3/5/12 – Keep the Purple Line out of the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel for safety (Washington Post)

March 5, 2012
Keep the Purple Line out of the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel for safety
Washington Post (Letter to the Editor)


Dear Editor:

Regarding Adam Wenner’s March 4 letter, “Seeing the light on closing the Crescent Trail tunnel”:

As one of the volunteers who helped to measure tunnel use several years ago, I can assure Mr. Wenner that the count of 10,000 users a week is, if anything, understated. Moreover, its use by students going to and from school is verifiable.

After a boy was hit by a car while crossing Wisconsin Avenue 14 years ago, 8,000 residents signed a petition to open the tunnel. Yet the number of pedestrian, car and bike accidents between Leland Street and Montgomery Avenue has continued to increase even with the tunnel, and this stretch was deemed a “high-incidence area” by the Montgomery County Transportation Department as recently as July.

With the construction of the Purple Line light rail project, the Georgetown Branch of the trail will be paved and rut-free — encouraging greater use by bikers, walkers and others, and increasing the risk. Several years ago, those skeptical about the proposed project raised safety concerns and questioned the cost and feasibility of running both the trail and a train through the tunnel. To sell the project, officials assured the community that “the trail will continue through the existing Bethesda tunnel.” Now they seek to walk away from their commitments because rising costs call into question the feasibility and utility of the Purple Line.

Mr. Wenner ought to question whether reducing commuting time between Silver Spring and Bethesda by three minutes is worth the almost $2 billion-and-rising price tag of the light-rail project and the increased risks to his neighbors.

Patricia Baptiste, Chevy Chase

The writer was on the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail Board from 1998 until June. She is a former Montgomery County Planning Board member and is chair of the Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers.