Posts Tagged ‘east of the river’
WABA attended the annual Congress Heights Day on Saturday. East of the River associate Kim Davis set up a table at the health and wellness fair with games for kids and bike-related quizzes for adults. See photos of WABA at Congress Heights Day below!
The 31st annual Congress Heights Day is this Saturday, May 4, and WABA will be along for the ride! The Congress Heights Day parade departs from Malcolm X Elementary School, 1351 Alabama Ave. SE., at 10 a.m. WABA will be tabling at the health and resource fair from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Stop by to say hello to Kim Davis, WABA’s East of the River associate, and learn what we’re working on in wards 7 and 8 this year!
In January, we reported that construction had stalled on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail bridge over the CSX tracks on the east side of the river. It appears construction activity has restarted at the bridge site with DDOT posting photos on their Facebook page of a large crane posting the bridge’s main span.
We took a field trip to the site and snapped the photo above to see the progress ourselves. The bridge’s main span is now in place. Final work will include the bridge decking and finishing the approach ramps. Take a minute and read the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative’s update on their project website explaining the progress, which says that a spring opening of the bridge is expected.
We want to thank DDOT for making the completion of this bridge a priority.
Last month, we—and many others—expressed concerns about DDOT’s plans for the South Capitol Bridge after the agency released a video rendering of the project. In response to our concerns, the DDOT Anacostia Watershed Initiative team asked to meet to go over some of the details that were not included in the rendering and to hear our concerns. The team’s message was clear: Designs are still in the early stage and can be improved.
Last night, at a joint meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Council and Pedestrian Advisory Council (with Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Mary Cheh in attendance), DDOT’s bike/ped team and the project’s consultants, from CH2M Hill, presented and sought feedback on their lastest ideas, many of which have been developed or improved since WABA met with DDOT on this project in January.
Most notable, given the project’s scale, is the changed alignment of the bridge from the version included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. That alignment was offset from the current bridge to allow space for the current bridge to open during construction in order to allow tall ships. But the lack of any actual tall ship traffic in recent years means there’s really no need for the bridge to open during construction. So the alignment currently under consideration is parallel to the existing bridge on the downstream side. While this alignment change has little impact on bicyclists on the bridge itself, it does allow for an altered configuration to existing roadways and changes connections, especially on the bridge’s eastern end.
Unfortunately, the connections at each end are similar to what we have seen before: They appear to provide space for monuments rather than to efficiently move urban traffic. There are still large ovals surrounded by more lanes than are probably necessary, even for the anticipated traffic volumes. However, the connections to the ovals have been reimagined, and DDOT has indicated that some sort of bicyclist and pedestrian facilities and connections will be included in the ovals.
We don’t believe that these ovals are the best options, but DDOT seems unwilling to undertake changes that would require a new EIS–especially given that the federal planning and aesthetic interests that pushed the ovals would be present in a repeat process. (The already-completed FEIS is not yet finalized, but should be soon.)
The DDOT team has made great strides with bike facilities and connectivity since our meeting in January. On the bridge, DDOT is planning 16-foot bike/ped pathways on both sides, with horizontal separation of markings or signage to show that one portion is primarily for pedestrians and one is primarily for bicyclists. There is not a change of elevation from the walking portion to the biking portion, allowing for flexible space to handle peak traffic of either bike or pedestrian during busy periods, like ballpark events or morning commutes.
Most importantly, that 16-foot bike/ped pathway will be present around the western oval, with eight feet marked for bicycle use. This commitment from DDOT to ensuring safe space for bicyclists to get around the oval is a significant step, and we look forward to seeing detailed designs and better understanding the signal interactions that will allow cyclists to safely reach either side of the bridge and all connections to the oval.And for those who would prefer to avoid the oval, the new configuration leaves a relatively easy connection along Half Street SW to the bridge.
We’re awaiting further clarification that the connections on the east side of the Anacostia will have similar upgrades, and we look forward to seeing these broad ideas for bicycle safety and access fully designed. In the meantime, we want to commend DDOT for progressing on issues of bicycle connectivity and design in a relatively short time. What we were shown last night, while not perfect, is far better for bicyclists.
