Pearl District development highlights future trail connection

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A to-be-built 145 foot tall building in Bethesda will be one of the first to go along the future Capital Crescent Trail and the Purple Line. The building will front Pearl Street which is viewed as a shared street and "canopy corridor" with the Capital Crescent Trail on one end a future protected bike lane on the other. 

The concept envisions the proposed building as an eastern gateway to Bethesda with access to the Capital Crescent Trail and future Purple Line from the new Pearl Street “shared street”.  

Pearl Street is a tree ‘canopy corridor’ intended to connect tree cover to parks, bicycle trails, stream buffers, and denser forest networks beyond the Bethesda boundary.  Trees must have a minimum soil volume of 600 cubic feet or greater.

Bicycle access will be from Montgomery Avenue along a planned separated bikeway, and on Pearl Street. The southern segment of Pearl Street provides a connection to the Capital Crescent Trail. Long‐term bicycle parking for residents will be provided in a secure room, accessed from Pearl Street. The final location and capacity of the long‐ and short‐term bicycle parking will be determined at Site Plan.

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The required bicycle parking is located at the ground floor adjacent to the loading area.

Pearl Street/Capital Crescent Trail Connector, the Bethesda Downtown Plan recommends a prominent connection to the Capital Crescent Trail at the southern terminus of Pearl Street

The Project will vastly improve the existing corner, as a result of the quality architecture and improvements to the existing streetscape including adding a needed sidewalk along the Pearl Street frontage, which will begin to develop an inviting pedestrian experience south on Pearl Street toward the Capital Crescent Trail.

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The plan was approved at the January 11th Montgomery County Planning Meeting.

2016 State of the Commute Survey, biking up; and more survey results to come

Late in 2017, the MWCOG released its 2016 State of the Commuter survey results, and biking and walking were up in the region. (which includes Alexandria; DC; and Fairfax, Arlington, Montgomery, Prince George's, Calvert, Charles, Frederick County, Loudoun and Prince William Counties)

  • Bike and walk mode share was at 3.3%, up from 2.2% in 2013. Of that 3.3%, 1.3% is biking. The higher 2016 mode shares for transit and bike/walk, in particular, could be related to different age profiles for the 2013 and 2016 surveys.
  • 22% of commuters started driving alone in the last 5 years, and by contrast 35% of bike commuters started in the last five years
  • Respondents who drove alone and those who rode transit gave lower ratings for transportation satisfaction than did carpoolers/vanpoolers and bike/walk commuters. Only 34% of drive alone commuters, 38% of train riders, and 41% of bus riders were satisfied, compared with 47% of carpoolers and 61% of commuters who biked/walked to work.
  • Nearly one-quarter (23%) of respondents said their employers offered services for bikers and walkers
  • SmartBenefit transit/vanpool subsidies, information on commute options, and bikeshare memberships were the most widely used commuter assistance services, used, respectively, by 59%, 30%, and 25% of respondents who had access to the services
  • People who work a compressed work schedule are MORE likely to bike commute, with the 3.7% of those workers biking or walking to work. 
  • 3% of bike/walk commuters did so as their primary mode, another 1% used it as a secondary method
  • People who primarily bike/walk do so 3.4 days a week, which is lower than all other methods. 
  • 5% of men biked and walked to work, 2% of women did so.
  • 4% of white people biked and walked to work, 3% of Hispanics and 1% of African-Americans.
  • 10% of people who make $80,000-$100,000 bike or walk to work, that drops off to 2% at higher incomes, and to 6% among those making $40-60,000 and 4% of those below $40,0000.
  • Among people who don't own a car 18% bike or walk to work. That percentage goes up as car ownership does. In car-light households it's 3-8%.
  • Bike/walk commuting is higher among District residents (16%). In MD and VA it's 2%. Of those in the "inner core" - DC, Arlington and Alexandria - it's 11%. It drops to 2% in the middle ring and 1% in the outer ring.
  • The average bike commute is 4.4 miles and takes 22 minutes. The average walk commute is shorter (17 min) and all others are longer. 
  • Bike commuters add 7 minutes of extra time to their commute to account for variability, about half that of other commuters. Walkers add 4 minutes.
  • Bike commuters are more likely to have recently switched to biking (with 1/3 doing so in the last 3 years), and 25% of them used to drive alone
  • 5% of commuters considered the location of protected bike lanes when considering where to live or work. 64% of bike/walk commuters considered their access to transportation services at the new location.
  • 97% of bikers/walkers reported high commute satisfaction. 57% of commuters who drove alone and 48% who rode Metrorail said they were satisfied. 
  • The bike/walk share was 5% for respondents who did not have access to HOV/Express lanes, compared with essentially 0% for respondents with access. This difference is explained by comparing the geographic associations of bike/walk commuting and HOV/Express access. Bike/walk commuting is primarily concentrated in the Inner Core, while HOV/Express lanes are located primarily in the Middle Ring and Outer Ring areas.
  • Saving money was a common personal benefit named by all alternative mode users, but particularly so for commuters who carpooled/vanpooled, rode a bus, or biked/walked. And train riders and bike/walk commuters said their choice of commute mode helped the environment.
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents said their employer offered services for bikers and walkers
  • Bike/walk commuters expressed the least interest in shifting their work day away from prime hours
  • Where employers offered free parking, 3% bike/walk commute; at those that don't 5% do

