Testimony of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association re: CIP Funding for the Metropolitan Branch Trail and Bicycling

Improvements To the Council of Montgomery County: The Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) is an 8-mile multi-use trail project that Montgomery County and the District of Columbia have been committed to planning and constructing for over 12 years. When complete, the MBT will connect Union Station in DC to the Capital Crescent Trail in Silver Spring, creating a 24 mile, western bicycle beltway in DC and Maryland. To date, over four miles of trail—albeit in discontinuous segments—have been built by the District and the County. Public money has been spent on construction and planning and private investment has been made on the promise of a world-class walking and bicycling trail. Now, without prior notice to longtime trail advocates or the larger bicycling community, the County Executive proposes to strip funding for the MBT from the CIP. This includes removing the funding to build a safe, grade-separated crossing of Georgia Avenue. Elimination of this funding undermines a key community transportation priority and breaks commitments to bicyclists and pedestrians. We ask this Council to restore both funding for the Metropolitan Branch Trail and the community-serving crossing of Georgia Avenue. In statements touting livability and in efforts to bring bikesharing to the County, many of its leaders seem to seek a perception of Montgomery County as transportation-progressive. Certainly, the potential is there. But killing a top-priority trail connection undermines those statements. This CIP gives the Council the opportunity to make a case in more than words. It provides the opportunity for Council to restore the funding that is needed to allow a project to move forward, while also demonstrating a level of political support that can compel it to do so. A jurisdiction seeking to get more people onto bikes and using a network-based tool like bikesharing to do so must realize that connectivity and safe facilities for travel are not just important, but imperative. The county should be working to expand its bicycling facilities by increasing funding for biking in high-demand areas. These areas will need numerous improvements—many of which will require little more than design, paint, and signage—to give potential riders the confidence to take to biking, or to a new bikeshare system. Now is the time for the county to ensure that these small projects that may prove critical to the growth of cycling as a sustainable transportation mode in the county can be done, by including a pool of funding—in addition to the standard bikeways funding—to be used for integrating biking into the roadway network in areas where higher bicycle usage, such as would result from bikesharing, is encouraged or evident. Thus, we ask that this Council restore the funding for prompt design and construction of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and to ensure that this CIP takes seriously the County’s responsibility for and commitment to a safe, useable, connected bicycle transportation network. Respectfully submitted,

Shane Farthing Executive Director

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