A Planning Board briefing on Bethesda Purple Line issues scheduled for Thursday includes some updates on how an Elm Street light rail station would affect the Capital Crescent Trail.
The Maryland Transit Administration told Montgomery County last fall that it might be able to fit a five- to seven-foot sidewalk in the existing Capital Crescent Trail tunnel along the Purple Line after all. It originally said the light rail would take up too much room and the County Council agreed it would be too costly to create enough space for a new Trail.
But in the briefing on Thursday, Planning Staff is expected to tell the Board that a future tunnel crossing for the Trail under busy Wisconsin Avenue is not completely out of the question. The revision of the Bethesda Central Business District Sector Plan could afford the county an opportunity to build a new one:
The Planning Department’s work program includes an update to the Bethesda CBD Sector Plan starting in April 2014 and Planning staff has asked MTA to determine whether a new tunnel crossing for the trail beneath the Apex Building, Wisconsin Avenue, and the Air Rights Building is feasible, and if so, to identify the location and spatial requirements of the tunnel so that it can be considered as part of the Sector Plan update.
That could be welcome news for Trail supporters and cyclists, who worry the post-Purple Line trail alignment across Wisconsin Avenue could put users at risk.
Meanwhile, plans for creating the street-level pedestrian and bicycle crossing of Wisconsin Avenue continue. Planning staff reports the design process is underway and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation should have Phase I of the planning done by late this summer.
The County Council requested designers consider prohibiting eastbound drivers on Bethesda Lane from turning left onto Wisconsin Avenue, where cyclists and other Trail users would most likely feed onto the road. But businesses and the Town of Chevy Chase opposed that:
Council requested that the project team consider a protected signal phase for pedestrian and bicycle crossing of MD 355, and consideration of a left turn prohibition for eastbound Bethesda Avenue at MD 355. Businesses and the Town of Chevy Chase oppose the turn prohibition. MCDOT has developed a potential signal phasing concept that provides for a protected portion for the trail crossing within the signal cycle, while maintaining the left turn movement.