More Survey information is coming too. MWCOG is currently doing the Regional Household Travel Survey for 2017-2018 and it will have new information in it. 

  • The 2017 RTS will provide insights on multimodal transit travel by asking questions about access modes, egress modes, and integration of walk/bike and transit combinations and transfers (e.g., bike-to-rail)
  • The 2017 RTS will also capture membership and frequency of Capital Bikeshare use, including typical bikeshare use per week. 

Army Navy protected bike lane, some built, some to come

So, I'm a little behind. But here's a photo of the new (in October) protected bike lane on Army-Navy drive


This is the section of Army-Navy Drive between Nash and Lynn. They moved the bike lane to the other side of parking and it got a little narrow, but I think it's better than what was there.


Farther west from there, the concept plan - which was finished in November - has a two-way protected bike lane between Joyce and 12th, and then shared lanes on 12th from Eads to Clark, as well as a two-way separated bike lane from Army-Navy to Clark.


Poplar Point development includes a cycletrack, bike parking and bike sharing

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Redbrick bought the Poplar Point land along both sides of Howard Avenue SE back in 2013 and for the last year they've been working with the Office of Zoning to come up with a design that meets their requirements. They're planning a massive five building project so that includes a lot more than bike stuff, but the project promises to be pretty bike friendly.

First of all, Howard Road will get a protected bike lane (PBL) from the Anacostia Metro entrance to South Capitol Street. In the rendering above, you can see a cyclist a riding in the Howard Road PBL and you can see the PBL again in the rendering below.

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The PBL will be 9 feet wide and separated by a 3 foot wide barrier.


The cycletrack will transition to a sidepath leading to a plaza by the Anacosita Metro Station garage. That plaza will feature a new Capital Bikeshare station and bike racks. 


There will be 672 bicycle spots across two below-grade parking levels, compared to 562 vehicular parking spaces (425 office, 117 residential and 20 retail). That's about 40 more bike parking spaces than required by zoning regs (90 Short Term Spaces and
541 Long Term Spaces). 

And finally, DDOT requested that every resident over 16 be given a Capital Bikeshare membership and an annual car sharing membership, but the developers have asked to instead give either a car sharing or Capital Bikeshare membership because, they argue, "car share memberships are not as popular as they once were" because people would rather use ride hailing. 

This project, when combined with the new Douglass Bridge, should do a lot to make it easier to bike across the Anacostia and into the neighborhoods east of the river, among other things. 

There was a hearing on this last month, and in the transcript there's a humorous discussion about dockless bikeshare. 

[Commissioner Peter May (NPS)] -  first question is, what's with the bike helmet? Is that just a prop? Or did you ride your bike here?

[Tom Skinner (Red Brick)] - Actually that's the Mobike, which I guess are taking over from Capital Bikeshare. So, that's the new way to --

May - So you rode over here on a Mobike and that's your helmet? [WC: I'd like to see this helmet that caused May to comment on it]

Skinner - That's my helmet. I also noticed that you came by bike last time to this down here.

May - And I did tonight. But --

Skinner - And I do appreciate -- I do appreciate it.

