"For two reasons, we decided to remove the . . . path," said Douglas Simmons, deputy administrator for the State Highway Administration. "One was for cost and two was for reducing the footprint on the environment."
The amount it was meant to save was $100 million or 4% of the total cost. The claim is that road + trail is above the environmental threshold, but the road by itself is below it. This is a pretty bold claim considering that in 2004 they hadn't created the environmental impact statement yet. It gets ridiculous when they later claim the trail as one of the project's mitigating measures (page 29). Not building the trail will reduce the footprint, but building the trail provides community mitigation. Hmm. Later 7 miles of the trail (and 3.4 miles of other trail) were added back
When the State Highway Administration published its final plan for the ICC in May 2006, it recommended seven miles of the 18-mile trail be built as part of the highway. The remaining 11 miles would need to be constructed separate from the highway project.
Here's the official response to a request to provide a parallel route:
For safety reasons, MdTA and the SHA will not permit bicycle operation on the travel lanes or on the shoulders of high speed roadway. Based on a study of a possible full-scale parallel hiker-biker trail, the lead agencies concluded that the additional natural and community impacts associated with the construction of an 18-20 mile hiker/biker trail along the entire length of the ICC combined with cost of such a trail, which could approach $100 million, were undesirable. The $100 million cost estimate for the continuous bike path was derived using a combination of design elements from the previous 1997 ICC Study and current design features. Some of the 1997 elements applied to the cost estimate included the roadway typical section and bridge structures over ramps to allow for continuous bike path connectivity. The right-of way cost estimates were also based on the until cost from the 1997 study (which is lower than current land values).
While the Selected Alternative does not include the full construction of a hiker-biker trail parallel to the roadway, it is designed to accommodate future construction and includes the grading, paving and widening of bridges, lighting and storm water management capacity to support the segments of the trail that are parallel to the ICC. In addition, other bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the study area have been included as Environmental Stewardship opportunities.
How much does the trail they're building now cost? Could that loss be covered by higher tolls? How can the road pass the EIS but not the trail and why doesn't the state mention how it decided that the trail impacts were too high (they mentioned how they estimated the cost)? And again they claim on the one hand that the trail causes environmental damage and on the other constitutes Environmental Stewardship. Later, in the same document, they actually argue that though the trail is incomplete, the road will contribute to exercise by helping people to get home faster thus providing leisure time. They also dismiss the specific requests of WABA, One Less Car, and MOBIKE for cost reasons. So really this is all about money.
The other 11 miles will be built away from the corridor, to avoid environmentally sensitive areas, running on an indirect route along roads and sidepaths
Along the way, it would go from Emory Lane to Georgia Avenue, from Layhill Road to Notley Road and from New Hampshire Avenue to Route 29, utilizing some local roads and existing bike paths as it winds eastward.
The bulk of the trail originally proposed was left out of the Record of Decision (ROD). Thus, no plans to include it were made. Now, the county and state are trying to create a route to connect all the pieces, but they're having trouble because the trail isn't included in the ROD (so, bridges and such are not wide enough to accommodate a trail). 1) Promise trail with road 2) Cut trail 3) Design road with only 7.5 miles of trail in it 4) try to put trail back in, but blame road design that didn't include trail for inability to do so properly. Brilliant.
To get the trail route the county will have to amend the master plan. Some meetings were held in April and May of this year for that purpose.
[The] hiking and biking trail meant to run along the route of the Intercounty Connector should parallel the highway as closely as possible, county residents argued
Some of the 40 residents at the April 2 meeting were concerned the proposed route might be dangerous.
The Functional Master Plan Amendment evaluates "cross-county bicycle and trail connectivity along the ICC corridor, to provide connections to logical destinations and fill in critical gaps in response to portions of the path being built with the highway project" with an emphasis on removing the path from sensitive environmental areas.
My first criticism is with the State's fundamental claim, which the county seems to support, that the trail pushes the project beyond the environmental damage threshold. First, they never explain what that threshold is. They never explain how they measure the amount of damage done (I couldn't find it anywhere in the EIS). In addition the county admits that they can't quantify the mitigating benefits of bike trails:
Bikeways, like any land development -- including ballfields and playgrounds -- cause environmental harm at some level. Land development frequently causes loss of trees, isruption to natural drainage patterns, adverse impacts to natural habitat, damage to water
quality from increased runoff, and other effects. Unlike some land development, bikeways and trails also offer significant environmental (and health) benefits as well, which are difficult to quantify. A transportation cyclist using a pathway or bikeway frequently equates to one less car on county roads, which in turn means less air and water pollution in the long run (when compared to what otherwise would be a single occupant vehicle). This conflict was, and remains, at the heart of the debate for and against a full-length CBP as well as debates about numerous other bikeways and trails throughout the County. Bicycle facilities offer environmental and health benefits which are difficult to quantify in the short term, but when absent, contribute to long-term consequences such as obesity and air pollution.
