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Status of Metropolitan Branch Hiker-Biker Trail through MPI Property in Silver Spring

Update

Preparation to construct a new bridge across Georgia Avenue for the Metropolitan Branch Hiker-Biker Trail commenced on November 20, 2023. A temporary security fence will be placed around the station during this time; access will be through a pedestrian gate.

The parking area adjacent to the historic B&O Silver Spring Station will remain closed until further notice. Limited parking will still be available at the lot in front of Progress Place. Additional parking also available at county garage #4 at 8100 Fenton St. plus public lot #18 at 938 Philadelphia Ave.

Check back for additional updates.

Background

In November 2018, MPI and Montgomery County entered into an agreement that established a perpetual easement over MPI’s land for construction and operation of the Metropolitan Branch Trail across the frontage of MPI’s property at 8100 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. The trail will run largely parallel to Georgia Avenue, then go through station land to cross over Georgia Avenue via a new bridge.

Disruption will continue for more than a year. The County has a temporary easement over most of MPI’s surface parking lot for this entire period. Although the construction will be disruptive, MPI welcomes the trail use and looks forward to introducing a new audience to its historic site.

In partnership with Silver Spring Historical Society, since rescuing and restoring the station to its 1945 appearance, MPI has opened the historic station to visitors and the greater Montgomery County community. In addition to popular public Open Houses on the first Saturday of every month and Montgomery County Heritage Weekend in June, the station is available for meetings, gatherings, and special events such as birthday parties, weddings, and other celebrations.

MPI has always welcomed the planned Metropolitan Branch Trail as a public amenity. For 15 years, MPI met with County agencies and citizens to accommodate the Hiker-Biker Trail as it passes through Silver Spring and our property. However, as this plan moved into design stage and Progress Place was introduced into the small space that currently supports multiple uses, it became apparent that the close-by trail alignment might so negatively impact MPI as to put us out of business.

In 1997, a car jumped the curb and smashed in the front door of the Silver Spring Railroad Station, and the building’s owner was ready to demolish it. The community rose up in arms, and CSX thereafter offered the building to Montgomery County. When County government declined to take the station, MPI stepped up to accept it with a tiny piece of land and to raise funds to restore it. MPI and the Silver Spring Historical Society successfully nominated it to the National Register of Historic Places and to the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation, which gave the property the historic recognition that it deserved and made it eligible for restoration funding.

MPI independently devised plans and cost estimates, then raised more than $500,000 to bring this beloved landmark back to life. This was accomplished by a creative matching of State and Federal funds, private donations, and enthusiastic support from Montgomery County. Restoration – informed by former stationmaster Robert Davis, Ric Nelson, and others – was complete in November 2002, when the Station returned to its opening day appearance of December 1945.

Since 2002, the Silver Spring Station has been open to the public for tours and open houses, rented for meetings and parties, and available for special community events. Once condemned, it has been meticulously restored, with original waiting room, ticket counter, chrome furniture, terrazzo floor, telephone booth, lockers, and bulletin boards. Exhibits on the history of Silver Spring and the station are maintained by the Silver Spring Historical Society and MPI. A canopy and bench near the tracks offer a safe place for train watchers of all ages.

MPI has long cooperated with MCDOT to facilitate a route across the station property. In 2005, MPI learned that the County’s proposal would take the entire rear platform and most of the parking. The effect of this alignment was to separate the station from the railroad tracks, add more safety and coordination issues, and severely limit MPI’s use of its property. As would any property owner fearful of losing its business, MPI stood up for its right to continue its stewardship in Silver Spring and to welcome the public to this historic site. Some in the private and public sectors criticized MPI for protecting its interests, casting us as obstructionists. It was never MPI’s goal to prevent the trail, only to ensure that the trail would not leave MPI unable to use its property.

Metropolitan Branch Trail

After numerous discussions, the County, MPI, and the Maryland Historical Trust agreed upon an alignment for the MBT around the station property. Detailed design and layout work still remains to be done, including identifying new parking options around and near the building, which will require approvals by the HPC and MHT. And with the trail will come a need to re-assess our relationship with neighbors, attract additional volunteers at the station, and to carry the burden of increased maintenance costs.

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