Monday, June 14, 2010

Maryland Lags in Delivering its Share of Bike Trial


DC bicyclists got their chance to "meet the Met" (i.e. 1.5 miles of the newest section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail) earlier this month at a hula-hoop and dance-laden event hosted by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. But it will likely take residents and smart growth advocates in Maryland upwards of eight years before they get to make the acquaintance of their own little piece of hiking and biking heaven.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) is an eight-mile stretch of off-road trail that runs from Union Station (almost) to Silver Spring, Maryland. Built atop the old B&O Railroad corridors, the MBT will provide the area's walkers and bikers with their own car-free connections to neighborhoods and Metro stations.

Jennifer Kaleba, Vice President of Communications for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a group dedicated to converting "unused railway corridors to biking and hiking corridors," hoped the "Meet the Met" event would give residents on both sides of the Maryland-DC border a taste of what an "integral bicycle beltway" connecting DC to Silver Spring would feel like.


A look at the 2011 Operating Budget - newly approved by the Montgomery County Council on May 27th - shows that the Trail's funding has now been doubled from its original $6 million price tag. Via the 2011-2016 Capital Improvements Program, $12.1 million will now be allotted toward the design and construction of Phase 1 and the design of Phase 2.

The bad news? Despite the 1,000 person turn-out at the DC event and the funding increase, folks on the Silver Spring side of the MBT will have to wait about nine years to take advantage of their portion of the integral beltway. And that's the new, accelerated timeline.

Just this past February, Montgomery Councilmember Valerie Ervin complained that "this project's lack of progress may signal to residents that the County is uncommitted to non-automotive modes of transportation" in a letter to Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Arthur Holmes.

In an email to DCMud, Richard Romer, Policy Analyst for Councilmember Ervin's office, explained the Councilmember's frustrations that "So little was occurring in Montgomery County" to build the trail. "After discussion, the Council allocated funding for programming design, land acquisition, and construction of the first phase of the Silver Spring Transit Center to east of Georgia Avenue (including a new bridge over Georgia Avenue), and the design of the second phase from east of Georgia Avenue along the CSX tracks and King Street to Takoma Park."

But with design concepts for the trail still in their infancy and negotiations with track land owners expected to carry on through 2014, the most optimistic estimate coming out of County work sessions is that the final trail will not be available to non-motorists until late 2018/early 2019. Washington DC, on the other hand, has been aggressively completing its share of the bike trail and expects completion within two years.

Maryland Real Estate and Development News

1 comments:

Sivad said...

I wouldn't say this is completely accurate. Maryland has almost finished the MBT eastern leg through Avondale. The hold up (in this case) is DC, NPS and WMATA. NPS is avidly opposed to any changes to Fort Circle Park. Almost with the same fierceness as attempting to cap Old Faithful. DC is making a mountain out of a molehill determining the proper route and plan. WMATA is still holding up releasing land for the trail adjacent to the Green Line in Hyattsville. So I would cut Maryland some slack, they are making progress.

 

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