Trail Connections for a New Long Bridge

Anyone who enters DC from the 14th Street Bridge by bike or foot is aware of the narrow trail on the bridge and the mixed-salad congestion of bike/foot commuters, automobiles at speed, and bewildered tourists that all use the 15th Street & Maine Avenue SW intersection. The Long Bridge Project presents a once-in-a-century opportunity for a new high-quality trail connection between SW DC and Arlington to bypass this quagmire. Stakeholder agencies need to hear from our biking and walking community to ensure that the Project includes bike and pedestrian improvements.

The Long Bridge is the District’s forgotten piece of river-crossing infrastructure. This century-old bridge conveys passenger and freight railroad traffic alongside the 14th Street and WMATA Yellow/Blue Line bridges across the Potomac.  The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are in the midst of a multi-year study of possible upgrades to the Long Bridge to better handle 21st-century load and reliability. There is potential that a bicycle and pedestrian trail could be included in a bridge upgrade, creating a new link between Arlington’s Long Bridge Park, Mount Vernon Trail, and the District. This would also allow foot and bike traffic to completely bypass 15th & Maine, terminating in the less congested and more useful locations of Maryland Ave SW and L’Enfant Plaza.

What’s New

Earlier this year, the Long Bridge Project team narrowed the field from nineteen preliminary concepts to just seven based on a set of railroad specific and engineering selection criteria. Aside from the no build option, which is still on the table, all of the remaining build concepts would create a new bridge with 3, 4, or 5 rail tracks. Three of the seven concepts include a new multi-use trail as part of the project.

For the past few months, staff have done a second round of screening to further narrow the build options by considering factors like Constructability, Railroad Operations, Efficiency and Effectiveness, Cost, Preliminary Environmental Effects, and Safety.

Speak Up

On Thursday, Dec 14, DDOT and FRA are hosting a public meeting to share and gather feedback on the preferred build alternatives. Though we anticipate some of the chosen alternatives will include a trail, it will take consistent, ongoing pressure to ensure the final plan includes a high quality, convenient, and safe trail.

Long Bridge Public Information Meeting #4
Thursday, December 14 4 pm to 7 pm
Presentations at 4:30 pm and 6 pm
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1100 4th Street SW, Room E200
Learn more

At the meeting or afterwards, be sure to submit comments to the project team. For more information, see the Long Bridge Project Website for more on the screening results. You can read WABA’s comments on the first round of screening here. To submit comments, use the contact tab on the project’s homepage and consider subscribing to the project mailing list for updates.

 

What’s going on with the Met Branch Trail in Ward 4?

On Tuesday, December 5, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B is hosting an informational meeting to discuss and debate the merits of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) in Ward 4. This meeting is a key opportunity for Ward 4 residents and 4B neighbors to get to know the project and encourage elected commissioners to support the trail as planned. If you want a continuous biking and walking trail connecting Silver Spring and Downtown that also makes Blair Road safe for all, come to Tuesday’s meeting!

ANC 4B PWI meeting on the Met Branch Trail
Tuesday, December 5
5:30 pm – walking tour meets at Peabody St. & Blair Rd NW
6:45 pm – indoor meeting at Takoma Village Co-housing (6827 4th St. NW)

Let us know you’ll be there

If this sounds familiar, it should. Since June the District Department of Transportation has been seeking ANC feedback on the MBT 30% design plans so that design can continue towards construction. In that time, the PWI committee, ANC commissioners, and the full ANC have held numerous meetings on the details of the route, design, benefits, and impacts of the MBT. DDOT’s plan routes the trail off-street alongside Blair Road from McDonald Pl to Rittenhouse then in a repurposed travel lane from Rittenhouse to Aspen St.

In October, the ANC passed a resolution supporting just 1500 feet of the 1.6 mile trail plan in Ward 4. On January 22nd, Commissioners will finally vote on a resolution considering the rest.

What is at stake?

