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.
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.
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.