Buffered cycle tracks could help Montgomery County transportation officials make the best of a dicey situation when it comes to a Capital Crescent Trail crossing of busy Wisconsin Avenue.
In a meeting with stakeholders in September, the county’s Department of Transportation presented a number of still preliminary options for the Capital Crescent Surface Trail. The Town of Chevy Chase Council is set to receive a presentation on the concepts on Wednesday.
At a minimum, the Surface Trail will be used as an interim route during Purple Line construction for bicyclists on the Capital Crescent Trail to get from its off-road terminus at Bethesda Avenue, across Wisconsin Avenue, and around Elm Street Park.
But despite intensive county efforts to provide for a new tunnel crossing for the trail under Wisconsin Avenue, it appears bicyclists might be permanently forced to street-level crossings once the Purple Line is built.
The Maryland Transit Administration has said it will be able to provide a path wide enough only for pedestrians in the existing Capital Crescent Trail tunnel — which will be home to the Bethesda Purple Line station. On County Executive Isiah Leggett’s recommendation, the County Council agreed not to offer a multi-million dollar package to incentivize the property owner above the tunnel to raze the building.
MTA said demolition of that building would have allowed for construction of a new Capital Crescent Trail tunnel, separate from the tunnel that will be occupied by the light rail.
If the county and building owner can’t come to terms before construction starts on the Purple Line, bicyclists who use the trail in Bethesda might permanently have to cross Wisconsin Avenue next to pedestrians and with vehicles.
The Surface Trail concept plans do, however, provide room for some features that could make the crossing easier.
For one, the “gold standard” concept would allow for a buffered, two-way cycle track along Willow Lane (just east of Wisconsin Avenue). The curbside meter parking spots would remain, but inside of the cycle track in a similar fashion as the project the county is finishing in White Flint.
One of the concepts includes a separate crosswalk for bicyclists across Wisconsin Avenue, a few feet north of the existing pedestrian crosswalk. One of the concepts includes a two-way cycle track along the north side of Bethesda Avenue, between Wisconsin Avenue and Woodmont Avenue.
Yet another concept would provide for buffered bike lanes on both sides of Woodmont Avenue south of Bethesda Avenue, meaning bicyclists using the trail would cross Wisconsin Avenue at Leland Street instead of Bethesda Avenue/Willow Lane.
Once the Purple Line is built and the new Capital Crescent Trail is completed, the Surface Trail would connect up just north of Elm Street Park.
The state has presented some preliminary plans for an interim Capital Crescent Trail route through the Town of Chevy Chase and across Connecticut Avenue, which would be in effect during the anticipated five years of Purple Line construction.
Both MTA and Town of Chevy Chase officials have told BethesdaNow.com that discussions on that on-road interim route will be put on hold until early next year.