If you go from the Silver Spring Transit Station to Bethesda on the Georgetown Branch Trail (a.k.a. Interim Capital Crescent Trail), you must cross eight major roadways at-grade at traffic lights. Three of these roadways are six-lane state highways. In addition, there are another seven Trail crossings of roadways at stop signs.
The Purple Line transit/trail project calls for bridges or underpasses that would eliminate all eight Trail crossings at traffic lights. The Purple Line would also eliminate all but one of the seven lesser Trail crossings at stop signs. A trail user would travel the 4.4 miles from the Silver Spring Transit Center to Bethesda and encounter no traffic lights and only one stop sign, at a crossing of a two lane residential street (Talbot Avenue). The frequent stops, the many long waits at lights, and the dangerous conflicts with motor vehicles at busy roadway crossings would be gone.
Options for the CCT in Silver Spring
The Trail must cross five streets at traffic lights to avoid using CSX or WMATA right-of-way or six to stay away from the CSX corridor entirely.
Six of the Georgetown Branch Trail crossings at traffic lights are in Silver Spring. The planned CCT alignment into Silver Spring is shown in the map as the red line alongside the CSX corridor. "Save the Trail" advocates assert that the Trail must be kept away from rail transit to be attractive and safe to use, but as you can see from the map, the further the Trail alignment is pushed away from the rail corridor the more indirect and dangerous the Trail becomes. The Trail alignment that avoids being alongside active rail must come into Silver Spring as an on-road trail down Second Avenue, and will have six crossings of busy streets at traffic lights, two of them six-lane state highways with dangerous bus and turning traffic (16th Street and Colesville Road).
The websites, newsletters and public testimony of the "Save The Trail" groups present no vision for how to complete the CCT into downtown Silver Spring. They are attacking the trail-with-rail concept that the Metropolitan Branch Trail and the "final Mile" of the CCT are being built upon. Unfounded assertions that the CCT will be unsafe near rail transit are destructive to the goal of completing the CCT. We will not have the strong political support essential to complete the CCT along the CSX corridor if transit opponents succeed in convincing decision makers that a trail built alongside rail will be "devastated" and unsafe to use. Instead of asking "Can the CCT be safe to use alongside the Purple Line?", we should be asking "Can the CCT be safe to use WITHOUT the Purple Line?"
See Rails-with-Trails for more on the safety record of trails near active rail lines.
See silverspringtrails.org for more on plans for a trail network in this area.