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.

Advocacy Training: Construction Permits, Bike Lanes, and Safe Accommodations

 

Tired of seeing bike lanes closed by construction?

You may have noticed . . . the bike lanes we’ve advocated so hard for over the years are frequently closed or unusable because of construction, road maintenance, and utility work.

DC law requires that when a bike lane is closed for construction, an equally safe accommodation, free of hazards and debris, must be provided. This has been the law since 2013. Unfortunately, we know from experience that violations occur around the city on a daily basis.

This has real consequences. Closing a bike lane— especially without warning— forces bicyclists to quickly merge into a shared traffic lane with motor vehicles, putting bicyclists in danger, upsetting drivers, and discouraging less confident bicyclists from riding at all.

The District is experiencing a construction boom with no end in sight. Bicycling is more popular than ever. It is essential that the city do all it can to keep bicyclists safe where construction impacts bike infrastructure. If the past 4 years are any indication, that won’t happen without advocacy.

Will you help?

On Wednesday, we’re hosting a training where you can learn more about the safe accommodations law, how to identify and report violations, and other ways to advocate for short and long term solutions to the problem.

Sign up here.

What: Advocacy training
Where: WABA headquarters: 2599 Ontario Rd NW, Washington DC 20009
Date: April 12, 2017
Time: 6:30PM – 8:30PM

Hope to see you there.

Met Branch Trail Coming to Fort Totten

Last week, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) took the next major step to extend the Metropolitan Branch Trail from Brookland to the Fort Totten Metro. In a press release, DDOT announced that it is seeking proposals from firms to complete final design and build the new trail segment. Once the contract is awarded, construction could be complete in about 18 months. This will be the first major trail construction since the southern 2.2 mile section opened in 2010.

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

This new phase 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 heading up the hill, as it does today, the trail will continue north alongside the CSX tracks east of the Transfer Station. At the Fort Totten Metro, the trail will climb up and over the Green Line tunnel portal, then descend back to street level.

A bird’s eye rendering of the trail alignment around the Fort Totten Metro (Source DDOT)

This phase of construction will add nearly a mile of new trail, improving walking and biking access to the 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 route continues northward. The new 10-12 foot wide trail will include lights, security cameras, 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 Manor Park and Takoma to the Maryland line. DDOT finished 30% design for this last phase in 2016 and aims to complete final design in 2017.

Upcoming Project Meetings in the District

Construction crews are on their winter breaks, but the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) are ramping up planning on a number of projects relevant to people who bike in the District. Please consider attending these meetings this month and speaking up for the needs of bicyclists.

 

Alabama Avenue SE Corridor Safety Study
Saturday, February 11, 2017 | 10 am – 12:30 pm
THEARC 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE

DDOT is hosting the first meeting to discuss safety along the Alabama Avenue SE corridor.  DDOT aims to identify and address multimodal safety concerns and to improve the overall quality of the network for all users.  At this meeting, existing conditions and current traffic/crash data will be shared to capture ideas and suggestions from participants. Alabama Ave is an important bike corridor and would make an ideal protected bike lane corridor.

Tactical Urbanism at North Capitol Street and Lincoln Road
Monday, February 13, 2017 | 6:30 –  8 pm
NoMa BID Lobby 1200 First Street, NE

DDOT invites you to a meeting to discuss the Tactical Urbanism project at North Capitol Street and Lincoln Road, NE. The purpose of this project is to increase safety at the North Capitol/Lincoln Road, NE intersection through immediate, short-term improvements that will lead the way for a larger intersection safety project. DDOT will present a draft design concept and gather comments from the community at this public meeting. Rapid implementation of safety projects like this are a key part of DC’s Vision Zero Action Plan.

VRE Midday Storage Facility Public Meeting
Thursday, February 16, 2017 | 4:00 – 7:30 pm | Presentation at 4:30pm and 6:30pm
Bethesda Baptist Church 1808 Capitol Ave NE

Virginia Railway Express intends to replace its current storage space leased from Amtrak at the Ivy City Coach Yard in DC with a new storage yard alongside New York Avenue. The project will include planning, designing, and constructing a permanent midday storage facility for VRE trains that travel into the District from Virginia. VRE will work with members of the community, stakeholders, and property owners to assess potential impacts and determine ways VRE can be a good neighbor.

Florida Avenue Multimodal Transportation Project
Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | 6:30 pm – 8 pm | Presentation at 6:30 pm
New Samaritan Baptist Church 1100 Florida Avenue NE

DDOT will share 30% designs for multimodal transportation improvements along Florida Avenue NE from First Street NE to H Street/Benning Road NE. This project will add new wider sidewalks, bike lanes, new signalized crossings and streetscape improvements for a safer street. In the last project update in March 2016, DDOT’s preferred alternative eliminated many of the popular and safety-critical elements such as protected bike lanes and a road diet to curtail speeding. We hope that a year of work has found opportunities to point the project in the right direction.

New York Avenue Streetscape and Trail Project
Thursday, February 23, 2017 | 6 – 8 pm | Presentation at 6:30 pm
Gallaudet University’s I. King Jordan Student Academic Center 800 Florida Avenue, NW (map)

DDOT is in the early stages of planning significant streetscape improvements to beautify New York Avenue from Florida Avenue to Bladensburg Road. The project will study improvements to public space in the corridor, including curb, gutter, streetlights, plantings, trees, benches, public art and other public space improvements. Additionally, DDOT will develop concepts and designs to improve safety and quality of life for people who use New York Avenue, including a new multi-use trail connecting the National Arboretum and Metropolitan Branch Trail, and future transit services throughout the corridor. Read more at the project website.

