Thursday, August 16, 2007

purple line haze: a history lesson

The Purple Line won't be the first time some Downcounty neighborhoods see trains going through their backyards. Check out part ONE of a series on the Purple Line.

The Capital Crescent Trail in Chevy Chase was a former rail line. Check out this slideshow of the Purple Line route through Bethesda and Chevy Chase.

Twenty-five years ago, households in Bethesda and Chevy Chase already had trains running through their backyards. A few times a week, trains carrying coal would travel a single track, dubbed the Georgetown Branch, from Silver Spring to Georgetown. The coal was used to power over a hundred federal buildings.

"People would wave from their backyards" at passing trains, says activist Pam Browning. "They thought it was quaint."

When the freight trains stopped running, Montgomery County started looking at ways to use the land for transit. What we have today is the "future" Capital Crescent Trail, named as such because its completion hinges partially on the construction of the Purple Line.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Guest blogger Adam Pagnucco explains:
In 1986, CSX decided to file for abandonment of its tracks. The county then passed the Georgetown Branch Master Plan Amendment in 11/86 designating the tracks as "a public right-of-way intended to be used for public purposes such as conservation, recreation, transportation and utilities." The amendment stated that "a transit facility could be an important element of the County's long-term transportation system."


This trestle bridge over Rock Creek was once used for freight trains.
In 1988, the county purchased the right-of-way from CSX for $10.5 million. Two years later, the county passed the Georgetown Branch Master Plan Amendment of 1990, which "designates the Silver Spring & Bethesda Trolley and the Capital Crescent Trail as suitable uses for the 4.4-mile portion of the Georgetown Branch right-of-way between Bethesda and Silver Spring."

The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Master Plan, also adopted in 1990, reinforces the intended right-of-way use for both trail and transit. It states, "Use of the route for transit would provide an alternative to driving on East-West Highway and Jones Bridge Road. It would assist those people who rely primarily on local public transit. The key to attractive, successful transit service is providing reliable, speedy service. The Georgetown Branch provides an existing travel corridor that could readily be adapted for transit use."

See the sector plan for further details - pages 103 and 104.

Newspaper articles from that time show that the county government intended transit use at the time they bought the CSX land. Chevy Chase residents reacted by first opposing possible residential development on the land and later by opposing rail service.

In 1989 the county council voted to accept state money to pay for most of the cost of what was then known as the trolley by a 6-1 vote. [Then-councilman] Ike Leggett was the sole dissenter. Two years later, the trolley line died because of rising cost estimates and state budget problems.
County Executive Ike Leggett explained his reasoning behind opposing the Georgetown Branch Trolley in this JUTP interview last February. The trolley would have used the same single track as the freight line, meaning that trains could only go one direction at a time.

"It would have taken forty-three minutes with single-track [there] and back," he says. "If you're on the platform in Silver Spring and the train just left, that's forty-three minutes you have to wait."

And while groups such as the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Coalition already opposed that project, Leggett's push to make it more efficient - by having two tracks instead of one and extending the line east to New Carrollton - have only increased their opposition. The current trail is exactly as wide as the original rail. In order to fit two tracks, a trail, and the necessary separation of the two, most of the trees in the right-of-way would have to be taken down.

"We don't think you could feasibly put a train and a trail here and not have it ruin the experience of the trail," says Mier Wolf, a Chevy Chase town councilman who proposed a town-led study of the Purple Line. "You don't get a [tree] canopy like this overnight."

Photos taken on the Capital Crescent Trail in Chevy Chase. Research by Adam Pagnucco; analysis by Dan Reed.

17 comments:

Sanjay said...

Twenty-five years ago, the neighborhoods bordering the Georgetown Branch looked more like those surrounding Silver Spring (esp Woodside). Today the area is home to the elite of Montgomery County and Washington. There never was significant service on the former rail line and trains are quaint if they pass by once a week instead of every 20 minutes like proposed on the Purple Line. Today the rail has been ripped out and a wonderful trail put in place. THis has converted a transportation corridor to a recreational corridor and to see it revert to a transportation corridor is now impossible, unless the Purple Line is undergrounded. What would be acceptable aboveground is a single track line that runs no more than once every hour. Or drop the segment past Silver Spring and build Metro, not light rail. At $350 million a mile that wouldn't be much if Downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring are charged a special property tax. As it stangs now, taxpayers will foot the bill for a second-rate trolley line that will destroy lovely neighborhoods and beautiful linear open space/trail and will only benefit commerical property owners in Bethesda and Silver Spring. That sounds like a pretty sour deal to me. Lets build a world-class transportation system that is compatible with existing Metro.

