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The Purple Line and the Trail

Opponents of the Inner Purple Line claim that the light rail line will “destroy the trail.” This is simply false. The Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Georgetown will not be touched in any way. Indeed, only by building the Purple Line can the entire trail be completed as originally planned by extending it into downtown Silver Spring.

In November 2008, the Washington Area Bicycle Association issued a strong endorsement statement that “urges all cyclists to speak up in support of the Purple Line light rail option” and denounced what WABA calls “the Save the Trail myth.” The Rails to Trails Conservancy says that “With good design emphasizing safety and plenty of public input this project can be among the best in the nation.” Click here to read the history of Purple Line opponents' creation of the “save the trail” myth.

The Purple Line Will Not Affect the Trail Between Bethesda and Georgetown

The Capital Crescent Trail is the heavily used paved trail now running from Bethesda to Georgetown. This trail will not be touched by the Purple Line in any way. The Inner Purple Line will be built on the other side of downtown Bethesda along a former railroad right-of-way bought by the county 15 years ago. Had it not been for the plan to build a rail line, the land would never would have been purchased, and we would have no trail today.

Bruce Adams, who as a member of the County Council cast the crucial swing vote to build the interim gravel trail that now goes through Chevy Chase, writes that “Of course the rail won't destroy the trail. From the very beginning, the plan has been to have the rail and trail side-by-side between Bethesda and Silver Spring. For trail supporters to attempt to block the rail line by arguing that it will destroy the trail is just not playing fair.”

The Inner Purple Line Will Extend the Trail

When the light rail line is built, the paved trail will extend east from Wisconsin Ave. as far as the Silver Spring Metro station, running alongside the new tracks. The old railroad right-of-way is 60 - 100 ft. wide in Chevy Chase, leaving room for two tracks, a trail, and a vegetated buffer between the transportation facilities and adjoining houses. This fact sheet issued by the Maryland Transit Administration shows what the trail will look like alongside the Purple Line.

The extension of the paved trail will replace a shorter interim gravel trail, called the Georgetown Branch Trail, which now goes part way to Silver Spring. Instead of stopping to walk across busy highways, trail users will cross Connecticut Avenue on a bridge and go under Jones Mill Road through a tunnel.

In April 2011, the Washington Area Bicycle Association reaffirmed its support for light rail in a statement entitled “The Purple Line is GOOD for the trail.” “The Purple Line,” WABA wrote, “is not going to destroy the trail. While the trail will change, in most ways it will be for the better.”

The former president of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, Wayne Phyillaier, has made a detailed analysis of the compatibility of trail and light rail. Phyillaier writes that the allegations that the Inner Purple Line will destroy the trail “are unfounded and are destructive to the goal of completing the CCT [Capital Crescent Trail]. Instead of asking ‘Can the CCT be safe to use alongside the Purple Line?’, perhaps we should be asking ‘Can the CCT be safe to use WITHOUT the Purple Line?’.”