Commuters might restart enjoying the extension of the busy Capital Crescent Trail to Silver Spring as early as 2021.
Speaking at a July 25 briefing to residents in Chevy Chase, the top manager of the public-private partnership (PPP) carrying out the construction heralded an earlier-than-expected completion of the rebuilt part of the trail along which a light rail project, Purple Line, will start running as well in late 2022 or the following year.
“We could conceivably start looking at ways to open the trail before the Purple Line is open,” Peter van der Waart, the CEO of the Purple Line Transit Partners, said, adding that though there might still be some, short-term interruptions to its service after the trail is open. “There could be times we have to close it again when construction crews have to come in and finish some landscaping.”
The 3.5-mile (5.6-km) long unpaved trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring was closed two years ago to accommodate construction of the Purple Line, which will connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties along a 16-mile (26-km) corridor. And for as long as it would remain closed, an interim trail using a series of roads was offered to commuters as an alternative.
Once the extension is complete, a paved trail that would vary in width from 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6 meters) and stretch 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) into downtown Silver Spring will replace that interim trail. From there, it will connect with several other trails such as Rock Creek, Metropolitan Branch, and Silver Spring Green, adding to a wide network for commuters of all types — walkers, joggers, bikers and skateboarders among others.
The Bethesda-Silver Spring portion will also include 23 public access points. The interim trail has none. Capital Crescent Trail whose start/endpoint in D.C. is in Georgetown qualifies as one of the most heavily used trails across the U.S. An estimated 1 million people make a journey along it every year.
According to Councilmember Andrew Friedson, who also spoke at the briefing as a people’s representative from a district that includes Bethesda, the extension is a “critical component” of the Purple Line and it is “just as important as the light rail itself for many.”
The briefing that took place at the Jane E. Lawton Community Recreation Center also featured some officials from Montgomery County. And some of them, too, had good news for commuters.
Matt Johnson, a project manager with its department of transportation, said they are putting in place multiple bicycle tracks in Bethesda and Silver Spring to connect with the trail. Some parts of the trail in Bethesda, he added, will also offer divided bike and pedestrian paths.