[Bill Hellmuth, HOK Architects with Redbrick] - He also lured me into using one of those bikes the other day. And I'm not used to riding around in downtown D.C. So I immediately get on K Street and go under the tunnel on my way back to the office in Georgetown. And I thought I was going to be dead.


MR. HELLMUTH: So, it's a great service. But never go under the vehicular tunnel because of the traffic.

COMMISSIONER MAY: I would agree with that. And also be very careful where you park your Mobike. Because we're having real problems with them showing up in the wrong places. All right. So anyway, I was just curious about that and whether it was like part of the presentation. Or just, you know. Anyway, that's good. I know the Chairman appreciates knowing how much you love riding around the city.

Later, when talking about the Metro plaza improvements

Zoning Commission Vice Chair Robert Miller - Is the Capital Bikeshare though as part of what you're proffering to put on the WMATA property?

MR. SKINNER: Yes. Yes.

Miller: Yes.

MR. SKINNER: And I mean, and we also wonder whether like the orange and the yellow bikes may, you know, take over the city. So, it's subject toward the teething problems they have with where they're left and everything like that. But, whatever is appropriate in terms of bikeshare, we're big advocates and, you know, fans of that.

Dockless bikeshare expands to Takoma Park

I've reported that dockless bikeshare is in DC and Silver Spring, (and by extension other parts of the area), but it's also now officially in Takoma Park, MD too

Four bikeshare companies have signed agreements to operate within Takoma Park.

Limebike, Mobike, Ofo and Spin have signed agreements with MCDOT to expand their current operations in Silver Spring into Takoma Park.

The MoCo DoBi service area can be seen below.

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National Capital Trail, bike/ped Metro access could become regional priorities

At it's January 17th meeting, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' (MWCOG) Transportation Planning Board (TPB) will vote on whether or not to include two bicycle and pedestrian  initiatives into the Visualize 2045 plan, the long-range transportation plan for the Washington Region. One is completion of the National Capital Trail and the other is bike and pedestrian improvements to high-capacity transit stations. These would join 10 existing initiatives. The recommendation from the Bicycle and Pedestrian subcommittee and the Long Range Plan task force is to make these "unfunded aspirational elements". (See item 7 on the agenda)

Consistent with the Task Force’s discussions related to the ten initiatives currently being analyzed, the TPB’s endorsement of two additional initiatives which focus on pedestrian and bicycle improvements would mean that these concepts have the potential to improve the performance of the region's transportation system beyond what is anticipated by its current long-range transportation plan and deserve to be comprehensively examined for implementation. The TPB’s endorsement would make it possible to include the concepts represented by these initiatives in the aspirational element of the 2018 update of the TPB’s long-range plan, Visualize 2045. The meaning of such an endorsement would not be a mandate from the TPB for its member jurisdictions to alter their own plans, programs, or policies or to design, fund, and implement these initiatives without further study.

The National Capital Trail – Originally called the “Bicycle Beltway,”  is a proposed network of circumferential trail connections circling the core of the Washington region. The full perimeter of the NCT is 45 miles, but it is also divisible into shorter loops. The NCT was originally defined by the National Park Service and the name, concept, and route for the NCT has been adopted by the TPB.

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The above image of the National Capitol Trail is of what was once considered the inner loop. 

In addition to the inner loop route, VDOT and MDOT representatives requested an outer loop that would cross the Potomac at the American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. However, work on an Outer Loop has not advanced, due in large part to the lack of a clear right of way or planned trails.

As finalized in the Paved Trails Plan, the National Capital Trail comprises four connected loops: a 30- mile northern loop, a 10-mile central loop around the monuments and the stadium, an 18-mile southern loop connecting to National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria, and a 45-mile perimeter loop.

There's a list of the projects needed, mostly in DC, to complete the NCT in the Subcommittee report appendix, some like the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail Kenilworth section, have already been completed. Others, like the South Capital Street Trail are still in the planning stage. 

