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.

Further Delays for the Purple Line and Capital Crescent Trail

Purple Line and trail bridge over rock creek (Image by Maryland Transit Administration)

In May, Maryland’s Purple Line project received some bad news which further delays construction of the 16-mile light rail project and jeopardizes major improvements for bicycling in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

On May 22, 2017, US Federal Judge Richard Leon ruled that the State of Maryland and the Federal Transit Administration must complete a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before proceeding with construction of the Purple Line light rail transit project. The SEIS would address the issues the Judge found with regards to the future projected ridership on the Purple Line. The plaintiffs argued that future ridership would not be as large as modeled and thus not support building the transit project because its ridership depends in part on people transferring to or Metrorail. Metrorail ridership has declined in recent years from delayed maintenance and extended system closures for repairs. The Judge ruled the State of Maryland needs to reevaluate the ridership projections before the transit project can move forward. The Judge also ruled on May 30 that the other environmental issues raised by the lawsuit seeking to block the project were without merit.

The ruling means major construction on the 16-mile line connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties remains on hold until the lawsuit filed by Purple Line opponents is resolved. The State of Maryland has already appealed the ruling and there is still hope that a timely ruling by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals could reverse Judge Leon and allow the project to proceed.

The Purple Line is Great for Trails

WABA has enthusiastically supported the Purple Line for many years because it will vastly improve the trail connections between Bethesda and Silver Spring and along much of the transit corridor in Prince George’s County. The Georgetown Branch Trail, upon which the Purple Line will be built,  is an unpaved and incomplete trail that runs from the Bethesda central business district across Rock Creek to Stewart Avenue, still 1.5 miles outside of downtown Silver Spring. The trail crosses major roads, like Connecticut Ave and Jones Mill Rd, at grade which creates difficult and hazardous crossings for trail users. As part of the Purple Line project, the trail will see some major improvements.

The Purple Line project will finally complete the vision of a Capital Crescent Trail directly linking downtown Silver Spring to Bethesda to Georgetown. Alongside the rail line, the trail will be upgraded from a rutted gravel path to a paved 12 foot wide asphalt path with lighting and new neighborhood connections. New bridges and underpasses will take the trail across Connecticut Avenue, Jones Mill Road, and Colesville Rd to avoid cars on busy streets altogether.  At the Silver Spring Transit Center, the trail will connect directly to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which will soon extend south 8 miles to Union Station in DC.

Without the Purple Line, the Georgetown Branch Trail will remain unimproved, disconnected from the regional trail network, and most useful only to the its immediate neighbors. WABA will continue to follow developments relating to this vital transportation project in Maryland. To help when it counts most, sign up for WABA advocacy alerts here and read Purple Line Now’s blog coverage of this ongoing legal process here.

UPDATE!

In early July, a federal appeals court reinstated the Purple Line’s environmental approval while the appeal is decided. This decision allows the Maryland Transit Administration to restart construction activities on the 16 mile transit and trail project. The final hurdle is securing a full funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration for $900 million in federal funds. For more, read the Washington Post’s coverage.

 

Help grow the DC bike network: attend a public meeting!

May is Bike Month, so if you are not spending your evenings riding a bike, check out a community meeting and show your support for projects that make bicycling better!

Here are some upcoming meetings in DC:

Grant Circle Community Meeting
Tuesday, May 2 6:30 – 8 pm
EL Haynes Public Charter School | 4501 Kansas Avenue NW

DDOT is hosting a meeting to discuss possible safety improvements for Grant Circle in Petworth. At the meeting, residents are invited to provide feedback on draft concepts, data, and analysis. Grant Circle is an obvious candidate for a lane reduction, raised crosswalks, curb extensions and protected bike lanes. Many of these options were direct recommendations of the Rock Creek East II Livability Study (pdf), completed last year. Click here for more information on the meeting.

DC Bicycle Advisory Council
Wednesday, May 3  6 – 8 pm
On Judiciary Square | 441 4th St NW, Room 1112

Attend the May BAC Meeting to learn about some emerging long term projects. Agenda here.

NoMa Bicycle Network Study, Public Workshop
Thursday, May 4 | 6 – 8 pm
Lobby | 1200 First Street NE

DDOT planners are taking a close look at the future bicycle network that will connect people who bike from NoMa to Mount Vernon Square. Come provide feedback on existing conditions for cycling through and from the study area. The project study area is from 6th Street, NW to 6th Street, NE between N Street NW and K Street NW. Priority corridors within the study area for consideration include K, L, and M Streets; 4th and 6th Streets NW/NE; and New Jersey Avenue. Click here to learn more.

Long Bridge Project Open House
Tuesday, May 16 | 4 – 7 pm
L’Enfant Plaza Club Room | 470 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Presentations at 4:30 pm and 6:00 pm.

Now over one hundred years old, the Long Bridge carries trains from SW DC to Arlington. Sometime soon, it will need substantial rehabilitation or replacement. Initial concepts included a new bridge with additional train tracks and a multi-use trail connecting the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail and Long Bridge Park. Attend the informational meeting to review and comment on the preliminary concept screening results for the Long Bridge Project and help us ensure that any new bridge includes more options for crossing the Potomac and connecting the region’s trails by bike. Click here for more information about the meeting, including detailed directions to the meeting room.

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.