excavation for the new Silver Spring Transit Center is well underway. Space is being set aside for the Purple Line and the Metropolitan Branch Trail alongside the CSX and Metro tracks.

July 5, 2009.

April 1, 2008 post:

The alignment the future CCT takes across Colesville Road to connect with the Metropolitan Branch Trail will determine whether the CCT will complete an urban trail network of regional importance.

Looking north toward Colesville Road from above the Silver Spring transit center. The Georgetown Branch Trail now ends at Second Avenue on the north side of Colesville Road (right center in the photo above).
Click here for a larger view.

Construction of the new Silver Spring Transit Center will begin in earnest this summer. A three level bus deck will be built in the center where the bus bays are now. Two high rise buildings will be built at the northeast and southeast corners. The northern terminus of the Metropolitan Branch Trail will be built with the transit center construction. The MetBranch Trail will enter the transit center from the south, alongside the CSX corridor.

The future CCT needs a direct alignment that gives a safe crossing of Colesville Road and an easy MetBranch Trail connection through all of the heavy vehicle and pedestrian activity at the new transit center. The Purple Line transit/trail concept will provide this connection. The concept calls for the CCT to be built across Colesville Road and straight through the transit center alongside the CSX/Metro tracks on an elevated structure. The CCT would be at the same elevation as the CSX/Metro tracks but separated from them by a 25′+ buffer space. The CCT would also be at the same level as the existing MARC platform and the new second level bus deck, and would have a pedestrian bridge connection across to the elevators and escalators from the second level bus deck down to the first level of the transit center. The CCT be at the high elevation needed for a level connection to the MetBranch Trail at the south side of the transit center.

The Purple Line transit would also go across Colesville Road and through the transit center on an elevated structure, between the CCT and the CSX/WMATA tracks and about 20′ higher than the CCT. The structure holding the Purple Line high above the trail would be similar to that holding the Metro Red Line above the Beltway and Rockville Pike in North Bethesda.

It is unlikely the CCT will ever be built on this alignment without the Purple Line. The Metro Plaza Building proximity to the CSX tracks on the north side of Colesville Road creates a serious “choke point” for this alignment. The CCT can get through this choke point as a 10′ wide trail IF an agreement can be reached with CSX and WMATA to build a retaining wall at the minimum required 25′ safety standoff within their r.o.w., IF a several foot wide easement can be taken from the west side of the Metro Plaza building lot to allow the trail to be built to within 2′ of the building at the south corner, and IF we can fund the high cost of the retaining wall and the elevated structure over Colesville Road and through the Transit Center. We need the Purple Line to leverage the CSX operating agreements and easements, and to share the cost of combined transit/trail structures.

If the CCT is not built on this alignment, then the best alternative alignment past the Metro Plaza Building will be on along Second Avenue. But that will force the CCT onto an at-grade trail crossing of Colesville Road, a six lane highway busy with bus traffic coming into the busiest bus station in Maryland. After crossing Colesville Road the CCT must either use a path through the transit center or go around the transit center on a sidepath trail along Wayne Avenue and Ramsey Avenue to connect to the MetBranch Trail. Any route through the center will conflict with the heavy bus and pedestrian activity in the center, and will require cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes through most of the center. A sidepath trail going around the center must deal with the motor vehicle conflicts from crossing the entrances to the second level bus deck, the third level kiss-and-ride and taxi deck, and entrances to the high rise buildings.

You don’t have to be a trail advocate to want the direct CCT connection into the new transit center. Anyone who lives or works north of Colesville Road and wants to use Metrobus, MARC, or the Purple Line will want the grade-separated trail crossing of Colesville Road.