The Metrorail Station Access Project comes started with WMATA. WMATA staff in 2016 completed a study called the Metrorail Station Investment Strategy (MSIS), which highlighted priority projects that would improve non-motorized access to rail stations. Starting with 4,217 unbuilt pedestrian and bicycle projects that have been planned in proximity to the region’s 91 Metrorail stations (!!!), WMATA identified 394 projects, which are around 31 Metrorail stations, that represents the types of station access improvements that can have the greatest impact on walk and bike access to transit. The list was further trimmed to 200 projects that are unfunded and remain unbuilt and are still considered “active” by local jurisdictions. 

These projects solve a litany of familiar problems. Sidewalks do not exist or they are in bad condition. Bike lanes are disconnected. Intersections are inhospitable and crossings do not exist. Signage and lighting are poor.

WMATA staff looked at the pedestrian projects, which were 62 in total, that were included in the priority list. These pedestrian projects were estimated to cost nearly $13 million and the monetized benefit of these projects (in increased ridership and reduced MetroAccess trips) was estimated at approximately $24 million. 

There is a list of the 200 items they identified in the Subcommittee report, but the authors note that these items aren't being approved (as by now some have been completed or overcome by events) but rather the the concept of prioritizing and implementing station access improvements is being endorsed

Including these items in Visualize 2045 is not meant to be a mandate to regional members to change their plans.

The TPB’s endorsement would be a call for future concerted action by TPB members. Staff believe that at a minimum, it would involve a commitment by all TPB member jurisdictions and agencies to collaborate and undertake further examination of the concepts represented by the endorsed initiatives. Such next steps could include a study of the constructability of projects associated with the initiatives. Following such study could be efforts to secure funding to implement them. Funding sources could include future federal TIGER grants, the TPB’s TLC and TAP program, and other funding opportunities in the region.

Visualize 2045 is scheduled for approval in October 2018.

Strange things afoot with the Arlington BAC

Two weeks ago, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz sent a letter to the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) announcing that he was removing  members from the BAC, assigning a new member and making him chair. This seemingly prompted one long-term member, Randy Swart, to resign. Then the January meeting was cancelled one working day before it was to occur when the BAC was locked out of their usual, and official, location.

Swart didn't say the letter from Schwartz is what led him to resign, but his resignation came the next day and thanked the Manager for the letter, so it certainly seems that way.

Schwartz said that he intended to remove members who had "rarely or never attended,” which doesn't seem like an unreasonable position to take; but no one on the BAC was consulted or informed of this before hand. And the members to be removed weren't listed in the letter. This seems a little bit sloppy and treats the BAC (my opinion here) with a lack of respect - not so much as volunteer partners with the County, but as something more like contractors. 

Regardless, Schwartz isn't allowed to appoint the chair. The charter says that the members choose their own chair (this is true in DC too), though there are reports that the Manager intends to change the charter too. Again, the BAC has had no discussions with the Manager about this. 

Further complicating things is that the person Schwartz named in his letter to be appointed and made chair, Edgar Gil Rico who is well regarded by the BAC, reportedly declined the appointment. 

Almost all of this, the dismissal of half the BAC, change in chair, change in charter, cancellation of the January meeting has been done without communication before hand, without explanation after ward and without answering any of the BAC''s questions. It's all a bit odd and discouraging. 

The shocker is that I've always thought the Arlington BAC was the best run one in the area - and I run the DC one! So I'm not at all sure what is going on. The goal of getting active members who represent a diverse set of people is certainly a noble one, but I feel like the execution here is lacking. 

Hopefully this will all get squared away in short order. 

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Arlington BAC leaders Megan Jones and Gillian Burgess

The Long Bridge Project bicycle element lacks ambition

So Last month, DDOT and the FRA presented the proposed alternatives for the replacement to the Long Bridge, which is the railroad bridge across the Potomac just downstream from the 14th Street Bridges. The 2013 Long Bridge study created several alternatives, many of which included a bike/ped path, but last spring they decided that such a facility was "out of scope" and that the bridge would focus on railroad needs with any bike facility to come afterwards. This remains a foolish decision. And you can comment on it by sending an email to until January 16, 2018.

At last month's presentation, they stated that the feasibility of a bike-pedestrian crossing will continue to be evaluated, but that they were not screened as part of the Level 2 Screening. They add that a bike/ped crossing must 

– Provide 25 feet clearance between bridges over the river
– Avoid DoD Facility
– Connect to the existing bike-pedestrian network
– Have less than 5% slope on the ramps from the crossing to the existing trails

Which they note is potentially feasible, but the three options they show are drawn to go from shore to shore and nothing more. 

