Purple Line construction to cause Georgetown Branch Trail to close

The construction of the Purple Line has been a hot button issue for years. Groundbreaking started on Monday and the effects of the new construction are starting to become a reality.

For the Town of Chevy Chase, the ripple effects of the Purple Line is happening in their backyard, and for many, it is going to mean a new way of living. Starting next Tuesday, the Georgetown Branch Trail will close for the next four to five years. Purple Line transit partners only gave a five-day notice about the upcoming closure.

The three-and-a-half mile path of untouched and unpaved stretch of rugged terrain will close in order to allow for construction of Purple Line. With the closure will also come the removal of hundreds of trees that have lined this trail for decades.

For many families in this area of Montgomery County, it will mean learning a new routine.

"For the kids to walk to school so early in the morning, [they will have] to leave a half hour earlier when it is only a 10-minute walk," said Cynthia Lao.

She moved to the Town of Chevy Chase more than six years ago. The main reason was to be in walking distance of her children's school, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

"If they are going to do the Purple Line, they should do sections at a time and leave the portions open for everyone else to use," said Lao.

The alternate route will now include walking along busy East West Highway.

Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Mary Flynn said she and her staff spoke with several area school principals who were unaware the trail would be closing on the second day of the new school year.

The town is still in talks with Montgomery County on a temporary solution. The county was hoping the alternate route would cut through the Town of Chevy Chase.

"We maintain these roads, we are responsible for what happens on the roads, so if the county wants us to put in a trail, that's fine, but let's get an agreement in place that says if there is an incident - because we have 2,000 more people going through on a residential street - if something happens, it's the county's trail, the county is responsible," said Flynn.

But without the town's green light, the alternate route will, for now, be much farther north from the trail on the sidewalk of another busy thoroughfare - Jones Bridge Road. It is a solution many are calling inadequate.

FOX 5 has reached out to Purple Line transit partners to better understand why there was such short notice on closing the trail, but have not heard back as of Wednesday night.

Montgomery County said they have tried to work with the Town of Chevy Chase to try and provide a more accessible alternate route by placing signs in their neighborhood. The county said in a statement, "The signs would guide bicyclists through the Town to a safer and, for some, a more direct alternative route. Unfortunately, despite our persistence and best efforts, the Town has not agreed to allow these signs to be posted."