See a PDF of the slideshow from last night’s meeting below:
In April 2012, Mayor Gray cut the ribbon for the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail bridge on the river’s west side. This was the first of two riverwalk trail bridges planned to pass over the CSX tracks. The second bridge, on the east side of the river, should have been completed this past July. But in January 2013, we still don’t have a finished bridge.
According to the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, the contractor for the project struck an underground object and needs to move or redesign the final few supporting structures. The project is stalled while DDOT and the contractor hash out who pays for the changes. The AWI team says a completed bridge is months away, if not longer.
Completing this bridge will link the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail from the Frederick Douglas Bridge to Benning Road. In 2014, when the Kenilworth Garden trail section is complete, the Riverwalk Trail will link D.C. to Maryland’s Anacostia Tributary Trail System, which is over 50 miles.
We hope DDOT will find a solution soon to complete the bridge.
With the District Department of Transportation’s release of a video rendering of its South Capitol Bridge concept, we’re concerned with the design’s suitability for bikes and pedestrians.
Essentially, nothing in this rendering is new. It is precisely in keeping with the Federal Environmental Impact Study, in which WABA found a laundry list of disappointments, including a lack of dedicated bicycle space and access. Despite some follow-up with DDOT, the Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Councilmember Tommy Wells, nothing has been modified, and our concerns are still prevalent.
Over 300 bicyclists wrote to express similar disappointment with the the FEIS stage. We are displeased that there has been no response to that community input.
DDOT has awarded this project—like the 11th Street Bridge and many other construction projects—as a design-build contract (in which details are developed throughout construction, as budgets and timelines become better known), rather than a traditional design-bid-build process. A design-bid-build process requires designers to take public input and produce final designs for the project before construction is underway. Those designs are used as bid documents, and the chosen contractor executes the designs with only minimal changes.
For advocates and regulators, the existence and sharing of designs prior to construction, as required by the design-bid-build project, is important: That provides the opportunity to make sure nothing has been missed (like the inclusion of any bike infrastructure at all!) and provide feedback at a stage when corrections can still be made. A design-build process can be more efficient in terms of time and money, but it makes the incorporation of public input difficult. There’s no point at which changes can no longer be made and concerned parties can look at “final” plans.
When large transportation contractors make time- and budget-based decisions without community input, they do get the obvious tasks right. No one ever forgets to put in high-speed vehicle lanes. But contractors can make changes that impact bicyclist and pedestrian facilities by redesigning them in ways that are impractical or inefficient. Sometimes, components are eliminated entirely. Community input from cyclists is critical in elucidating why changes might not make sense, but in a design-build process, outside involvement is minimal.
There’s been evidence of the problems with the design-build process just this week. In December, Greg Billing wrote about the lack of a direct connection from the 11th Street Bridge to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. He emailed DDOT over the course of several months, seeking details, and received either noncommital or no responses at all. Greg was only told of the lack of connection at a Ward 8 Transportation Taskforce meeting when he directly raised the topic. It was not until a council staffer followed up on the the issue that DDOT explained what it was doing with regard to a bridge connection in detail: The agency reversed course and said that the connection would be built.
We don’t know if the representative at the Ward 8 Transportation Taskforce meeting was simply mistaken about the status of the connection, or if the connection was not part of the design at the point. That’s because, under the design-build model, plans for major infrastructure evolve even as construction takes place. It’s difficult for everyone—especially the public—to keep track of what’s happening. The designs are ever-changing in the hands of DDOT, its contractors, and their subcontractors.
During the formal environmental review period for the South Capitol Bridge, hundreds of comments expressed concern with its design. But WABA and other members of the D.C.-area cycling community received no meaningful feedback and have seen no changes from DDOT to their fundamental concept. The bridge is still planned to be a big circle and a big oval with wide sidewalks. With the design-build process moving forward, that DDOT hasn’t acknowledged any input from the cycling community is worrying—and frustrating.