Contributory Negligence clears another hurdle!

Great news!!  After nearly three years of persistent organizing and advocacy by the WABA community, the DC Council just voted unanimously for the second time to pass the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act to fix contributory negligence!

Thank your Councilmembers!

This was something that, three years ago, we were told couldn’t be done. Together, we have changed what is possible.  It will now go to Mayor Bowser for a signature, and afterwards undergo thirty days of Congressional review. We aren’t across the finish line yet, but we are closer than ever. This could not have happened without strong leadership on Council, especially Councilmembers Grosso, Cheh, and McDuffie.

Click here to send a quick thank you email to all your representatives on DC Council.

 

Great News! The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety bill passed!

On June 28, the DC Council voted unanimously for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016 (B21-335). Mayor Bowser signed the bill in late July. It will become DC law at the end of August after 30 day period of Congressional review. 

Highlights of the Act:

  1. Open access to data and information, including monthly reports published on the DDOT website making available collision data that includes geographic and demographic data, death and injury counts, and possible contributing human factors like intoxication, distraction, or failure to yield. This is an unprecedented level of transparency that will enable independent research and analysis by advocacy groups and public citizens.
  2. Creation of Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Areas, based on factors such as areas with a high volume of people riding bikes or walking, or areas with frequent or severe crashes. Safety modifications to an area selected to be a Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Area could include interventions such as prohibiting right turns at red lights, reducing speed limits, installing protected bike lanes, or increasing levels of automated enforcement like safety cameras.
  3. Codification of a Complete Streets policy, with the expressed goals of encouraging walking, bicycling and the use of public transportation, establishing a District-wide integrated system of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, involving residents and stakeholders in planning and design decisions, actively looking for opportunities to repurpose roads to enhance connectivity for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders, and improving non-motorized access to schools and parks. The Act directs DDOT to incorporate the policy into the agency’s Transportation Strategic Plan, Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans, and other manuals, rules, regulations, and programs, including construction and reconstruction and maintenance of all roads.
  4. Bicycle insurance consumer protection— the Act contains an entire section on bicycle insurance regulations.
  5. Bicycle and pedestrian safety provisions, including an explicit prohibition against dooring bicyclists, and mandating universal traffic and street safety curriculum for public school children in 1st-5th grade.
  6. Motor vehicle safety provisions, which include updates to taxi and vehicles-for-hire driver training requirements— explicitly instructing them in the rights and duties of motor vehicles not to stop in an intersection or a bike lane; mandate a study for a deferred disposition program for traffic infractions that would allow someone to reduce fines and points if they attend a safety training; increased penalties for aggressive driving; the installation of side guards and blind spot mirrors on registered trucks, and a ban on the use of ATVs and dirt bikes in the District.
  7. Drunk driving provisions that increase penalties for first time drunk driving offenders and offenders with blood alcohol content above .08 but less than .20., mandate participation in the interlock program for all offenders that have a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, and permanently revoke the license after a third conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving while intoxicated, or operating a vehicle while impaired.
  8. Establishment of a Major Crash Review Task Force that will consist of staff from MPD, DDOT, Office of Planning, the Bicycle Advisory Council, the Pedestrian Advisory Council and the Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Council. The Task Force will review crashes handled by the Major Crash Investigation Unit of the MPD.

We didn’t get everything we wanted here, but it is a step in the right direction to making D.C. a truly multi-modal city. The legislation is the culmination of the efforts of the Bicycle Pedestrian Working Group convened by Councilmember Cheh last summer, on which our Executive Director Greg Billing served.  As-introduced, this bill represented the consensus items of that working group—which meant some good ideas generated by the group were not aired in the legislative process. Despite initial consensus, stop as yield (aka, the Idaho stop) was removed from the bill amidst last-minute opposition by AAA and MPD.  WABA also pushed the Council to include a city-wide speed limit on local streets of 20 mph and a city-wide ban on right turns at red lights; neither of which are included. Additionally, while other major components of the Mayor’s Vision Zero bill were incorporated into the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, distracted driving provisions were not included. We hope to see those provisions strengthened and combined into a stand-alone bill next legislative session. 

One step closer to reforming Contributory Negligence in DC

At the #FixContrib Rally

At the #FixContrib Rally

Today the DC Council voted unanimously to approve the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015  as part of the consent agenda. This vote is a huge step towards final passage of the bill, and is the result of years of organizing efforts. In spite of roadblocks, delay, and concerted opposition from AAA and the insurance lobby, we’re the closest we’ve ever been to changing the unfair doctrine of contributory negligence for vulnerable road users.

The bill has now cleared the major obstacles to passage. The Council will vote on the bill a second time in late September / early October, after which it will require a signature by Mayor Bowser, and will undergo a 30 day Congressional review.

We would never have gotten to this point without our members and supporters. Thank you for becoming an expert on this arcane issue, signing petitions, sharing information with your networks, writing and calling your Councilmembers, attending rallies, and all the other ways you’ve leant your support to this campaign.

Kudos to the D.C. Council for doing the right thing. In particular, we recognize the leadership of Councilmember Mary Cheh for crafting, introducing and championing the bill, Councilmember McDuffie for bringing it before the Council, and Councilmembers Allen, Silverman, Grosso, Evans, and Nadeau for their early and steadfast support. This is a huge step towards a necessary reform that’s been a long time coming.

We’re so close, but we’re not done yet. We will stay vigilant through the final stages of the process to ensure there are no surprises, and keep you updated along the way.