They can't measure the damage or the benefits and they can't define the threshold, but they're sure that the trail + road are on the bad side and the road by itself is on the good side. Hmm...
Then the county says this, which is probably true
Transportation cyclists most often prefer the shortest and most direct connection from their origins to their destinations.
and then this
Recreational cyclists and other pathway users frequently want an aesthetic, park-like experience for which a meandering pathway is appropriate and often highly desirable.
Recreational cyclists like to meander? Says who? Unfortunately, they site no source.
Wait I get it. That's why the major bike commuting routes - CCT, W&OD and MVT -, which are good for transportation because they're largely straight, are so empty on the weekends, because they don't meander. Oh, they're not empty? They're packed. I see. Then I don't get it.
Ironically, these frequently conflicting desires merge in this master plan amendment because the most direct connection between future ICC Bike Path segments would pass through parkland, offering the best of both worlds.
Wow, that is ironic. The direct ICC bike path is a trail everyone would like, sounds perfect...
However, these direct connections also frequently travel through very sensitive environmental resources. The reaction is to move the trail to parallel roadways where the transportation function may be high, but the aesthetic, park-like experience is low or non-existent.
They state that since the road wasn't suitable through these areas, the trail wouldn't be as though the two are equivalent in scope an impact. And their claim that transportation function on a zig-zag route will be high is highly questionable (again, no study to back that up)
This master plan amendment offers a choice between enhancing transportation function while reducing recreational value or selecting a pathway alignment that enhances recreational and transportation value while affecting environmental resources. In reality, both affect environmental resources; the former is indirect and diluted while the latter is direct and visible
Again there is no sense of how much damage the former or latter will do, or what the difference is. So why are they so willing to dismiss the option that will enhance transportation and recreation for an option that will enhance neither?
Then we find out, when the state did the EIS, they only considered a 10 foot wide paved trail (12 feet at bridges) along the 7 miles proposed (not the entire ROW). So it's possible an unpaved trail or narrower trail would not have been over the threshold which they don't define. Nice.
They eliminate the possibility of allowing biking on the shoulders of the ICC, but point out a new law that should pass this fall may open this possibility up.
They also reject the request to turn the access roads used during construction into trails because 1) that's where the road will run (OK) and 2) those areas have to be restored. (Huh? So they can tear it up for construction but they can't turn it into a trail when done? Some of the mitigation is to build park land elsewhere, why can't they up that number to allow for the most direct path?)
The following diversions from the ICC ROW were defined
1. Needwood Road and Vicinity - here the trail cannot follow the ICC because insufficient space on an unbuilt 600-foot long deckover structure exists to "accommodate bicyclists in this structure and no alternative path through the community is available." But what they really mean is insufficient space exists for the full ICC and the trail. What they don't say is how much space does exist. 1 foot? 6 feet? What? And can the road be narrowed? Can the structure be widened? Not even considered as far as we can see. The alignment chosen (Option 1) diverts off the path to the north, then parallel and then south.
2. Georgia Avenue - Further east the trail will divert off of the planned ICC alignment because there is no grade separated crossing of Georgia Avenue in the ICC plan (though a trail may be built up to Georgia Avenue). Why they can't build a crossing of Georgia Avenue is never stated. There isn't one and they aren't planning on building one, but they do recommend building one later - which will be more expensive than building it now.
3. NW Branch Stream Valley - Here the ROD plan was to leave the ICC right of way and make a W-shaped connection to the Matthew Henson Trail and then back to the ICC. This amendment recommends instead building a bridge across the NW Branch to the new Trolley Museum and then using the driveway of the museum and sidepaths built along local roads to connect to the ICC again (Option 1). And a second trail to connect to the Matthew Henson Trail (west side of Option 3) A driveway and sidepaths? Awful.
4.Paint Branch Stream Valley - Here again the ROD routes the trail away from the ICC ROW to reduce the footprint. The road is OK to keep, the trail is not. Could you make the road narrower? What is the ratio of the damage done by a lateral foot of road to a lateral foot of trail? could a 3 foot narrower road allow for a 10 foot unpaved trail? They don't know. Again the trail is routed along a serpentine route along roads including busy New Hampshire Avenue. Often using sidewalks that are to be upgraded to shared use paths of 8 feet wide (that's true project wide).
5. US Highway 29 - It's too expensive to build the trail through the ICC US-29 interchange, so the trail will go along Fairland, US-29 and Briggs Chaney Road. But the county does not recommend moving the trail from the master plan as maybe they'll find the money in the future when it will be more expensive.
The Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing to consider the bike route and related issues in a public hearing on July 10. At the hearing, the board will consider the amendments to the ICC Limited Functional Master Plan, including the cross-county bike route.