We have resubmitted our concerns with the South Capitol Bridge to DDOT, with a few additions:
- That the circle and oval are over-designed and will be difficult for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross
- A restatement of our concern with the design in general, which relies on extensive mixing of bicyclist and pedestrian traffic on a bridge expected to carry large numbers of pedestrians arriving en masse for stadium events
- Emphasis on the importance of connecting the bridge to main bicycling trails, the Anacostia Metro station, and the Anacostia neighborhood
The design-build process is not going away, nor should it. It saves money and time. But some of the efficiency of design-build comes from minimizing public comment. While time-consuming, opportunities and solicitations of public comment ensure that the project will meet the needs of the people using it. Projects like the South Capitol Bridge are a significant expenditure of city and federal funds, and should meet the needs of the people using it as effectively as possible.
This issue is broader in scope than just the South Capitol Bridge. But DDOT will soon award a contractor the authority to turn the agency’s renderings, National Environmental Policy Act documents, and guidance for the bridge into a piece of infrastructure that will be around for decades. We need to ensure that the development process for the bridge hears and acts on our needs and concerns.
We look forward to working with DDOT and its chosen contractor to ensure that appropriate consideration is given to the needs of bicyclists. And we’re excited for the the cycling community to have the opportunity to see, understand, and input on the design for the bridge—rather than having it imposed upon us.
In a few months, DDOT’s largest project to date will be finished without promised bicycle and pedestrian connections built in. The 11th Street Bridges is the largest element in the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative and is a critical way to connect bicyclists and pedestrians from both sides of the Anacostia River. It is also necessary for use of the entire Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.
But the finalized bridge will not directly connect the Riverwalk Trail on both sides of the river to each other. This is a failure.
The 11th Street Bridges project represents a $370 million investment in the regional transportation network. Missing interstate connections are being built to remedy the awful cut-through traffic that communities east of the river have experienced since the first 11th Street Bridges were built over 50 years ago.
The new local 11th Street Bridge is to include a “14 foot sidewalk/bikepath” to connect local communities and the Riverwalk Trails, which run parallel on both sides of the river. The resulting project will be a 14-foot sidewalk, minus the space occupied by lamp posts, streetcar catenary supports, railings and fences—so, effectively, 10 feet or less. And, it will not connect directly to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail on the east side of the river!
In the project’s current state, bicyclists coming south from the Ward 7 and Maryland (via the new Kenilworth Garden Trail section) wishing to get to Capitol Hill will have an extra and unnecessary route to the bridge. Traveling south along the Riverwalk Trail, trail users will have to bike or walk on-street along Good Hope Road into Anacostia. Then, they will have to turn left at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road onto 11th Street towards the bridge. This circuitous route adds an additional one-third mile of walking or biking to access the bridge from the Riverwalk Trail. The actual distance between the Riverwalk Trail and the local bridge sidewalk/bikepath is about 200 feet part.
The old 11th Street Bridge, which was recently removed, did have a direct connection to the trail along the downstream side. This shouldn’t be lost with the new bridge—because it wasn’t planned to be lost.
Planning for the new bridge began when DDOT completed a Final Environmental Impact Statement in October 2007. The FEIS includes a direct connection between the Riverwalk Trail and the local bridge (see page 60). DDOT chose a design-build construction process to speed up project delivery and stay within a constrained budget. The result of the design-build process has been frustrating for those trying to stay involved.
In June 2012, I contacted DDOT to inquire about the lack of a direct connection from the local bridge to the Riverwalk Trail. A few emails were sent around, with more people copied each time. In the end, there was no answer for the lack of this important trail connection.
At last night’s the Ward 8 Transportation Task Force meeting, representatives from DDOT and the project team were on hand to give a progress report. When asked about why the trail connection was not being built, two answers were given. The DDOT representative said the previous trail connection on the old bridge was “not ADA compliant,” so it wouldn’t be replaced. And when pressed on the fact that the FEIS includes the connection, project manager Pete McDermott said DC Water was planning to dig in the area, so no connection would be built.
The community was promised a world-class waterfront with recreational and transportation amenities, including the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. The construction of the 11th Street Bridge fails to provide the high-quality direct connection between the east-side and west-side Riverwalk Trails it assured from its outset. WABA hopes to see this critical connection completed while this project is still under construction and amenable to improvement.
