AT LAST: Rock Creek Park Trail reconstruction starts this fall

A new trail bridge is coming to the Rock Creek Park Trail at the zoo tunnel. Photo credit: M.V. Jantzen

Construction is coming to the Rock Creek Park Trail this fall. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will rebuild the trail along Beach Drive.  The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will finish the trail work in late 2016/early 2017. For a community that has been waiting for over a decade, construction on the trail will be a welcomed sight.

The Environmental Assessment plans for 3.7 miles of trail rehabilitation from P St. NW to Broad Branch Road. FHWA will construct roughly two miles of trails from the Rock Creek Park Trail to Broad Branch Road. FHWA will also modify the road within the zoo tunnel to accommodate a narrow trail. Construction crews will build a new trail bridge over Rock Creek near the tunnel. Where possible, the trail will be widened. The trail surface will be completely repaved.

FHWA will issue bids this summer and plans to begin construction this fall. The trail will be reconstructed in conjunction with a complete rebuild of  Beach Drive from the Rock Creek Parkway to the Maryland border. The smooth pavement will be a great improvement to weekend rides.

Project managers combined the trail and road project. They seek to limit construction impacts and speed up implementation of both projects. The Beach Drive project will happen in five phases—the trail reconstruction will occur during first two phases. Trail construction in this section should be complete by summer 2016.

Construction will close the trail temporarily.

During construction, FHWA will close both Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Park Trail. This is not ideal, but keeping access open during construction is not feasible. Drivers and trail users will be detoured. We are working to ensure that the trail detour is a reasonable one that minimizes busy roads and the steep climbs out of the park. During construction, trail users should plan alternate routes. We hope the complete trail closure will speed up construction.

The full 3.7 mile trail rehabilitation will not be complete when FHWA finishes their work next summer. DDOT is responsible for all trail sections across the creek from Beach Drive and along Rock Creek Parkway (south from Beach Drive), along with the new spur trail along Piney Branch Parkway. DDOT intends to complete design phase for their trail sections by August 2016 and begin construction in the fall of 2016. The agency plans to finish the entire trail reconstruction in 2017.

Last year, WABA lead a petition effort to push the trail rehabilitation project forward. Over 2500 residents signed the petition asking the National Park Service and District Department of Transportation rebuild the trail. After a yearlong delay. DDOT finalized the EA last summer, allowing final design and construction to begin.

If everything goes according to plan, residents and visitors will be enjoying newly rebuilt trail sections next year and a fully rebuilt trail by 2017. Thank you to the National Park Service, DDOT, FHWA and everyone else involved in bring this project to completion.