The bike ride across the 14th Street Bridge will get a little easier soon. The National Mall was awarded a $200,000 Transportation Alternatives Program grant for reconstruction of and improvements to the trail approach to the 14th Street Bridge near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. This was one of the three fixes we wrote about back in January when we discussed improving connections from Virginia to downtown D.C.
The grant will fund widening and repaving of the trail, increasing the width of the sidewalk ramps at East Basin Drive, and relocation of utilities and signage from within the trail alignment. These safety enhancements will benefit the 1,800 bicyclists that cross the bridge daily.
The Transportation Alternatives Program is new program under the federal MAP-21 Transportation Authorization Bill created by combining the Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to Schools, and Recreational Trails programs. A portion of TAP funding is dedicated to a competitive grants program available only to local municipalities, land agencies, transit agencies and other non-State DOT agencies. This small but precious federal funding gives jurisdictions control over TAP funds for local transportation priorities. The League of American Bicyclists has a handy infographic explaining the MAP-21 TA program.
Yesterday, we alerted you to the an amendment introduced by Senator Rand Paul to cut the Transportation Alternatives program. Cutting TAP would eliminate the exact kind of grant money that will fund this project.
The timeline for design and construction on the bridge path are currently unknown. The National Park Service, which oversees the National Mall, is coordinating with DDOT to begin the process. Congratulations to NPS for its hard work to win this competitive grant—we’re grateful for the increased efforts to make bicycling better on the Mall.
This is good news and clearly a step in the right direction. However, with the high volumes of pedestrian and bicycle traffic on that route, a shared-use path is not really an appropriate solution, as crowds of pedestrians simply occupy the entire width of the path, rendering it useless for cycling. A wider sidewalk will not really address this issue. Cyclists and pedestrians need separate, clearly demarcated space that is wide enough to accommodate the expected volumes, not just the volumes today. This proposal, while better than the existing conditions, will be inadequate on the day it opens and won't address the many of the problems that currently exist in that location.
The path is not crowded at all times of the day. When I ride there, the path is usually clear except for bike traffic. The problem is the substandard existing design, where two-way bike traffic creates precarious situations on that hill. I'm looking forward to the new design.