Anonymous said...

At last, an honest statement of the reasons for opposition to the Purple Line:

"the area is home to the elite of Montgomery County and Washington" so it needs to be put underground for the benefit of the "lovely neighborhoods" that are so different from "those surrounding Silver Spring".

How to pay for it? "drop the segment past Silver Spring"

rtsind said...

Perhaps the County should halt anymore development in the bethesda-Silver Spring area-- more corporations only encourage more jobs- which lead to more congestion.

The County should start to encourage corporations to develop outside of these two areas, and work in conjunction with Prince Georges County to encourage business in their county .

Montgomery County could also encourage some of the corporations in Bethesda-Silvr Spring, to open up satellite offices in less congested areas(again Prince Georges County and the outlaying areas off of Rt.29)- doing so- these corporations can then transfer their Prince Georges and Charles County and even Howard County employees to these satellite offices and off of Montgomery County roads.

Ask yourselves- if we have a lot of traffic coming from the New Carrollton area- why not encourage that traffic to work closer to home.

Sligo said...

We could always use the money from the purple line to pay people not to come to work.

b said...

As someone who refuses to own a car, I ride Metro & Ride-On. I also bike to work and on the Capitol Crescent Trail. I have no problem sharing the trail with mass-transit. Trains are my friend as a bicyclist, because every passanger on the Metro is one less person polluting my air, and cutting me off, driving while talking on a cell, as I bike home to Silver Spring, up Georgia Ave.
These NIMBY's should be worried about "The Connector". (I forgot, freeways don't run thru white neighborhoods).But, the added traffic will impact the trail more than a light rail train. 100 trains a day vs 100,000 cars a day.

Anonymous said...

oubzxdb,

Your words have exposed you as the idiot you are. The ICC will not create traffic it will help prevent current traffic from polluting while stuck in PARK on jammed streets. And until your mass transit starts delivering food to the stores we will need highways to transport goods. Oh yeah "kill whitey".

Sanjay said...

anonymous you are a retard. One day Woodside will be the next Chevy Chase. I also support undergrounding the line through Silver Spring if it is built. The segment past Silver Spring was never intended and has no route established and will destroy many lovely neighborhoods there in the name of greater density for Bethesda and Silver Spring (and more traffic there too). By phasing he Purple Line we can build the only part that is in accordance with the master plan underground and build the rest at another date when finding is available.

Anonymous said...

rtsind said...

Perhaps the County should halt anymore development in the bethesda-Silver Spring area-- more corporations only encourage more jobs- which lead to more congestion.

The County should start to encourage corporations to develop outside of these two areas, and work in conjunction with Prince Georges County to encourage business in their county .

Montgomery County could also encourage some of the corporations in Bethesda-Silvr Spring, to open up satellite offices in less congested areas(again Prince Georges County and the outlaying areas off of Rt.29)- doing so- these corporations can then transfer their Prince Georges and Charles County and even Howard County employees to these satellite offices and off of Montgomery County roads.

Ask yourselves- if we have a lot of traffic coming from the New Carrollton area- why not encourage that traffic to work closer to home.

RE: The only way that will happen is when Montgomery County get Political Leaders that have the Northern Virginia mindset by supporting Corporate Business/Retail Growth along major corridors and Open Space.........

Anonymous said...

Sligo said...

We could always use the money from the purple line to pay people not to come to work.

RE: Nah, use the money to build a Mental Institution that will house those anti-growth psycho maniacs....

Anonymous said...

b said...

As someone who refuses to own a car, I ride Metro & Ride-On. I also bike to work and on the Capitol Crescent Trail. I have no problem sharing the trail with mass-transit. Trains are my friend as a bicyclist, because every passanger on the Metro is one less person polluting my air, and cutting me off, driving while talking on a cell, as I bike home to Silver Spring, up Georgia Ave.

