Tag Archives: WABA

Kay Says Connecticut Ave. Overpass Could Be on Chopping Block

ChevyChaseLakeTraffic

Where the Purple Line Would Cross Connecticut

In a meeting with the Montgomery County delegation to the House of Delegates, MTA Executive Director of Transit Development and Delivery Henry Kay cited the Connecticut Avenue overpass as an example of the type of cuts that a bidder for the project might make in order to reduce costs.

Gov. Larry Hogan has asked the bidders for the project to find ways to reduce the cost of the proposed light-rail project. However, the directions exclude cutting the length of the line or converting it to a bus-rapid transit (BRT) system. As a result, expensive features like the overpass remain one of the few ways to cut costs.

The change would greatly worsen traffic on Connecticut Ave., already bumper-to-bumper during rush hour. Massive new development slated around the stop at Chevy Chase Lake would exacerbate the problem, as the great majority of new residents along with visitors to commercial properties would still drive.

The change would represent a major loss for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, which has lobbied heavily against any plan to eliminate the overpass in favor of an at-grade crossing. WABA sold the Purple Line to its membership as improving bike travel. The change would mean that not only would there be no fast crossing at Connecticut. Additionally, the current underground bike crossing at Wisconsin Ave. will be eliminated even though the rail line will remain below ground.

 

WABA Launches Petition to Save Tunnel

From the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) blog:

Plans have fallen through for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave in downtown Bethesda. Montgomery County attempted to facilitate a redevelopment of the Apex Building that would have allowed a large and more efficient Purple Line light rail station and trail tunnel. In a closed session several weeks ago the County Council, at the recommendation of County Executive Ike Leggett, decided not to move forward with this attempt.

WABA is disappointed that the county has abandoned these plans. The Capital Crescent Trail is one of the most traveled multi-use trails in the county, and the Purple Line transit project is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in better trail infrastructure. Redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed for the best possible station and trail. . . .

WABA has been working for more than two decades on the Capital Crescent Trail. The trail is a well loved community resource which provides an important recreation, fitness and transportation benefit to visitors and residents of all ages. The vision has always been a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring. While the Purple Line will complete a major gap in the trail, it leaves behind a new one.

We are disappointed by this loss of an tunnel option and hope that County officials exhausted all options before making this decision. We expect a safe, grade-separated crossing of the trail at Wisconsin Avenue to be the long-term solution.

WABA Petition

Mediocre Bethesda Terminus

The Bethesda Master Plan Appendix provided a blunt assessment of the need to redevelop the Apex Building beyond the desirability of the tunnel under Wisconsin Ave and the substantially reduced likelihood of the Apex Building ever being redeveloped:

Ventilation Tower in Bethesda’s Heart
The area in front of Barnes and Noble at Woodmont and Bethesda Ave. is the epicenter of Bethesda. Without redeveloping the Apex Building, there will need to be a ventilation tower right across the street in Woodmont Plaza that will be “40 feet wide by 18 feet long by 90 feet high.” But it could be incorporated into a redeveloped Apex building.

Longer Tail Track in Bethesda’s Heart
In his responses to my questions about the tail track, Mike Madden did not mention that the failure to tear down the Apex Building will result in a much longer tail track. According to the Master Plan Appendix, “the Purple Line tracks would extend 100 feet into the plaza.”

These tail tracks would be right next to Mon Ami Gabi, the movie theaters, and the restaurants in the new development. But if the Apex building is redeveloped, the tail tracks “would extend only about 30 feet into the plaza.”

It’s hard to see how a ventilation tower and tail tracks right smack dab in the middle of Bethesda comport with the desire to promote new development–a major Purple Line goal. It also will hardly aid the County’s effort to promote a vibrant nightlife.

Worse Purple Line Platform
Purple Line Project Manger Mike Madden says that the platform will now have 7 columns but the Master Plan Appendix indicates that “12 support columns for the Apex Building would be located on the platform” unless the building is redeveloped. I don’t know whose information is accurate. It gets worse:

The platform is on a slight curve so there would be small gap between the train and the platform. The estimated pedestrian level of service at this station is the lowest along the alignment under current plans.

No Bicycle Storage
As the Bethesda Master Plan Appendix explains:

With the redevelopment of the Apex Building site it is possible to reserve space for a full-service bicycle storage facility that is adjacent to the Capital Crescent Trail, the Red Line station entrance, and the Purple Line platform. A bicycle storage facility . . . is important to provide access to and from transit and for commuters to Bethesda.

Worse Red Line Entrance and Pedestrian Access
Mike Madden says sidewalk space will be preserved by eating further into Elm Street where the elevators will be installed. But the Master Plan Appendix states:

These elevators have a visual presence on Elm Street and provide a circulation area that is adequate but not ideal. . . . The elevators could be incorporated into the redeveloped Apex Building with additional space for pedestrian circulation. This would reduce the cost of the high-speed elevators by approximately $10 million (emphasis added).

Vision Fail
The failure of vision and to provide infrastructure needed to support a project designed to aid the County’s economic development and long-term growth is an increasingly typical mistake in Montgomery County. It also seems part of a bait-and-switch tactic that Bethesda residents should expect as the Council moves forward with its current Master Plan review.

Where’s WABA?

whereswaba1

When the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) moved to change the proposed trail crossing at Connecticut Ave. from grade separated to at-grade, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) went ballistic and sent out an action alert demanding the restoration of the grade separated crossing.

Understandably. Having to wait for a long light slows down a bike trip and grade separated crossings are safer. WABA’s fast action worked and MCDOT backed down fast.

However, the County Council with the backing of the County Executive has now moved to eliminate the grade separated crossing under Wisconsin Ave. While they’ve expressed interest in this issue in the past, WABA has said not a peep about this major change.

whereswaba2bWABA has really fallen down on the job

Very strange since the current tunnel provides an excellent grade separated crossing under Wisconsin (and there isn’t currently one now at Connecticut). MTA had repeatedly promised that a narrow tunnel would continue to exist before pulling that promise once key decision points has passed.

More recently, Montgomery County officials got strongly behind a proposal to revive the tunnel in conjunction with redevelopment of the Apex Building. But they have now pulled their support–after the crucial Democratic primary.

The failure to redevelop means a much less promising Purple Line station, as well as less development above the station. For bicyclists, it will mean a very tricky crossing at-grade crossing at Wisconsin Ave. with bikers needing to watch out for cars and many pedestrians–more than now as 24,000 trips are projected to begin or to end at the new station.

Equally crucial for bicyclists, there will now be no bike storage facility adjacent to the Capital Crescent Trail without the redevelopment of the Apex Building. Of course, the change should also result in a more difficult transfer from bike to light rail or Metro–something you would think should interest WABA and its constituency. Neither should be positive for Purple Line ridership.

But WABA has said nothing, abandoning the bicyclist interests they aver to represent. WABA did not return repeated calls for their thoughts on the change of plans.

Where’s @WABADC?