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CCT WiscAve Crossing Sept2012

CCT WiscAve Crossing Sept2012

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Published by: tonalblue on Oct 06, 2012
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September 21, 2012Mr. Art Holmes, DirectorMontgomery County Department of Transportation101 Monroe StreetRockville, MD 20850Dear Mr. Holmes,Enclosed you will find a letter from Mr. Shane Farthing, Executive Director of the Washington AreaBicyclists Association, regarding the Wisconsin Avenue - Capital Crescent Trail crossing in Bethesda.You will recall that it was with deep regret that our Council endorsed a plan for the Capital Crescent Trailto cross Wisconsin Avenue at an at-grade, surface crossing. I personally concluded this was a sounddecision because the cost of taking the Trail through the tunnel, estimated at $50.9 million, was simplytoo costly; and because we learned that the structural integrity of the Air Rights Building under which thetunnel passes may be inadequate to accommodate construction of the Trail, causing great risk to Trailusers and to the County.Given that Trail users would now have to cross Wisconsin Avenue at grade, instead of through the tunnel,I encouraged the Department of Transportation to take the surface crossing very seriously: that Trailusers deserved nothing short of the "gold standard" design. I am grateful that, consistent with my request,you have convened a group of Trail stakeholders to advise your staff on the design of the crossing. Youhave a talented, skilled staff and I have no doubt that each member of the stakeholders group aims tocreate a safe, efficient, and usable trail crossing.However, I do share the concerns voiced by Mr. Farthing in his September 17 letter. I believe that we canand must not only meet – but thoroughly exceed – the minimum standards set forth by the AmericanAssociation of State Highway and Transportation Officials. This trail is one of the most-used in thecountry, with 23,000 daily uses measured in Bethesda in 2006. This is not a time when simply aspiring tothe minimum standard will suffice. We must think creatively, employing the latest in nation-wide bestpractices, to accommodate the complexities of this heavily-used crossing.If achieving that requires that you bring in someone with a more specialized expertise in urban traildesign, I ask that you move quickly to put that person in place so that the stakeholders group may benefitfrom a broader array of skill sets to design a crossing that is truly the "gold standard." Please let me knowif I can be of any assistance in this effort, and thank you for your attention to this critical piece ofinfrastructure.Sincerely,Roger BerlinerCouncil PresidentDistrict 1Enclosure
 September 17, 2012Montgomery County CouncilTransportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment (T&E) Committee100 Maryland AvenueRockville, MD 20850RE: Capital Crescent Trail Surface Crossing of Wisconsin AvenueDear Chairman Berliner and the Members of the Committee:I am writing several days after participating in the first meeting of the Capital Crescent Surface TrailTaskforce to once again ask for your leadership and support in ensuring that the CCT crossing of Wisconsin Avenue is designed and built to a standard commensurate with its standing as one of thenation
s most important and well-used transportation and recreation trails.While I appreciate the breadth of expertise and the number of stakeholders and County staff at themeeting, I remain concerned that the most vital expertise was absent: urban trail planning. Currently,the County employs neither a trail planner nor a bike coordinator. So while I do not doubt the goodintentions of the members of this stakeholder group to design and build a gold-standard trail, themembers of this group
myself included
lack the technical training and expertise to remake such animportant trail to serve a multitude of user-types while integrating into an urban context.It is no insult to suggest that major infrastructure projects be left to the professionals with the trainingto complete them. In the first Taskforce meeting I asked that MCDOT reach out to professional traildesigners (1) to ensure that the goals of the Council and the stakeholders could be appropriatelytranslated into a design that meets those goals, and (2) to ensure that the group
s vision of a
which Chairman Berliner and others on this Committee have called for
is, in fact,reflective of best practices from recent urban trail projects undertaken nationally and internationally.I am concerned when hearing statements in the taskforce meeting that the County will
to meetminimum trail standards adopted by AASHTO, or that county staff 
t want commuters traveling atspeed
along the trail route.The AASHTO standards related to design and width set a bare minimum. No
gold standard
trail shouldaspire to the minimum. A true gold standard trail should look to NACTO standards, exceed AASHTOstandards, and be planned with an aspiration to create a prized public space that meets the needs of avariety of users. This is the Capital Crescent Trail, where a million people per year travel
many as partof their daily commute. The option to keep commuting cyclists traveling at higher speeds separate fromother users near parks and along the at-grade route was foreclosed when Council chose not to keep thetrail in the tunnel. Now, the County must design for the ramifications of that decision. To designwithout commuters in mind along one of the nation
s top commuter trails is to be blind to the reality of the facility, and will inevitably result in safety conflicts among users.

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