Purple Line Cost Estimates Threaten the Trail in the Tunnel – What do you think?

The Purple Line plan includes rebuilding the Capital Crescent Trail alongside the proposed Purple Line route.  As part of this commitment, it was understood that the trail would remain inside the tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue.  However, recent cost estimates are calling into question whether the trail can remain in the tunnel.  These estimates suggest the trail could cost over $40 million for the tunnel segment – nearly half of the $93.9 million for the entire trail project between Bethesda and Silver Spring.  Planners are now considering options for the trail that include an at-grade crossing at Wisconsin Avenue.

What do you think?  Should the trail remain in the tunnel, or should other options be considered?  Please click below to comment!

Trail tunnel rebuilding called ‘financially unfeasible’

By: Rachel Baye | 11/16/11
Washington Examiner

The latest cost estimates for rebuilding the popular Capital Crescent Trail make it “financially unfeasible” to rebuild the tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, said Montgomery County Planning Department Senior Planner David Anspacher.

Rebuilding the tunnel would cost an estimated $40.5 million, almost half of the $93.9 million expected cost of rebuilding the entire trail.

Extending from Silver Spring to Georgetown, sections of the Capital Crescent Trail need to be rebuilt to make way for the Purple Line, the proposed light rail planned to run 16 miles from Bethesda to New Carrollton. The project would cost an estimated $1.93 billion to build, much of which local officials hope to fund with federal and state dollars.

However, the Capital Crescent Trail is expected to be funded largely — maybe even exclusively — by Montgomery County taxpayers, said County Councilman Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, who called the new $40.5 million price tag on the tunnel a “wrinkle” in the plans.

Getting state or federal funding for the project hasn’t been formally discussed, Berliner said. However, adding the costs of the Capital Crescent Trail project to the request for federal funding could be detrimental to the Purple Line, altering its “cost-effectiveness.”

The cost of rebuilding the tunnel represents a significant hurdle to a county that continues to slash its budget and has begun an effort to reduce its debt obligations.

There is no money in the current budget for the trail, said Gary Erenrich, special assistant to the director at the county Department of Transportation.

“However … we don’t believe there’s enough information to firmly say that that cost difference [between a tunnel and no tunnel] is $40 million,” Anspacher said.

The Planning Department is urging the Maryland Transit Administration to conduct further cost analysis, he said.

Rebuilding the tunnel also poses significant risks since the project requires developers to excavate beneath the Ajax building on Wisconsin Avenue. The building would have to rely on temporary supports while developers reconstruct 35 columns holding the building up, Anspacher said. He couldn’t say if the building would need to be evacuated.

Whatever the cost, the tunnel is necessary, said Ajay Bhatt, president of the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail. Without the tunnel, young children who walk or bike the trail with their families would have to cross busy Wisconsin Avenue.

Bhatt is scheduled to testify at a hearing before the county’s Planning Board Thursday, where the tunnel will be one of the topics up for discussion.

The board also will discuss adding new lighting and emergency callboxes for the trail for an estimated $9.4 million, which would bring the cost of the trail to $103.3 million.

MTA Purple Line project manager Mike Madden did not return requests for comment.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/maryland/2011/11/tunnel-rebuilding-termed-financially-unfeasible#ixzz1e4XZCXV1

11 Comments on “Purple Line Cost Estimates Threaten the Trail in the Tunnel – What do you think?”

  1. Other options should be considered. Pedestrian bridge similar to trail over River Road would be a good option. Spending tens of millions for a trail tunnel in this depressed economic environment would be insanity!

  2. If the Purple Line project is to retain any vestige of credibility as a project to benefit the public [as opposed to real estate developers], then the promises used to garner support must be kept. The realities of the necessarily high construction costs of a co-located Purple Line and CC Trail have not changed; rather, these realities were heretofore ignored, presumably because to have dealt with them openly would have revealed that the Purple Line’s costs [financial, environmental, and aesthetic] far out-weighed its purported benefits.
    Given this high cost at a time when governmental budgets are strained to the point of rupture, the Purple Line project ought be abandoned. The dollars that would otherwise be spent here can better be spent in the schools, in ESOL programs, even in repairing potholes.
    Why expand the physical infrastructure while we allow the existing infrastructure to decay? Why not rather maintain the physical infrastructure already in place while increasing our investment in our people and their skills?

  3. My personal viewpoint is that express bus lanes make much more sense than rail lines….on the Capital trail and everywhere else.

  4. If the trail were to be inside the tunnel, what security measures would be in place to make sure pedestrians were safe if traveling in there alone?

  5. Any of the daily thousands who spend 15 minutes to traverse the distance between Wisconsin and Connecticut Av. on EW Highway, during either rush hour periods (each 2-3 hrs long), knows something needs to be done to improve the situation. The Purple Line isn’t perfect in many ways but there aren’t many alternatives I have heard that are feasible.
    In this light, clearly some options other than spending $40 million on a pedestrian tunnel need to be seriously considered, with the overall costs of the Purple Line being controlled as much as possible.

  6. You would have to consider bikes and pedestrians with a bridge over Wisconsin. Bikers would have to dismount. I am concerned about how much path space would run along the light rail for people to continue to walk and ride. It does not seem wide enough. I wish they would consider magnetic levetation for the entire railway. It is quiet and would allow more right a way for bikers and pedestrians.

  7. The motivation for the Purple Line isn’t to improve traffic flow or make access from Silver Spring to Bethesda more convenient. Once built the Purple Line will allow developers to cram more multi-use space and high density housing options in the Chevy Chase Lake area. The Purple Line will bring more traffic woes to an already traffic-heavy neighborhood.

  8. It obviously would be absurd and irresponsible to spend $40 million to route the trail through the tunnel. (I’m assuming, of course, that this estimate is accurate.) Some other solution has to be found. The Planning Board so far has resisted developers’ attempts to turn the Lake and the nearby area into a local version of Rosslyn. The Board and the County Council will continue to do so if the existing population – us! – makes it clear that we will not stand for it.
    We can take heart from our successful efforts against Pepco, which got away for years with no investment and poor service until public pressure – us!- made it clear that we would no longer put up with a third world utility.

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