A section of the heavily used Capital Crescent Trail in downtown Bethesda will be closed for about two months while construction work is completed at an adjacent car dealership.
Last year, after a debate about a project to expand the garage at Ourisman Honda in 2016 that ended with the county’s Department of Permitting Services determining the project encroached on a shared easement of the trail, Ourisman and the county made a deal: If Ourisman agreed to build a public plaza and improve the trail, they could construct the garage.
Ourisman consented, and agreed to install decorative screening around the expanded garage to create a more appealing facade facing the trail.
“We’re hoping that it becomes maybe a downtown landmark for people that are approaching the trailhead,” said Tom Best, Ourisman’s parts and service director.
According to the deal, Ourisman agreed to construct and maintain a 1,300-square-foot public plaza near Bethesda and Woodmont avenues as well as move its driveway farther from the trail’s Bethesda Avenue entrance. The improvements are valued at about $1.4 million.
Ourisman will move its main entrance and parking lot to make way for the plaza, which will include benches, landscaping and plaques, and officials hope the area will serve as a gathering space for individuals and groups.
“Right now, it’s dangerous and it’s jammed and there’s no place for people to gather,” Ourisman General Manager Rich Kandel said. “Now they’ll have a place in this plaza.”
At the same time, crews will widen about a quarter-mile section of the trail about two feet to 16 feet.
While construction is ongoing, the trail will be blocked and Ourisman has created temporary paths to get past the construction, one for pedestrians and one for bicyclists. Signs will direct trail users the correct way, Kandel said.
Some police may be present intermittently to enforce correct use of the alternate trails.
Work will take between eight and 10 weeks, Best said, and because the project will be complete in the summer, most of the landscaping won’t be installed until the fall.
The Capital Crescent Trail is an 11-mile trail that runs from Washington, D.C. to Silver Spring, and is used by an estimated 1 million people each year, according to a county report.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org