On January 15th, County Executive Ike Leggett released his recommended 2015 Capital Budget and 2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program (CIP), aka the 2015-2020 Capital Budget. It identifies capital project funding over the six year period starting with Fiscal year 2015 (which begins July 1, 2014). The first two years of the budget, 2015 and 2016, are the ones to watch. The other four years are “out-years” which represent intentions or best guesses but may change significantly. The capital budget is re-crafted every two years. It is amended during the other years or any other time as needed. “Capital” projects essentially involve building, creating or designing things – as opposed to operating and maintaining things which is the purview of the Operating Budget.
Most bike and pedestrian projects are identified under Transportation in the capital budget.
Each capital project has its own Project Description Form (confusingly abbreviated PDF) describing the project and its funding profile year by year. These forms are very useful.
Facility Planning is a useful budget item to examine. The Facility Planning-Transportation PDF (see the last page) identifies projects that the county plans to study in coming years. Facility Planning is the phase of studying and doing preliminary engineering (up to 30% design) on a project before it’s allowed to move on to the next step with dedicated funding of its own. Road, transit, and bikeway projects undergoing Facility Planning are grouped together for budget purposes under Facility Planning-Transportation. The PDF for Facility Planning-Transportation gives insight into the future of bike projects in the county.
The following dedicated bikeway projects are identified in the budget (not counting projects only scheduled for Facility Planning, or road projects with significant bike components):
- Bikeway Program – Minor Projects. This county program covers selected small projects up to about $500K each. It was previously called the Annual Bikeway Program. The program is flexible and allows individual projects to be approved fairly quickly by DOT working with bicyclists. The fund may also be used to study larger projects. Funded at approx. $500K year, it will receive an additional $500K in 2015 from the state’s Maryland Bikeways Program.
- Bethesda Bike/Pedestrian Facillities. Remaining work consists of upgrading the Capital Crescent Trail non-tunnel route through downtown Bethesda for about $1 million.
- Capital Crescent Trail. Completion of the CCT as a hard surface trail from Bethesda to downtown Silver Spring in conjunction with Purple Line construction.
- Falls Road East Side Hiker/Biker Path. A path along 4 miles of Falls Road in Potomac. No money is allocated because it’s so expensive it will likely never be built (though a sidewalk may someday be built on the west side). Likely cost of $15-20 million.
- Frederick Road Bike Path. A $7.2 million, 2.5 mile long shared use path along Rt. 355 in Clarksburg.
- MacArthur Blvd. Bike Improvements. An almost completed $8.7 million project improving a 2.6 mile path and widening a shoulder along MacArthur Blvd. This project is the first segment of three to be improved (the next segment is in Facility Planning).
- Metropolitan Branch Trail. Extension of the Met Branch Trail over Georgia Ave. and into the Silver Spring Transit Center by 2018. Funding estimated at $12 million
- Needwood Road Bike Path. Construction mainly of a 1.7 mile path along Needwood Road linking the ICC Trail to Lake Needwood. Cost is $4.2 million, but much of this will be covered by the state’s Maryland Bikeways Program.
- Seven Locks Bikeway & Safety Improvements. This 3.3 mile new path & shoulder upgrade is prohibitively expensive at $27 million and no funding is allocated.
- Silver Spring Green Trail. Extension of this sidepath east of downtown Silver Spring in conjunction with Purple Line construction.
- North Branch Trail. The Executive’s budget provides no funding for this important M-NCPPC trail. The park trail would extend the Lake Frank Trail northward across MD 115 and the ICC Trail until it reaches Olney. In all, 2.2 miles of trail for $4.3 million by 2018 if funded.
- Trails: Hard Surface Design and Construction. M-NCPPC work on miscellaneous new hard surface trails, approximately $300K per year.
- Hard Surface Trail Renovation. M-NCPPC trail renovation work, up to $800K per year.
The most critical concern is lack of any funding for the North Branch Trail (see map and PDF) in the Executive’s recommended budget. M-NCPPC requested funding to complete the trail by 2018. In fact the trail is already in the design phase. The Executive cited “affordability” as the reason not to continue funding the trail. It’s up to the County Council to make sure the trail is funded in the final budget. Stay tuned.