Newly Built Capital Crescent Trail Could Open Before Trains Run

Newly Built Capital Crescent Trail Could Open Before Trains Run

Light-rail corridor completion expected in three to four years

| Published:
Peter van der Waart

Purple Line Transit Partners CEO Peter van der Waart

Dan Schere

The rebuilt portion of the Capital Crescent Trail could open as soon as one year before the light-rail Purple Line opens in late 2022 or 2023, the leader of the public-private partnership managing the construction said.

County officials and those involved with the light rail Purple Line gave a brief update to residents in Chevy Chase Thursday night. They talked about the outlook for the future of the Silver Spring to Bethesda portion of the Capital Crescent Trail, which will reopen around the time the Purple Line is complete.

The 3.5-mile unpaved trail was closed in 2017 to accommodate construction of the Purple Line, which will connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties along a 16-mile corridor. An “interim trail” was designated using a series of roads.

At Thursday’s meeting at the Jane E. Lawton Community Recreation Center, Peter van der Waart, the CEO of the public-private partnership Purple Line Transit Partners, said the new trail could open before the Purple Line is running, once construction is complete on the corridor.

“We could conceivably start looking at ways to open the trail before the Purple Line is open,” he said. “There could be times we have to close it again when construction crews have to come in and finish some landscaping.”

Van der Waart said the new trail will be paved, vary in width from 10 to 12 feet and stretch 4.3 miles into downtown Silver Spring, where it will connect with the Rock Creek, Metropolitan Branch and Silver Spring Green trails. There will also be 23 public access points along the trail, he said, compared to the interim trail, which does not have designated access points.

Matt Johnson, a project manager with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, said the county is creating a number of bicycle tracks in Bethesda and Silver Spring to connect with the Capital Crescent Trail. Some parts of the trail in Bethesda, he added, will feature divided bike and pedestrian paths.

Johnson also said a project is in the design phase to build a secure bike parking facility near the Bonifant and Dixon garage near the Silver Spring Metro station.

David Anspacher, a transportation supervisor with the county’s planning department, said a number of pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements must be made to the new trail, including better lighting for night users.

“We’ll need to think about that if people are going to be using our huge investment in the trail, especially after hours,” he said.

Council member Andrew Friedson, whose district includes Bethesda, where part of the trail runs, said the county’s parks department counted 80,000 uses of the trail in May 2015. It is one of the most heavily used trails in the country, with more than one million people using it every year, he said.

Key pieces of the project, he said, are the completion of a pedestrian tunnel on the Bethesda portion of the trail and the restoration of the tree canopy after Purple Line construction is complete.

“This is a critical component of the Purple Line, and for many, this is just as important as the light rail itself,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethsdamagazine.com.

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