11th Street Bridge Fails to Link Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

In a few months, DDOT’s largest project to date will be finished without promised bicycle and pedestrian connections built in. The 11th Street Bridges is the largest element in the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative and is a critical way to connect bicyclists and pedestrians from both sides of the Anacostia River. It is also necessary for use of the entire Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.

But the finalized bridge will not directly connect the Riverwalk Trail on both sides of the river to each other. This is a failure.

The 11th Street Bridges project represents a $370 million investment in the regional transportation network. Missing interstate connections are being built to remedy the awful cut-through traffic that communities east of the river have experienced since the first 11th Street Bridges were built over 50 years ago.

The new local 11th Street Bridge is to include a “14 foot sidewalk/bikepath” to connect local communities and the Riverwalk Trails, which run parallel on both sides of the river. The resulting project will be a 14-foot sidewalk, minus the space occupied by lamp posts, streetcar catenary supports, railings and fences—so, effectively, 10 feet or less. And, it will not connect directly to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail on the east side of the river!

In the project’s current state, bicyclists coming south from the Ward 7 and Maryland (via the new Kenilworth Garden Trail section) wishing to get to Capitol Hill will have an extra and unnecessary route to the bridge. Traveling south along the Riverwalk Trail, trail users will have to bike or walk on-street along Good Hope Road into Anacostia. Then, they will have to turn left at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road onto 11th Street towards the bridge. This circuitous route adds an additional one-third mile of walking or biking to access the bridge from the Riverwalk Trail. The actual distance between the Riverwalk Trail and the local bridge sidewalk/bikepath is about 200 feet part.

The old 11th Street Bridge, which was recently removed, did have a direct connection to the trail along the downstream side. This shouldn’t be lost with the new bridge—because it wasn’t planned to be lost.

Planning for the new bridge began when DDOT completed a Final Environmental Impact Statement in October 2007. The FEIS includes a direct connection between the Riverwalk Trail and the local bridge (see page 60). DDOT chose a design-build construction process to speed up project delivery and stay within a constrained budget. The result of the design-build process has been frustrating for those trying to stay involved.

In June 2012, I contacted DDOT to inquire about the lack of a direct connection from the local bridge to the Riverwalk Trail. A few emails were sent around, with more people copied each time. In the end, there was no answer for the lack of this important trail connection.

At last night’s the Ward 8 Transportation Task Force meeting, representatives from DDOT and the project team were on hand to give a progress report. When asked about why the trail connection was not being built, two answers were given. The DDOT representative said the previous trail connection on the old bridge was “not ADA compliant,” so it wouldn’t be replaced. And when pressed on the fact that the FEIS includes the connection, project manager Pete McDermott said DC Water was planning to dig in the area, so no connection would be built.

The community was promised a world-class waterfront with recreational and transportation amenities, including the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. The construction of the 11th Street Bridge fails to provide the high-quality direct connection between the east-side and west-side Riverwalk Trails it assured from its outset. WABA hopes to see this critical connection completed while this project is still under construction and amenable to improvement.