Despite strong attendance from trail supporters at meetings, more than 150 petition signatures from 4B residents, and dozens of emails to commissioners asking for support on DDOT’s plan, many commissioners oppose routing the trail on Blair Rd at all, claiming that Blair is somehow too dangerous for traffic calming to work or that delaying drivers for the sake of non-driver safety is unfair and suggesting instead that trail users go to Eastern Ave or 3rd St or other roundabout “alternatives.”

Many options were considered by DDOT during the past four years of planning and community input and found to be unworkable. At this stage, altering the route has dire consequences for the usability and success of the trail, adds years of delay and prevents needed safety improvements on Blair Rd. Traffic studies indicate that the trail as planned could add as many as six(!) seconds per block to peak driver travel times along Blair Road. This is not a good reason to delay a critical regional connection for people biking and walking.

Based on the regional importance of this trail segment, DDOT could decide to move ahead without ANC 4B support, but WABA hopes the Commission will support this long-anticipated addition to the neighborhood.

What can you do to help?

  1. Attend Tuesday’s meeting. Get to know the project, and demand that your neighborhood representative support DDOT’s plan for the MBT and a safer Blair Rd. RSVP
  2. Join our Facebook Group. Get involved in rallying support for the Met Branch Trail in Ward 4.
  3. Sign and share our petition. Help show your elected neighborhood leaders the broad community support for the Met Branch Trail.

You can learn more about the routing and plans for the Met Branch Trail on this interactive map or at metbranchtrail.com/resources.

Contract Awarded for the Met Branch Trail Extension to Fort Totten

A bird’s eye rendering of the Met Branch Trail around the Fort Totten Metro (Source DDOT)

This morning, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced a key milestone for the extension of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) from Brookland to Fort Totten. After a long procurement process, DDOT awarded the contract to complete the design and construct the next phase of the popular multi-use trail!

This new trail will extend the sidepath on the east side of John McCormack Dr to the base of the hill across from the Fort Totten waste transfer station. Instead of turning up the hill, as it does today, the trail will continue north alongside the train tracks. At the Fort Totten Metro, the trail will climb up and over the Green Line tunnel portal, descend to street level and continue on First Pl NE towards Riggs Rd.

Existing MBT in green, new segment in blue, interim on street route in red (Source Google Maps)

This phase of construction will add nearly a mile of new trail, improving walking and biking access to the Fort Totten transit hub and the new development surrounding it. The project will include stairs for a direct route down to the Metro entrance and an improved trail through Fort Totten Park westward to Gallatin St, where the interim MBT route continues to Silver Spring. The new 10-12 foot wide trail will include lights and a relatively gradual grade compared to the steep climb up Fort Totten Dr. For more renderings and detailed design drawings, go to metbranchtrail.com/resources/.

When complete, the Met Branch Trail will span more than 8 miles between Union Station and the Silver Spring Metro Station. So far, the southern 5.5 miles are a mix of off-street trail, protected bike lane, and low traffic streets. Once built out from Bates Rd to Fort Totten, about 2 miles will remain to be built through Ward 4 to the Maryland line. Completing final design and construction should take roughly 18 months or by spring 2019. This new timeline is almost a year behind the schedule published in May 2016.

Celebrate Silver Spring’s First Protected Bike Lane on Oct 14!

Downtown Silver Spring is taking a huge step towards being a bikeable, walkable and livable community! Over the past few months, crews have been piecing together downtown Silver Spring’s very first protected bike lane on Spring and Cedar St. Over the past three weeks, the project has been taking shape, with new lane striping, green paint, and flex-posts appearing every day along the 0.8 mile corridor. Well, It’s just about complete, and it’s time to celebrate.

On October 14, we are throwing a party to celebrate the first of many protected bike lanes around and through the downtown, promising low-stress, convenient, and safe trips by bike. Join the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, neighbors, community advocates, County Councilmembers and staff to celebrate and take the inaugural ride on these new bike lanes! Starting at 10am come over to Woodside Urban Park for a festive celebration with activities for the whole family. Then, help us thank county leaders and staff who are leading the charge for more bikeable and walkable communities as we cut the ribbon on the first major piece of the Silver Spring Circle.

