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Capital Crescent Trail: A Separate Tunnel Under Wisconsin Avenue?

The county planning board and department recommend two Capital Crescent Trail crossings—one at-grade and one below-grade—of Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda.

Proposed at-grade and below-grade Capital Crescent Trail crossings of Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. Courtesy of the Montgomery County Planning Department.
Proposed at-grade and below-grade Capital Crescent Trail crossings of Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. Courtesy of the Montgomery County Planning Department.
Wondering what will happen to the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda once the Purple Line is built?

If the Apex Building at 7272 Wisconsin Ave. is demolished to build a better Bethesda Purple Line station, the Capital Crescent Trail could be rebuilt in its own tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue.

And—for those who don't like tunnels—the trail also could be routed across Wisconsin Avenue at street level, according to the county planning department's draft plan for the Purple Line Station Minor Master Plan Amendment, which the planning board approved last Thursday.

Currently, the trail runs along an abandoned railroad track that runs under the Apex Building and Wisconsin Avenue, connecting Woodmont Plaza and Elm Street Park.

The planning department and board recommend, in the draft plan, that the trail tunnel crossing under Wisconsin Avenue consist of:
  • A 15-foot-wide trail on the south side of Elm Street to the east of Wisconsin Avenue (to 47th Street), with ADA-compliant transitions from street level to tunnel level.
  • A new tunnel (at least 10 feet tall and 16 feet wide) under Wisconsin Avenue south of the Purple Line station.
  • A trail (to the west of Wisconsin Avenue, and at least 16 feet wide) between Wisconsin Avenue and Woodmont Plaza.
The draft plan recommends a 5 percent slope for the ramps leading into the tunnel, but the tunnel on the eastern side of Wisconsin Avenue may be constrained (and increased to an 8 percent slope) by a driveway serving 4610 Elm Street. An elevator could be needed to make the tunnel fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the driveway could be closed or relocated, the draft plan added.

The crossing of the trail at the level of Wisconsin Avenue would include "a safer and more convenient protected crossing at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue, Willow Lane and Bethesda Avenue," the draft plan adds.

The planning department's draft plan for the Purple Line Station Minor Master Plan Amendment is with the county executive and county council for review. The council will hold a public hearing on the draft plan on Jan. 14, 2014, and the council's Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee will discuss the draft plan on Jan. 27, 2014.

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