Let’s Talk About The Met Branch Trail

 

Support the Met Branch Trail at the upcoming public meeting on March 21st.Photo credit: DDOT DC

Here’s your chance to discuss the Met Branch Trail with DDOT—

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B will hold a joint meeting on the preliminary design of the Metropolitan Branch Trail from Brookland to Takoma Park on Saturday, March 21.

You can attend the meeting to show your support for the trail. Representatives from DDOT will present the trail alignment and solicit feedback from the general public.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail is a planned eight-mile, paved bicycle and pedestrian trail from Union Station in Ward 6 to Silver Spring, Md. The portion between Union Station and Brookland in Ward 5 is very popular, averaging more than 500 users a day. Design is underway for the section that’s north of Brookland. The new section, as currently proposed, will run along the railroad tracks from Bates Road to the Ft. Totten Metro station, then along First Place, Riggs Road, First Street, all in Northeast, and Blair Road, NW.

Comments on the preliminary design, as well as requests for more information should be directed to Jim Sebastian at jim.sebastian@dc.gov.

WABA will host an informal happy hour on Thursday, March 19th from 6 pm to 8 pm at Simple Bar in Brightwood. We want to connect you with other trail supporters, answer your questions so that you can feel prepared for the public meeting. WABA advocacy staff will be available at the happy hour to discuss the Met Branch Trail project or other advocacy priorities. We hope you can attend both the happy hour and trail open house.

Metropolitan Branch Trail Open House
Saturday, March 21, 2015, 1 pm to 4 pm
Metropolitan Police Department – Fourth District Station
6001 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20011
Google Map directions

WABA Met Branch Trail Happy Hour
Thursday, March 19, 2015, 6 pm to 8 pm
Simple Bar
5828 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20011
Google Map directions

RSVP for the WABA Happy Hour

Please help us show strong community support for completion of the northern section of the Met Branch Trail.

Support Biking in Tysons on Monday

support-tysons-2015-bike-lanesFairfax County recently announced that several major roads in Tysons could soon have bike infrastructure as part of the county’s summer repaving schedule. We need you to speak up for biking at a public meeting on Monday, March 16 at Westbriar Elementary School from 7-9 p.m. Here is the proposed new bike infrastructure:

  • Greensboro Dr. – Road diet from Spring Hill Rd. to Solutions Dr.
  • Tyco Rd. – Road diet from Route 7 to Spring Hill Rd.
  • Westbranch Dr, – Road diet from Westpark Dr. to Jones Branch Dr.
  • Jones Branch Dr. – Climbing lane from International Dr. to Westpark Dr.
  • Spring Hill Rd. – Combination of bike lanes/sharrows from Route 7 to International Dr.
  • Westwood Center Dr. – Sharrows from Route 7 to the end of the road

A full map of proposed bike projects is online here.

Meeting Details
Monday, March 16 at 7-9 p.m.
Westbriar Elementary School
1741 Pine Valley Dr., Vienna, VA 22182
Google Map directions

Since these projects are part of the repaving schedule, no additional funds are available to supplement the projects. They may not be perfect, but it’s important that we support this effort by the county. If you work or bike in Tysons, please consider attending this meeting to support these important projects. Check the Fairfax Bike Pages or the FABB blog for more info.

Updates on Important Bike Funding Debate in Montgomery County

We wanted to share some details about a quiet advocacy victory that happened this week:

Last month, funding for bike infrastructure in Montgomery County looked bleak. County Executive Ike Leggett had sent his proposed budget amendments to the County Council, including major cuts and delays to the entire bikeways program—most significantly, the Met Branch and Capital Crescent Trails.

Two weeks ago, WABA sent a letter to the Montgomery County Council asking that the bikeways budget not be cut or delayed.

