The District Department of Transportation is proposing a new Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge that will not connect to the Suitland Parkway Trail through Anacostia. The Suitland Parkway Trail’s trailhead is only one mile from the proposed bridge.
DDOT will invest $600 million in a new South Capitol Street / Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge across the Anacostia River. This is the largest capital investment project in the DDOT’s history and represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the design right for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Bridge engineers have been listening to the concerns of bicycling community over the last two years, and DDOT has made improvements to the bridge design for bicyclists and pedestrians. The new span will have two 18-foot-wide multi-use trails, one of each side of the roadway. The sidepath space will be divided into an 8-foot sidewalk and a 10-foot-wide bicycle path. There will be direct connections from the bridge, around the traffic circles, to the street grid and existing or planned trail networks.
But there is a glaring exception: There is no direct connection to the Suitland Parkway Trail from the bridge. The Suitland Parkway Trail is a multi-use path that extends two miles east from Anacostia to the District’s border with Maryland. Prince George’s County is beginning plans to extend the trail another 3.5 miles east to the Branch Ave Metro Station. It is a preferred route for bicyclists because the trail is steady uphill grade ; many nearby residential streets have very quick and steep climbs.
Bicyclists wishing to travel from the bridge to the trail will follow one of two routes. The first is on the south side of the trail, follows the traffic circle around counterclockwise, underneath I-295, and ends at the intersection of Firth Sterling and the Suitland Parkway. This route crosses roads eight times including two high speed interstate ramps. The second route begins on the north side of the bridge, follows the traffic circle around clockwise and ends on Howard Road. Engineers would then paint bike lanes on Howard Road. Neither route ends anywhere near the Suitland Parkway Trail.
Residents who live just up the Anacostia River experience a similar roadway design every day. The unpleasant walk or bike ride from the Pennsylvania Ave Bridge underneath the freeway to Minnesota Avenue SE is nearly the same layout. Pedestrians and bicyclists must navigate a sea of crosswalks, high speed interstate highway ramps and numerous traffic lights. It’s unsafe, unpleasant and intimidating. DDOT should not repeat the same mistake.
DDOT engineers need to propose a direct connection from the new bridge to the trail. This connection should aim to keep pedestrians and bicyclists separated from car traffic, minimize crosswalks and prioritize grade separated trail crossings. Trail user should not have to cross high speed freeway ramps. The design should prioritize the experience of bicyclists and pedestrians. Most importantly, the trail connection should keep kids, adults, and seniors safe and be a direct, safe, and convenient connection of communities.