Once the ribbon is cut, join us on a community bike ride down Spring St to see and feel what low-stress urban biking is all about. The route will be a kid-friendly loop around downtown with an easy stop at the farmers market before returning to the start. Activities include kid-friendly bike ride, design your own bike lane, playground, face painter, Bike Master Plan team, Montgomery County Commuter Services, and tons of conversation about fun and low-stress biking in Silver Spring and beyond.

We hope you’ll join us to celebrate this first big step for the Silver Spring Circle!

I’ll Be There!

Attend these DC project meetings in September

This September weather may be perfect for biking, but there are still too many year-round barriers to bicycling in DC. Attend these meetings and speak up for better bicycling!

Rehabilitation of Eastern Avenue NE Project 
Thurs, Sept 14 6:30pm to 8:30pm
EF International Language Center – Lecture Hall
6896 Laurel Street NW

DDOT is rehabilitating Eastern Ave from New Hampshire Ave NE to Whittier Street NW and improving the street with bike lanes and safer intersections for people on foot. Learn more.

Final Meeting: Alabama Ave SE Safety Study
Sat, Sept 16 10:30am to 1:00pm
Giant at the Shops at Park Village
1535 Alabama Avenue SE

DDOT is studying a road diet and various options for bike lanes, buffered or protected bike lanes along the 4.5 mile corridor. Learn more.

Southeast Boulevard Environmental Assessment
Sat, Sept 16 10:00am to 12:00pm
Chamberlain Elementary School
1345 Potomac Avenue SE

This is an early scoping meeting for the conversion of the Southeast Freeway between 11th St. SE and Pennsylvania Ave into a boulevard with options for extending the city grid, better river access, and bikeways. Learn more.

Final Meeting: New York Ave Streetscape & Trail
Tue, Sept 19 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Gallaudet University King Jordan Student Academic Center
800 Florida Avenue NE

This is the final project meeting for the proposed trail / protected bike lane between NoMa and the National Arboretum. Learn More.

Long Bridge Environmental Impact Statement Level 2
Wed, Sept 27 4:00pm to 7:00pm
DCRA Building, Room E200
1100 4th St SW

DDOT & the Federal Railroad Administration are studying options to replace the Long Bridge, a 2 track railroad bridge that links SW DC with Crystal City. This is the only new Potomac bridge likely to be considered in the next century, so it had better include a high-quality trail. Presentations at 4:30pm and 6pm. Learn more.

 

Bike Lanes, Not Sharrows, For K St. NE

Following requests from ANC 6C and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, DDOT recently completed a Vision Zero corridor study of K St NE extending from 12th St NE to 1st St. NE.  As a result of this safety assessment and community input, DDOT has concluded that a road diet that removes rush-hour restrictions on residential parking is both feasible and appropriate.  DDOT is considering four road diet alternatives, but only one would improve K St. for people on bikes.

DDOT’s  recommendations

Based on the crash data, recorded speeds, and community input, DDOT has put forward four alternatives for K St.  All four alternatives remove the weekday rush-hour parking restrictions, creating full-time parking instead.  The alternatives principally differ in terms of the number of intersections to gain a center turn lane and the number of full-time parking spaces available along the corridor. Only Alternative 4 adds bike lanes. See the four alternatives here.

Alternatives 1-3 force bicyclists to share the lane with drivers, leaving no room for safe passing.

Alternative 4 adds bike lanes and full-time parking to K St.

What are rush-hour parking restrictions?

Rush-hour parking restrictions are a common tool to transform a residential roadway into a multi-lane vehicular traffic corridor by restricting residential parking during peak weekday hours in the peak direction. On K St., this entails the weekday transformation of the roadway from two lanes to three lanes twice each day.  In past decades the District imposed these restrictions in order to push more car commuters through residential neighborhoods.  Unfortunately several of these configurations survive.  Examples can be found on Florida Ave, Rhode Island Ave, Columbia Road and many others.