Just this past Monday, the next part of the process began. The Transportation & Environment (T&E) Committee held their budget work session. The T&E Committee’s role is to assess the budget amendments proposed by Executive Leggett and to pass a final budget later this spring. Overall, the committee supported the funding of bike projects. The committee is comprised of Councilmembers Berliner, Floreen, and Hucker, all of whom were present. Additionally, Councilmember Riemer (not on the committee) attended the hearing in support. Many Councilmembers asked the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) to keep moving bike projects forward, despite various challenges. You can watch the full discussion on the Montgomery County Council website here.

Here are some of the highlights.

Met Branch Trail in Silver Spring


The Metropolitan Branch Trail project is being considered in two phases. Phase one is the trail from west of Georgia Ave. to the Silver Spring Transit Center. while phase two is the trail segment east from Georgia Ave. to Montgomery County College. The T&E Committee recommended restoring the original project timeline, not the proposed delay. Phase one cannot start until two buildings are constructed. Without the delay, the anticipated completion of the trail would be 2019.

During the discussion, MCDOT showed plans for the trail around the historic B&O Station. As currently planned, the trail will not go under the trail station canopy. It will curve around the north and east side of the station. Councilmember Floreen voiced many concerns with this plan (Around 43:00 in the video). She clearly wants the trail to follow the master plan alignment which is the straightest path through the property, underneath the canopy. She thinks curvy trail around the entire property is a lose-lose scenario for trail users and for Maryland Preservation Inc. (owners of train station).

The Committee also asked the trail to be built at a width of 11-12 feet with a two-foot shoulder where possible. It was clarified that the trail will have lighting. The Committee wants MCDOT to show how to make some progress on phase two as well. After much discussion, the Committee asked MCDOT to come back to the committee with revised plans for phasing, budget and timeline later this spring. Councilmembers were clearly frustrated with the lack of progress on the trail.

Seven Locks Road, MacArthur Blvd, Falls Road, Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas, etc.

County Executive Leggett’s proposed budget recommended delaying all of these important bike projects. However, the T&E Committee recommended restoring all the funding to all of them. Councilmember Hans Riemer–who championed the Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas (BPPA) last year–was astonished that the program was proposed to be cut after just one year. MCDOT presented progress made so far on the BPPA program, much of which has been planning work. Implementation of bike and pedestrian safety improvements are scheduled to begin soon, if the Committee’s recommendations are accepted and the program is not cut.

Capital Crescent Trail – At-Grade Trail at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda

The general consensus at the hearing was to pause the development of the at-grade trail and crossing at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. Without a firm date for Purple Line construction, development of the at-grade trail is less pressing. As it stands, the trail tunnel will remain open to trail traffic until construction of the Purple Line starts.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to Council. We will be meeting with both Councilmember Berliner and MCDOT Director Al Roshdieh in the coming weeks. We will share our thoughts with him on these budget amendment among other issues.

Safer Maryland bikeways get the green light

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Thanks to new guidelines, curb-protected or buffered bike lanes will be allowed on Maryland state roads. This change could ultimately make many roads much safer.

Eads Street in Arlington. This will now be permitted on Maryland’s state highways. Photo by the author.

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) released new policy and engineering guidelines in January. They will allow more innovative and protective bike infrastructure in many rapidly urbanizing suburbs such as College Park, where Route 1 is supposed to get a bike lane but needs one that’s safe alongside high-speed traffic.

Changes add space between cars and bikes and make intersections safer

Bike lane designs can now include extra buffering, such as striped and cross-hatched lane markings, to separate bike and car traffic. And while the new guidelines don’t mention the use of flexposts, which engineers and planners around the country often use for extra visibility and “soft protection” for buffered bike lanes, SHA also doesn’t forbid them. And that’s encouraging.

The new regulations will also allow bike lanes raised up between the height of the main roadway and the curb. Raised lanes further increase the separation of people biking from motor vehicle traffic, and help prevent people from driving or parking their cars in spaces that are for people on bikes.

The guidelines also introduce designs for “bike boxes,” which allow cyclists to wait in a visible location at the head of a line of traffic and make it easier and safer to turn. Other places have been using bike boxes for several years, but they haven’t been permissible on Maryland state roads until now.

