If the Town of Chevy Chase wants a pedestrian crossing under the Purple Line at Lynn Drive, the Town or Montgomery County will have to pay for it.
That much was clear from Maryland Transit Administration officials who on Tuesday presented a final attempt at an acceptable design for the crossing. There are about 230 crossings a day of the Capital Crescent Trail on the existing small path there, including many students making their way to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
Previous designs from the MTA were deemed too intrusive or unsafe by the Town. A series of underpass options would mean raising the Purple Line tracks almost 28 feet in the air on a retaining wall, which Town residents feared would be disruptive for the homes backing up to the route.
Early on, MTA said it wouldn’t build a pedestrian crossing at grade with the tracks because of safety issues with the light rail vehicles.
That led to Tuesdsay, when MTA officials presented what they called their last stab at a Lynn Drive crossing to the Town’s Purple Line Mitigation Advisory Group.
MTA engineers said they can lower the height of the Purple Line retaining wall about five to six feet by moving the underpass about 250 feet to the west. The design would require a right-of-way acquisition of the property at 4306 Montgomery Ave. Once that property is acquired, there would be room for a switchback ramp that would offer access to the rebuilt Capital Crescent Trail and Montgomery Avenue.
To access the underpass, Town residents would have a five-foot-wide sidewalk running along the base of the retaining wall to the tunnel, which would be about 10 feet high and 14 feet wide.
The sidewalk would require a temporary construction easement into the backyard of John Keppler, who lives at 7508 Lynn Drive. MTA Purple Line project manager Mike Madden said no temporary construction easements on Town property will be necessary for the construction of the Purple Line or trail.
Keppler was skeptical his property would be undisturbed, even if the Lynn Drive crossing isn’t built.
“You don’t think a single boot will be beyond the property line,” Keppler asked Madden.
“We don’t need a temporary easement,” Madden said.
“That’s not my question,” Keppler said.
“That’s my answer,” Madden said.
“So you’re comfortable with trespass,” Keppler said.
“No, we don’t trespass,” Madden responded.
It was one of a few tense moments between MTA officials and Town residents unhappy with the prospect of the Purple Line in general. Some also seemed miffed as to why the MTA wouldn’t pay for the crossing project.
The MTA engineer who presented pointed out that those who use the existing crossing are technically trespassing on a property just north of the trail. The MTA has determined the crossing is a betterment not required of the Purple Line project.
Town Vice Mayor Pat Burda said the Town Council will likely call for a public hearing on the matter next week. Madden said the MTA needs an indication as soon as possible. It is sending out its final Request for Proposals later in June to the four private concessionaire teams bidding to build the system.
Gary Erenrich, from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, said it’s possible the county could add the cost of the Lynn Drive crossing to the $95 million it just budgeted to rebuild the Capital Crescent Trail along the Purple Line tracks.
Madden said the MTA would get a cost estimate to the county, which then could provide that estimate to the Town for its discussion next Wednesday.
Erenrich also said the Town could request the underpass be built into the Purple Line, even if the sidewalk and switchback ramp were to be added at a later time.