(UPDATED AT 2:45 p.m.) Maryland Transportation Administration officials told a County Council committee today they have designed a five- to seven-foot sidewalk along the Purple Line in the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel.
Use of the tunnel has been a contentious issue leading up to and since the County’s decision to reroute the popular Capital Crescent Trail biking and running trail in the tunnel now to Bethesda streets. That would make room for the Purple Line light rail system, which is planned to run from Bethesda to New Carrollton with stops in Silver Spring and College Park.
Mike Madden, Purple Line project manager for MTA, told the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee that the sidewalk would not be big enough for bikers to continue using the tunnel trail, but that it would allow bikers on the trail to walk their bikes to the trail connection on the other side of Wisconsin Avenue.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-Garrett Park) praised the MTA for their efforts but asked the agency to continue pushing to make the path as wide as possible.
Council President Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) also praised Madden and his team.
Madden added the MTA could be able to run the entire Capital Crescent Trail under the tunnel, depending on possible redevelopment of the above Apex Building and Air Rights Center.
The MTA previously argued it would be too costly to rebuild the trail along the light rail in the tunnel.
Ajay Bhatt, President of the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, said no matter the size of the walkway, the value of the trail will be lost.
“First they said they’re going to keep the trail in the tunnel, then they said they can’t put the trail side-by-side, now it is a five-foot sidewalk,” Bhatt said. “So what are they going to say next week? How do we know what they’re saying is what they know they can afford and design? Clearly, the Purple Line on the trail destroys the trail, getting rid of 20 acres of park inside the Beltway that is irreplaceable.”
Madden and engineers also presented plans for the Bethesda Metro South Entrance that would connect Metro riders with the Bethesda Purple Line station at Elm Street and Wisconsin Avenue.
Madden presented a potential design of the Chevy Chase Lake Station at Connecticut Avenue. The current design would provide for an arch bridge over Connecticut Avenue for both the Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail.
All this came against the backdrop of uncertain funding for the projected $1.9 billion project. The final designs and the start of construction could be years away.
Councilman George Leventhal (D-Takoma Park) joined the committee meeting on Thursday. Yesterday, he told the Washington Examiner he was worried the project wouldn’t receive the necessary funding.