All of these new approaches to protecting and separating bike lanes from traffic on busy or high-speed roads will be better than the bike lane designs SHA is currently using. For example, the photo below shows a newly-painted bike lane on Greenbelt Road near the Capital Beltway. Would you feel safe riding your bike in that lane? Would you want children or elderly people riding in it?

An unprotected bike lane on Route 193 in Greenbelt. Photo by the author.

This is a great step, but SHA’s work is far from finished

While we applaud SHA’s new guidelines, there are still some key problems with their overall bike lane design approach.

First, building bike lanes to fit the new guidelines is still not mandatory, making the guidelines somewhat limited in scope. Even though SHA policy now allows buffered and protected bike lanes, engineers are still allowed to build narrow unprotected lanes alongside high-speed or high-traffic state roads. Protected and buffered bike lanes should be the standard, not just an option, especially where separated sidepaths are not feasible.

Noticeably absent are designs for facilities such as two-way protected bikeways, protected intersection designs, and creative ways of accommodating transit adjacent to bike lanes—since people often ride bikes between buses and the curb, it’s crucial that transit riders have easy places to cross bike lanes to get to their buses or transit vehicles.

Protected bikeways are important because while SHA rules do require new roads to include bike lanes, the typical painted bike lanes are simply too narrow for the kinds of high-speed roads where they often appear. These roads frequently have lower speed limits than the speeds people really drive, meaning that a bike lane designed for a 30-mph street would be inadequate where people are really usually traveling 40, 45, or 50.

Finally, the new guidelines are incomplete in that they don’t include illustrations and criteria for additional bike lane and intersection designs, which are very common in other urban and semi-urban areas. Navigating intersections can be tricky for cyclists—they’re where the majority of collisions happen—so it’s very important to get their design right.

For people who want to ride their bikes safely in Maryland, the new state guidelines are a strong pedal-stroke in the right direction. We hope this is the beginning many positive changes coming from SHA to incorporate and implement state-of-the-art designs that will increase the safety of people riding bikes, especially for the more densely populated and urbanizing parts of the state.

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington

Upcoming Public Meetings for Bike Lanes in Fairfax County

Buffered bike lanes in Seattle, WA. Source: NACTO

On the heels of its recently passed Bike Master Plan, Fairfax County Department of Transportation is holding two public meetings for bike lane projects. The two meetings are your chance to give input and express support for these projects.

Amherst Avenue/Backlick Road Buffered Bike Lanes
Fairfax County DOT is proposing a lane diet on Amherst Avenue from Cumberland Avenue to Highland Street. A road diet would create space for a buffered bike lane for 1/2 mile. On Backlick Road, public space is constrained. The County is proposing either bike lanes or a neighborhood street route alternative. Attending the public meeting is an opportunity to support full bike lanes on Backlick Road. See the area on Google Maps here.

Meeting Details
February 10th, 2015, 7:00 pm
Lynbrook Elementary School, Cafeteria
5801 Backlick Road
Springfield, VA 22150.

Kingstowne Village Parkway Bike Lanes
The County is proposing a road diet with bike lanes on Kingstown Village Parkway from Beulah Street to Hayfield Street. See the area on Google Maps here.

Meeting Details
February 18th, 2015, 7:00 PM
Kingstowne’s Thomas Center
6090 Kingstowne Village Parkway
Alexandria, VA 22315.

 

Public Meeting Tonight on C&O Canal Park’s Proposed Fee Increases

C&O Canal towpath near Slackwater. Photo credit: Rudi Riet

The National Park Service announced yesterday that they will be hosting a public meeting to discuss their proposed fee hikes (PDF) for access to and amenities on the C&O Canal National Historical Park. The C&O Canal is a public park that stretches from Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, MD.

While most of the meetings on the subject are outside the Washington region, Tonight’s meeting will be held at the Washington Waldorf School, 4800 Sangamore Rd. in Bethesda from 7pm to 8:30pm.

We encourage all bicyclists to attend, ask questions, and voice any concerns about the proposal.