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The Long Bridge is over 100 years old, so it's important that we make the right choices now, but this current set of options are all lacking in ambition. In fact this is the bare minimum (I guess they could end it just feet away from the shore and you could bunny-hop that last bit, but that won't appeal to some cyclists). 

I've said it before, but the ideal design goes from Long Bridge Park in Arlington to Hancock Park in DC, which I admit has a lot of barriers to it, but would be worth it. 

These alternatives would all connect the Mt Vernon Trail to Ohio Drive, which is good, even though it's not much of an improvement over the current sidepath on the George Mason Bridge. But for some users it would be the preferred choice.

But, below are some other connections that would make it even better.

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Long Bridge Park

Arlington already plans to build a connection from Long Bridge Park to the Mt. Vernon Trail. Since this area is included even in the new, smaller project area (below), it would make sense to this all together at once. Then we can avoid a bridge crossing that ends at trail level and a Park connection that ends at trail level somewhere else. What I think we'd want is a crossing that stays at rail level all the way, with one bridge down to the trail.

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The other Ohio Drive, SW

 After getting to East Potomac Park and crossing the island the railroad again goes over Ohio Drive. A small ramp could easily be added that would drop it down to street level. A path to here wouldn't add much (but slightly more grade separation) but a ramp from a trail going across the channel wouldn't cost much.

The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

This seems like a no-brainer, but by continuing a path - at rail level - across the Washington Channel and then connecting it to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail at Maine Avenue would have a lot of utility. I suspect that most cyclists and pedestrians who cross the Mason and go south on Maine would prefer it. And it could naturally connect - at least for pedestrians to the existing adaptively reused bridge over Maine Avenue which, if memory serves me correctly, was named the Rosa Parks Bridge when it opened in 2008


This is where it starts to get tricky, but continuing the path across Maine Avenue. There isn't room between the railroad bride and the Rosa Parks Bridge (just go with it), and I think cycling is not allowed on that bridge, so that rule would need to change. But currently, that bridge only connects to the Portals I building. A bridge from the north side of the east end of that bridge would need to be built over the existing track and then come down to rail level on space on the north side of the tracks. Currently construction (on Portals V, I think) is going on there, so I'm not sure there is space on the north side and if there is, I doubt it is just "extra" space. So, this may be where the idea dies, but if there is room, the trail could then connect to the Portals V project as well. In the image below it would have to go to the right of the tracks somewhere.


L'Enfant Plaza

If the path could make it through that part, then it gets interesting. There appears to be an unused rail line from just east of L'Enfant Plaza to the Portals. I think it used to be used to deliver coal to the building that used to be down there. Maybe the railroads use it as sidling. But if not - trail. You can see it on the left in the image below. The tracks are clearly more rusted than those to the right. Anyway, the idea of turning this into a trail is included in the DC Rail Plan, though it would likely require some expensive separation and bring a lot of opposition from CSX/VR/Amtrak. If so it could connect to the parking lot at 1000 Independence Ave SW, which is - behind a security barrier. Sigh. 


Hancock Park

Here it gets harder again. There's a crossover from the unused line to the mainline just east of L'Enfant plaza, and VRE uses the part east of that to access their L'Enfant station. So the only way to continue the trail would be to do so on the extra ROW north of the tracks. Which CSX would probably not be too keen on. 


But, that would get you to the very sad Hancock Park on C Street between 7th and 9th, SW where there's a Capital Bikeshare station. The park itself looks a little abandoned an unused, except for the area where CSX is obviously driving vehicles across to access the ROW at the spot above where I leaned out over a plastic fence to get this photo. 

Getting to Hancock Park might be too difficult and/or too late (but DDOT should still study it to make sure) but not building a path from Long Bridge Park to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is almost malpractice. If you think so to, again I'll mention that comments can be provided to until January 16, 2018.