RE: Suppose its raining and you lose control of your bike and get run over by the light rail, will you brush your nasty bruises and continue to preach to the wall about how safe riding bikes are compared to riding in a automobile.................

b said...

These NIMBY's should be worried about "The Connector". (I forgot, freeways don't run thru white neighborhoods).

RE: WOW!!!!!!!!

The 40 Lane Springfield Mixing Bowl, The Dulles Greenway, the Fairfax and Prince William County Parkways run ALL through the African American and Latino Neighborhoods.

Next thing ya know they will be renaming I-395 in Arlington/Alexandria The New Jersey Turnpike and I-66 in Falls Church/Arlington The Cross Bronx Expressway via Theodore Roosevelt Bridge aka George Washington Bridge............

Oh yeah, the tax dollars are lacking in the use of funding for more Mental Psycho Hospitals.........

b said...

But, the added traffic will impact the trail more than a light rail train. 100 trains a day vs 100,000 cars a day.

RE: Said the same BS about the Red Line Extension to Shady Grove will take cars off of I-270 and MD 355, now wheres the proof in the Facts Bucket..........

rtsind said...

Well .. isn't it logical to think -- that if the Purple Line is going to take traffic off some of the roads, then a person who lives in the New Carrollton area, in one of the more exclusive Prince Georges County neighborhood, who currently maynot want to deal with all the traffic will say to themselves..."Hmmm now that there is less traffic on the road(since everyone is using the Purple Line, maybe I will drive my big gas guzzling auto and go to Bethesda for lunch...:

"Let the peons take public transportaion I don't have to."

And of course the developers will try to lasso in some of that business on the Purple Line-- so Purple Line equals more development and more development equals more traffic and it goes and it goes and it goes.....

b said...

xho...well damn, I was just trying to support the Purple Line as I belive in public transit. anonymous, kill whitey? I am white,not that it has anything to do with public transit. And I'm not an idiot, an opinionated, hard drinking, SOB, ok, but I am not an idiot. I've sat 3 hours on Golden State 5 in LA, now I curse the bus for being late. I don't mean to offend, I just miss the 50's when the air tasted good & fresh.

Anonymous said...

b,

Your are right, Race has nothing to do with it. That is the reason I made a bad attempt at tongue in cheek sarcasm when you said "(I forgot, freeways don't run thru white neighborhoods)."

Bad attempt at absurd humor.

By the way there are more than a few minority NIMBY's that live along the route

b said...

I'm cool, after a few glasses of beer or wine, I become a poor man's Hunter S Thompson. It is this culture of 1 hand on the wheel, 1 hand on the cell, mentallity that I hate.

Anonymous said...

b said...

xho...well damn, I was just trying to support the Purple Line as I belive in public transit. anonymous, kill whitey? I am white,not that it has anything to do with public transit. And I'm not an idiot, an opinionated, hard drinking, SOB, ok, but I am not an idiot. I've sat 3 hours on Golden State 5 in LA, now I curse the bus for being late.

RE: Montgomery County has nothing to do with LA since LA is the Second Largest Region in the Country..........

b said...

I don't mean to offend, I just miss the 50's when the air tasted good & fresh.

RE: You mean when the Colored aka African Americans were told by the White Man what side of town they have to stay in and if they didn't they would be tortured and lynch like Emmett Till........

Anonymous said...

b said...

I'm cool, after a few glasses of beer or wine, I become a poor man's Hunter S Thompson. It is this culture of 1 hand on the wheel, 1 hand on the cell, mentallity that I hate.

RE: Then it is time for you to migrate back to Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi or whatever rural country hick southern town you came from..........

rtsind said...

Tennesee, Alabama, or Mississippi -hick, backward towns.?

Don't forget how backward Montgomery County was in the 60's.(1960 you dolts).

There were Klan meetings at Wheaton Regional, and George Wallace did quite well in Montgomery County when he ran for President.

So watch who you call backward and a hick.

BTW I am from New Jersey and we had our own problems up there during that era.