WABA is working with NPS to learn more about the proposal, but we oppose regressive fees that would limit access for biking, walking, and enjoying the public park. NPS Director Jarvis has tasked all parks with considering such revenue-generating activities, so we are working throughout the region to respond to these fee proposals. Presently, public comment periods are open for the Prince William Forest Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the C&O Canal.

If you bike on the C&O Canal towpath, you will likely be affected by this proposal. Please consider attending the meeting tonight.

Meeting Details
What
: National Park Service meeting on proposed fee increases for
C&O Canal National Historic Park
When: 7pm – 8:30pm, Thursday, February 5th
Where: Washington Waldorf School, 4800 Sangamore Rd., Bethesda, MD
Google Map Directions

A Path Forward for the WB&A Trail

The Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail (WB&A) in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties promises to be everything that a first class rail trail can be. Following the path of an abandoned commuter rail line of the same name, the WB&A cuts a remarkably linear route through woods and suburban neighborhoods from Glenn Dale to Odenton, MD. And while officials have been struggling for more than 15 years over the best place to cross the Patuxent River (another story), the bridge and tunnel bypasses already built make the trail a delightful reprieve from riding in traffic. Looking to the future, the WB&A could become the eastern spoke of the Washington area’s robust trail network. Just over 10 discontinuous miles of trails are already built; the hard work remains to connect it to other trails and the District of Columbia.

Give it a destination.  Extend the WB&A

Starting at the eastern trail terminus in Prince George’s County, today, the trail covers 5.6 miles to… well not much.  At Annapolis Road (MD 450), the trail ends, falling short of the District of Columbia line by nearly seven miles. At this intersection, a paved side path on Annapolis Road links to the Folly Branch trail to the north and a shopping center and Bowie Town Center to the east.  These connections are useful, but they serve better as feeders to the main trunk line rather than extensions.  To fully realize this trail’s potential as a recreation and commuter route, it needs a direct connection to the regional trail network. It must be extended west, and the first big hurdles are crossing US 50 and the Capital Beltway.

MD-704 is no place for trail traffic, but it could be

Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. (MD-704), which follows the same old rail right of way, is the best, direct link to the District of Columbia / Maryland border, but in its current configuration it is anything but ideal for trail users. With as many as eight traffic lanes, MD 704 is a divided highway with narrow to non-existent shoulders, high speed ramps to and from US-50 and the Capital Beltway, and traffic speeds that are typically 40 – 60 mph. While “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs warn drivers to expect bicyclists on the roadway, the road itself is inhospitable, dangerous, and sadly fatal for even the most confident bicyclists. Without sidewalks or convenient alternatives, the message is clear “Bike Somewhere Else.” Riding on the road should always be an option, but separated facilities are needed to accommodate and encourage trail traffic.

MD-704

Would you ride on this road? MD-704 at I-495 from Google Street View

This proposed 2.4 mile side path would provide both a place to walk and a far more welcoming alternative to riding with car traffic between the current end of the WB&A at Annapolis Road and Ardwick Ardmore Road. Once past US-50 and I-495, future trail extensions become possible.  Ultimately, it could connect to the New Carrollton Metro, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail through Cheverly, and extended to the District along MD-704 to the Marvin Gaye Trail.

Since 2008, WABA has urged the County to extend the WB&A Trail west along MD-704. Since 2011, building a trail along MD-704 has been at the top of the County’s bike and pedestrians transportation funding priorities for Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA). Now, it seems that Maryland SHA is on board, and even offering funds for planning and construction. It is time to replace this dangerous bike route with a trail.

Remind elected officials that this is important

Priority lists are one thing, action is another. For three years, we have seen progress delayed because details need to be worked out between the County, SHA, and other local agencies. Now, with SHA committed and money on the table, it is time for elected officials to step up and do their part.  Now is not the time for the back burner.

Last week, WABA sent a letter to County Executive Baker urging him to make this project a true priority, and today we ask that you do the same.  Click the link below to tell Executive Baker and Councilmember Andrewa Harrison to make improving bicycle access on MD-704 a reality.

Ask County officials to make the WB&A Trail a priority