This summer, the historic campus of St. Elizabeths was opened to the public for a summer-long series of community events. On August 25th, WABA hosted the St. Elizabeths bike carnival, an event to promote cycling East of the Anacostia River and beyond.
Attendees from across the street and across the region took advantage of the rare opportunity to tour St. E’s by bike. Over 300 guests attended, and this was clear when seeing people all across the serene, historic locale. The closed streets provided groups of families and friends a chance to explore the over 180-acre grounds of the idyllic campus at a comfortable and leisurely pace.
Participants explored bucolic knolls, shady alcoves, and historic buildings all by bike. The day culminated in a family parade around the “maple quad” where kids at the event sped off turning the event into a high-speed race. In addition to self-guided tours, City Bikes provided bicycle maintenance free of charge on rusty chains, flat tires, untuned cables, and more.
While families waited for their bikes to be repaired many played bike-themed carnival games that included pin the tail on the bicycle, water bottle knockover, ball in the bike basket shootout, bike pump races, and a ring toss that required WABA staff to drink soda around the clock the week in advance! The more games guests played the more raffle tickets they earned to enter into the running for 4 new bicycles and accessories provided by City Bikes. One lucky family actually won 2 new bicycles! A bike decoration station allowed more artistically inclined guests to spruce up their 2 and 3 wheelers.To add to the carnival atmosphere, talented make-up artists painted faces.
Youngsters got a chance to hone their cycling skills on the Bike Rodeo course where they performed maneuvers to improve their abilities, a program WABA brings to area elementary schools. WABA asked residents where their bike destinations were and respondents placed stickers on a huge map of the Washington region.
Attendees also rubbed elbows with Public Health Advocate and Miss District of Columbia, Sarah Hillware as they answered the reasons why they liked to bike. This carnival helps to redefine the iconic destination of St. Elizabeths and the relationship with Ward 8 and the DC region at large.
KIDICAL MASS RIDE
If you are riding with kids, ride with Kidical Mass at any of these locations to ride along with parents and kids. It’s a great chance to not only convoy to the carnival, but also to share tips on biking with children in the city.
You can catch up with the group in:
- Edgewood at 10:45am (8th St. NE & Franklin St. NE near Chocolate City Brewing Company)
- Eckington, 11:00am (R Street NE @ Met Branch Trail)
- NoMa, 11:15am (M Street NE @ Met Branch Trail)
- Capitol Hill 11:30pm (Stanton Park @ 4th Street NE)
- Estimated arrival at St. Elizabeths: 12:00pm
Our friends at BicycleSPACE are also leading a ride, starting at the WABA office in Adams Morgan. We promise a good time, they’re a fun-loving group of like-minded bike people!
You can catch up with the group in:
- Adams Morgan Leaving at 11am, WABA Office, 2599 Ontario Rd., NW
- Mt. Vernon Triangle 11:30am, BicycleSPACE, 1019 7th St., NW
- Southwest Waterfront Leaving at Noon, Yards Park (the pavilion with the sail awnings)
- Estimated arrival at St. Elizabeths: 12:30
And for those who want to come by Metro, the event is a very short and safe walk from the Congress Heights Metro stop, and signage will direct you from the Metro to the festivities.
Yes, there is parking at theFriendship School, but it is limited, and Metro is likely an easier option.
When you get there, you’ll find open streets to bike on; bike-themed carnival games for prizes or raffle tickets; the Ward 8 Farmer’s Market; the East of the River Drum band; a kids’ bike skills challenge; bike decoration station; City Bikes providing free minor bike repairs on a first-come, first-served basis; and much more.
At 1:45 we’ll gather for the raffling of four brand new bikes–two adult bikes and two youth bikes. Everyone who comes and plays the free games will have a chance to win–but you must be present to win, so don’t leave too soon.
And finally, at 2pm, we will start the St. Elizabeths Bike Parade, in which everyone–including those who have visited the bike decoration station–can show off their bikes as we parade around a 0.3 mile loop perfect for picture-taking and fun.
Thanks to BicycleSPACE and Kidical Mass for leading the convoys, and to City Bikes for providing the repair station. Come see us, have fun, and say thank you to them tomorrow at St. Elizabeths East.