WABA: Tell Montgomery County leaders to fund a Bethesda Bike network

Despite the fact that people had been talking about the purple line for 20+ years, the beginning of construction, and closure of the Georgetown Branch, still came suddenly and as a bit of a surprise. One result was that cyclists in the area were left without a key bike route, a situation made worse by the Town of Chevy Chase's refusal to allow a signed interim route on their streets. WABA is arguing that this is as good a reason as any for Montgomery County to rapidly fund a complete, protected bicycle network in Bethesda. This would include

  • Woodmont Ave – a 2-way protected bike lane from Wisconsin Ave at Leland St to Norfolk Ave, is the pivotal backbone of the network. It will connect the Capital Crescent Trail to the Bethesda Trolley Trail via Norfolk Ave and the Interim Georgetown Branch Trail along Jones Bridge Rd and Maryland Ave. via Cheltenham Dr.
  • Montgomery Ln / Ave – a 2-way protected bike lane will connect Woodmont Ave to Pearl St. and East West Highway, creating a safe crossing of Wisconsin Ave and a new bicycle link to Bethesda / Chevy Chase High School and the many stores and offices on Montgomery Ave.
  • Pearl St / Maryland Ave Bikeway – bike lanes and traffic calming will create a low-stress neighborhood bikeway from Montgomery Ave to the Jones Bridge Rd.
  • Norfolk Ave / Cheltenham Dr. Bikeway – bike lanes and traffic-calmed neighborhood streets from Woodmont to Pearl St. will create a new safe crossing of Wisconsin Ave and a northern link to the Interim Georgetown Branch Trail.
  • Capital Crescent Trail Surface Route – a 2-way protected bike lane crossing Wisconsin Ave. from Woodmont Ave to Elm St via Bethesda Ave, Willow Ln and 47th St. This will reconnect East Bethesda and Chevy Chase residents south of the now-closed Georgetown Branch Trail and serve the important trail crossing while a new trail tunnel is designed and built.

Funds are needed this spring and in July to build these essential safety improvements. Montgomery County’s budget process is already underway. The Woodmont Ave protected bike lane needs more than $1.5 million to construct and additional funds are required for improvements to Montgomery Ln, Pearl Street, Maryland Avenue and Cheltenham Drive to complete the core network.

There's a petition at their website.

Speaking of it being surprising

Travis Ready, a lieutenant commander with the U.S. Public Health Service, bought his home near the intersection of Jones Mill and Jones Bridge roads in Chevy Chase a little more than two years ago.

He knew the Purple Line was a possibility, but he wasn’t sure if it would ever be built on the Georgetown Branch Trail that runs directly behind his home.

Now they're busy clearing trees, creating enormous piles of mulch, which is something of a nuisance to neighbors. 

Some of the most visible cleared spots between Bethesda and Silver Spring include where the Purple Line will pass under Jones Mill Road near Ready’s home and where the line will cross over Connecticut Avenue on a bridge next to the future Chevy Chase Lake station.

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Anyone who's lived near construction can sympathize. I live about a mile away, but the driving of piles for the 11th Street Bridge used to shake my house. 

Carla Julian, a spokeswoman for Purple Line Transit Partners, wrote in an email that crews are governed by noise limits in its $5.6 billion, 36-year agreement with the state to build, operate and maintain the line.

She noted that there are some permanent noise monitors in place and more will be installed when tree clearing is complete. Some crew members use handheld noise and vibration monitors while trees are being cut down until the permanent monitors can be installed, according to Julian.

She said tree clearing along the route will wrap up in April, then restart in the fall. 

Julian wrote that after crews finish the tree-clearing process, they’ll begin excavating to build the line’s embankment and installing utilities. She wrote “as with all construction, there will be noise associated with the progress.”

Some of the neighbors, those who opposed the Purple Line, think this will lower their property values, while others acknowledge that it could raise it but states that

“I don’t care about property value. I care about peace and a happy place to live,” she said.

In related news, Chevy Chase voted not to fund the lawsuits for the so-called "Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail" and they lost one of their lawsuits.

approving the money would have “called into question” the town’s policy to ease the impact of the Purple Line project on the town and could put the town back into a position of opposition. The town switched to the mitigation policy in 2015 when it stopped formally opposing the 16.2-mile light-rail project.

It still annoys me to hear them called a "trail group" since they're really an anti-Purple Line group. But maybe now that all their opposition has been for nothing, they'll redirect their friendship towards making the best Capital Crescent Trail possible. 