Rush-hour parking restrictions often result in high traffic speeds, an increase in the number and severity of crashes and higher volumes of traffic than would be otherwise possible on residential streets.  It also forces neighborhood residents to shuttle their parked cars from one side of the street to the other side multiple times a day to avoid ticketing and towing. All four alternatives trade rush-hour parking restrictions for full-time parking, and that is great!

Only Alternative 4 is safe for all users

Unlike alternatives 1 – 3  which force people on bikes into the same shared lane as drivers, Alternative 4 adds bike lanes, which create a separate space for biking. This is significant because many cyclists who presently commute during rush hour on K St ride in the curbside lane thereby allowing faster moving vehicular traffic to proceed via the make-shift passing lane.  Absent a dedicated bicycle lane, any road diet on K St would in fact place bicyclists in more, and not less, danger during their daily commutes, particularly given that many drivers have grown accustomed to speeding through the corridor at excessive speeds.

By offering dedicated bike lanes, Alternative 4 offers cyclists a safe and comfortable option to ride on K St instead of residential sidewalks, including those sidewalks in front of J.O. Wilson elementary school and the District’s Senior Wellness Center.  As seen on similar streets all over the city, creating dedicated spaces to bike in the street reduces bicyclist/pedestrian conflicts on the sidewalks and in intersections.

Network Effects: East/West Connectivity

At present, there are no bike facilities in NE DC that extend east-west across the train tracks and North Capitol Street.  Major roadways in the area such as Maryland Ave, Massachusetts Ave and Florida Ave all have obstacles that presently prevent such connectivity (i.e., the Capitol, Union Station and the Virtual Circle at Florida Ave and New York Ave).  By adopting Alternative 4, we could create a continuous 2.2 miles of bicycle lanes on K St linking Trinidad, Near Northeast and NoMa to Mt. Vernon Square.  See the on-going NoMa Bicycle Network Study and Eastern Downtown Study.  DDOT’s 2005 Bicycle Master Plan and the 2014 moveDC plans both identify K street as an essential bicycle corridor.

Speak up for a balanced approach to the K St NE road diet

On Thursday, ANC 6C’s Transportation committee is meeting to discuss the K St. NE alternatives and make a recommendation to the full Commission before its September 13th meeting. Please email the ANC 6C commissioners and ask that they support Alternative 4 for a balanced road diet that considers the safety of all roadway users.

Email ANC 6C

You can also attend tonight’s Transportation & Public Space meeting to speak up in person.

ANC 6C Transportation & Public Space Committee
Thursday, September 7th, 7:00 pm
Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center
700 Second Street NE

Let’s not delay the Met Branch Trail another 5 years

Last week, ANC 4B’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee met with DDOT to talk about the future of the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Manor Park, Lamond Riggs, and Takoma. After nearly 3 hours of discussion, we’re still not sure who supports this trail, which is not good.

Tonight, that committee is holding a larger public meeting, and we want you to be there. Despite years of planning that have created a terrific trail plan, some ANC members are asking for major changes that will both delay and jeopardize the success of the trail.

The committee’s decision, and the full ANC resolution later this month, is an important one. If they green light the route that DDOT has spent years developing, planners can finish design work and start construction. If the ANC asks for big changes, we’re back to the drawing board, setting us back years, and likely resulting in less direct, less continuous trail.

Ward 4 needs a complete Met Branch Trail.

Attend Tonight’s Meeting

Come show your support for the Met Branch Trail as it is planned on Blair, Aspen, and Sandy Spring. Tell your trail story and help us demonstrate the need for and benefits of the trail.

ANC 4B Public Works & Infrastructure Committee
Tuesday, September 5, 6:30 pm
Shepherd Park Library 7420 Georgia Ave NW

More on the Met Branch Trail

When complete, the Metropolitan Branch Trail will be an 8 mile multi-use trail from Union Station in DC to Downtown Silver Spring in Maryland. So far, the southern half is complete to Brookland. The largest unfinished section is in Ward 4. Next year, DDOT will finish design and start construction on the piece from Brookland to Riggs Rd. leaving the last piece in ANC 4B. Click here for a map of the trail under design.