Battle in Bethesda (Trail users unite to fend off developer)

Bar4Many of the people who enjoy the trails in this area: bicyclists, runners, bladers, walkers, etc. have really come to appreciate the Capital Crescent Trail that connects Georgetown to Bethesda, passes under Wisconsin Avenue through a terrific old railway tunnel, and then continues as a gravel interim trail all the way to Silver Spring (someday it will loop all the way to Union Station, but that's another story). In fact, sections of the trail see more than 20,000 users per week.Westportal

In July a developer submitted plans to Montgomery County to develop the parcel of land at the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Bethesda Avenue where the trail enters the tunnel. As part of their plan they were proposing to close the tunnel for more than two years.

When I heard about this, my initial reaction was that there was no way Montgomery County would allow that to happen. But then I had a second thought that if people weren't paying attention, then the ball might not bounce the right way. Well, it didn't take long for trail users and other interested parties to take note. Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner (in whose district the tunnel is located) held a public meeting on September 15 to discuss the development (the tunnel closing was a key issue, but not the only one, aired at the meeting). I attended this meeting, and it was packed; well over 100 people were there. So was the developer, who had been invited to discuss the project.

Bar3The developer clearly got the message that the community was not going to accept the tunnel closing. Last week, the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail reported on its web site that the developer has informed the Montgomery County Planning Board that it will keep the tunnel open during construction. This was clearly a victory for everyone. The trail and tunnel are key commuting routes as well as a wonderful recreational trail for thousands of users. In an area like Bethesda, where traffic is a constant issue, providing as many other choices as possible is an imperative for quality of life.

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