In an opinion issued Tuesday, judges on the federal court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Federal Transit Administration and Maryland Transit Administration properly studied the impact Metro’s problems would have on the light-rail project being built in Maryland. As a result, the three judge panel ruled the transit agencies would not have to conduct a new environmental study to examine other potential routes for the Purple Line.

The ruling is likely a major blow to the trail group Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and the two Town of Chevy Chase residents who had pursued the case against the Purple Line in federal court since 2014.

Still, they aren't done yet.

The trail group and Town of Chevy Chase residents are also pursuing a second case contesting whether the federal government properly vetted the project before providing the federal funding for it. Leon is reviewing that case in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Earlier this month, attorneys for the state filed a motion to dismiss the case. The plaintiffs could also request the U.S. Supreme Court review the Appeals Court ruling in the Metro-related case.

The great tunnel trails

This is the last post in my tunnel series. You can read the other posts here and here

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The Othello Tunnels on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail

There are a lot of trails with one or two tunnels on them, even a few with more. But there are few trails with a lot of tunnels and some others that could have a s---ton of tunnels (trying to keep this family friendly, but as a women I used to work with would say "a s---ton is a great term of measurement. Everyone knows that all you ever need is one s----ton. No one ever says we had two s---tons of something."

The North Bend Rail Trail in West Virginia has 10 tunnels, including a few of the longer ones in the country, and so does the Route of the Hiawatha Trail in Idaho, including the 2nd longest bike tunnel in the world. The Milwaukee Road Rail Trail, also in Idaho has 9 - and it connects to the Route of the Hiawatha, because both were built on the old Milwaukee Road. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail (aka The Iron Horse Trail) in Washington has 8 tunnels and is also on the old Milwaukee Road. Of course, these are all topped by the Kettle Valley Rail Trail just over the border in British Columbia, Canada - it has 12 tunnels (though if pride is on the line, they're pretty short and there are fewer feet of tunnel on the Kettle than on the North Bend, John Wayne or Route of the Hiawatha). And that's it for trails with 5 tunnels or more. 

There are a few - very few - opportunities for such trails.

There's the Fairmont Branch in West Virginia, which was mentioned in the previous post in this series.

A much more difficult lift, with many more tunnels, are the old tunnels in KY and TN on the CN&TP. This line was called the "Rathole" because of it's 27 tunnels and ran from Danville, KY and Oakdale, TN.  The primary difficulty here is that while the tunnels were abandoned, the rail line wasn't meaning a trail would need to run adjacent to the rail where the sections weren't bypassed. 5 tunnels are right next to the existing railroad and likely unusable. Furthermore, 5 of the tunnels were daylighted and 1 had a stream rerouted through it. But the other tunnels could be used by a series of trails of varying utility. Tunnels 7-9 are already part of the Cathy Crockett Trail in Kentucky and that trail could be extended to include tunnel 5. The other tunnels are on one of 7 bypassed sections, but none of those sections would use more than 3 tunnels.

Another multi-tunnel rail line is actually in the process of being made into the trail. The Rock Island Trail will stretch over 200 miles across the state of Missouri and include 4 tunnels with a total length of over 4000 feet. 

Some of the trails mentioned above could have other tunnels added. The North Bend Trail passes by two bypassed tunnels that could be added - at least as hiking detours. The Kettle Valley has more tunnels than are on the trail - but I'm not sure how many as the documentation on it is lacking. It seems Canadian rail fans aren't as rabid as American ones.

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But the big opportunity is the Milwaukee road. Much of the western end of the Pacific Extension, a line from Minneapolis to Seattle, was abandoned in 1980 and parts of that have been transformed into six rail trails in Idaho, Montana and Washington using 28 tunnels. The abandoned section starts in Terry, Montana and is abandoned almost the whole way to Renton, WA, but for a small section near St. Maries, ID - a section that can be bypassed using another rail trail. Altogether it's about 1100 miles. A trail along the whole right of way, connecting all the existing trails, would pass through 46 tunnels. It would be by far the longest rail trail in the world, with the most tunnels, pass through some amazing country and provide access to dozens of cities and towns including Seattle and Butte - and that's without counting all the spurs. Maybe someday.

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City Paper's Best Local Bike Blog 2009


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