February 2, 2011
Residents fear extending Capital Crescent Trail would derail Silver Spring neighborhood
Montgomery County Gazette
By Kristi Tousignant, Staff Writer
Despite years of support from the Woodside community in Silver Spring, a proposed extension of the Capital Crescent Trail has recently raised concerns in the neighborhood.
A group of residents in Woodside oppose construction of the Capital Crescent Trail through their neighborhood. The trail connects west Silver Spring to Georgetown, Washington, D.C. As part of the plan for the construction of Metrorail’s proposed Purple Line, the trail would extend to the future Silver Spring Transit Center downtown.
The Capital Crescent Trail has been included in the Purple Line project plan since the beginning stages, said David Clark, a public information officer for the Maryland Transit Authority.
The Purple Line is a proposed light rail line that would connect Silver Spring and Bethesda before heading to College Park and ending in New Carrollton. The project has been under discussion in the state for years.
The Purple Line project proposal would also extend the Capital Crescent trail through the western part of Woodside, crossing 16th Street and running along Third Avenue before heading to downtown Silver Spring.
The trail would be 12-feet wide and paved, with 2-foot shoulders on each side, Clark said. A fence will separate the trail from the light rail tracks and CSX railroad tracks, he said.
“[Woodside] is this little quiet oasis as high rises and condos build up around us and we like it quiet,” Karen Simons of Woodside said.
The plan for the Capital Crescent Trail route is not new to the community, Woodside Civic Association President Webb Smedley said. The community association has been in support of a Capital Crescent Trail extension for at least a decade, he said.
“There are some people who don’t agree with longstanding position that has been the subject of numerous votes and they are acting like this is a recent issue,” Smedley said.
Simons, however, said the plan has never been properly conveyed to the neighborhood. Simons lives about a block away from where the trail would run on Third Avenue. Simons said she first heard about the trail’s planned path last September.
“We feel duped because this was not communicated to us,” Simons said.
A community meeting was held about the project on Dec. 16 with members of the Maryland Transit Authority. More meetings are scheduled in the coming months.
Smedley said he sees the multi-use trail as beneficial to the community. The trail would accommodate hikers, bikers, rollerbladers and dog walkers. He said he thought the path would help decrease traffic in the area as more people would take their bikes to work. He said he even thought the addition of the trail would raise home values in the area.
“I just think it has a lot of different pluses for the community,” Smedley said.
Smedley said his interest in the trail stems from an incident with his son. When his son was younger, Smedley said, he watched him almost get hit by a car trying to cross 16th Street. A trail like Capital Crescent would have eliminated this risk, he said.
Simons is mainly concerned that the trail construction is a waste of county money. She also believes it will cause a safety threat and does not want the constant traffic of walkers and bikers near her home.
“We are really concerned about how it’s going to impact the feel of the neighborhood,” Simons said. “We also just don’t think it’s the best use of county money.”
Simons is not alone in her concerns. A group of neighbors near the planned Third Avenue path have rallied against the trail’s new route. Judy Boggess lives half a block from where the trail would be constructed. She does not want the trail running so near to her house. Boggess said she would prefer the trail to be constructed on the other side of the CSX tracks, where there is not a residential neighborhood.
“In the big scheme of the Purple Line, it’s a small area, but in the scale of the neighborhood, it’s a big area,” Boggess said.
The original plans had the light rail and the trail running north of the CSX tracks, Clark said. In 2005, there was a proposal to move the light rail to the south side of the tracks to separate the Capital Crescent Trail from the light rail tracks.
The Montgomery County Council approved plans to separate the trail from the light rail route in 2009, Clark said. This means if the trail were moved away from the Woodside neighborhood, it would again run next to the light rail tracks.
“All transportation projects are subject to debate within a local community, and the MTA believes in a strong program of public engagement,” Clark said in an e-mail.
Boggess was also concerned about county money going toward the trail and about the noise levels the construction and eventual traffic on the trail would cause. With the CSX and Metrorail tracks close by, Boggess said she worried another route for transportation would only add to the noise.
“We are just a tiny little neighborhood,” Boggess said. “This is just a handful of people who would really like to be included with something that’s going to change our neighborhood so dramatically.”
Bogess was also concerned that the trail would serve as a magnet for crime going through the neighborhood. Smedley, on the other hand, said that increased pedestrian traffic would discourage criminals from venturing into the area.
The community will discuss the issue further at the civic association’s Feb. 21 meeting. A transit authority employee will be there and, Smedley said, a state park police officer will attend to answer safety questions about the trail. Smedley said the association is also planning a community walk along the proposed trail location with a member of the Maryland Transit Authority. The association’s Transportation and Development Committee will also be discussing the issue in the spring.