The Park Service Has a Plan for a Seamless Trail Network—And it’s Good

better bike trails

We’ve got some great trails in our region, but they don’t all connect to each other.

So imagine with us for a minute: seamless trail connections to monuments, to rivers, to parks, and to the places we need to get to every day. A network that doesn’t leave gaps at bridges and busy road crossings, where people on foot or on bikes can connect in an easy, low-stress way to all of the places that make our region great.

That’s the vision that National Park Service (NPS) has laid out in the National Capital Region Draft Paved Trails Study, released in April.

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The study includes a set of goals and 120 capital and programmatic recommendations, in addition to a framework for prioritizing regional funding of trail-related projects. We are thrilled that the Park Service has taken this on, and pleased with the results.

So what’s in the study, and why are we giving NPS a round of applause?

Here is just a small sample of the priority projects:

  • Extension of the existing cycle track south on 15th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue, NW to the 14th Street Bridge. (You know, that connection we’ve been asking for for years?)
  • A feasibility study for a cycle track or trail along the Military Road, NW right of way, from Glover Road, NW to 16th Street, NW.
  • A feasibility study for an extension of the Suitland Parkway Trail from the D.C./Maryland line to Henson Creek Trail.
  • Improved wayfinding and standardized signage so that it’s easier to navigate the trails system.
  • The development of comprehensive trail design standards and guidelines for the region that address trail width, snow removal, clearances, safety features, and more.
  • Fixing numerous bridge access problems, including the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, Tidal Basin Inlet Bridge, and 14th Street Bridge.
  • Connecting the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to the Wilson Bridge, by way of Blue Plains and Oxon Hill Farm.

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WABA is pleased that NPS is being so strategic about the quality and connectivity of paved trails in the National Capital Region. These are important corridors for commuting, running errands, recreating, exercising, and connecting to our natural surroundings. For those of us who believe that the best way to experience the National Parks is by bike or on foot, this is a welcome investment in a connected, world-class trail network.

High-volume corridors, many of which are vital commuting routes, warrant special design, maintenance and operational considerations. With this plan, NPS is acknowledging that these trails are transportation systems, and should be treated as such. This represents a major paradigm shift for NPS.

Why does this stage in the process matter?

In essence, NPS is laying out the next 20 years of work in regards to paved trails under their jurisdiction. Now is your time to show your support and encourage adoption of all of the recommendations. 

Will you stand with us and tell NPS you support the recommendations outlined in the Paved Trails Study?

Sign the Petition!

Your voice matters, especially right now. From bridge connections to wayfinding signage to snow removal, the recommendations in the Paved Trails Study will elevate the regional trail network from “almost great” to truly incredible. The comment period closes on May 19, so take action today.

The Washington region needs  a connected, easily-accessible trail network. Now is the time to let NPS know that you support their recommendations!

Sign the Petition!

Want to read the study or submit additional comments to NPS? You can find that information here.

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

NPS Begins Arlington Memorial Circle Planning

memorial-circle

Navigating the Arlington Memorial Circle is a major obstacle for area bicyclists. The Mount Vernon Trail, Route 110 Trail and Arlington Memorial Bridge (the direct connection to the National Mall) converge at the circle. Trail users are forced to dash across high speed traffic at grade to cross the many highways, parkways and the traffic circle. There were a number of serious crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists in 2010 and 2011, leading NPS to make some short-term safety fixes to trail crossing.

Now, the George Washington Memorial Parkway is starting a Transportation Plan and Environmental Assessment to study the long-term and major fixes need to vastly improve safety and the park experience for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers. The planning process will take almost two years to complete with a final decision document not expected until the summer of 2016.

There are a number of opportunities in September to learn more about the planning process. National Park Service is also accepting comments until September 30th during this initial phase. Visit the National Park Service Park Planning website to learn more about how to get involved.

30-Day Test of Flashing Beacons on GW Parkway Begins Today

A press release from the National Park Service indicates flashing beacons will be tested on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, beginning today. The purpose is to “improve safety and increase awareness by slowing down traffic when pedestrians and bicyclists intend to cross the Parkway.” The beacons will be located at the trail crosswalk of the northbound lanes of the Parkway, just prior to the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

NPS and the George Washington Memorial Parkway will be taking comments on the beacons through Jan. 17.

Read the full release for more information about the beacons and how to comment below the jump: Continue reading

National Park Service to Begin Construction on Mount Vernon Trail on April 8

The National Park Service and a number of other agencies will begin to reconstruct pedestrian bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail beginning today, Mon., April 8. The project is projected to last several months and will include a closure of the trail (a detour will direct trail users to West Boulevard Drive). Read the full press release and see a diagram of the construction below.

McLean, VA –The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Eastern Federal Lands Highways Division (EFLHD), in cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS), George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP), will begin a construction project to reconstruct pedestrian bridges #13 and #14 on the Mount Vernon Trail between Waynewood Boulevard and Collingwood Road; other bridges include bridges 20, 21, and 22 further north between Morningside Lane and Tulane Lane, all in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, Virginia.

The project will start on April 8, 2013 and will last for several months, Monday through Friday. Weekly updates to the project will be included in the weekly traffic advisory for locations of work zones.

During reconstruction of bridges #13 and #14, the Mount Vernon Trail will be closed. A detour will direct visitors to use West Boulevard drive. Visitors should follow the detour signs and exercise caution when using West Boulevard drive sharing the road with vehicles.

NPS will continue to inform the public and the media of any delays or adjustments to this work schedule. As with all construction projects, inclement weather may require adjustments to the schedules, including the possibility of postponement. Every effort will be made to accomplish the work in a timely manner. The NPS regrets any inconvenience and appreciates all visitors’ understanding and patience. The project is anticipated to be completed by fall.

mount vernon

Three Ways to Fix the 14th Street Bridge Connection

The narrow path approaching the 14th Street Bridge from the Jefferson Memorial is constrained by a I-395 sign support, which creates a hazard pinch point.

Over 1,800 bicyclists crossed the 14th Street bridge on Sept.13th, 2011.

That number has no doubt increased by now. Most cyclists riding on the bridge during the morning rush are coming from Virginia to major employment hubs: Federal Triangle, downtown D.C., and Capitol Hill. Those “in the know” riders are conditioned to the fractured connection between the 14th Street bridge and the 15th Street cycletrack. That’s not typically the case with new riders and visitors to the city who don’t know about, or can’t find, this important connection.

The connection between the bridge and the 15th Street cycletrack simply does not accommodate the amount of traffic that crosses it. Improving the connection would also allow cyclists to easily access from the bridge D.C.’s growing network of protected bike lanes outside of 15th Street, including those on Pennsylvania Avenue, L Street NW, and, soon, M Street NW. Extending the 15th Street cycletrack would give cyclists access to downtown bike lanes and multi-use paths on the National Mall.

Three easy projects, described below, would help to better connect the 14th Street Bridge to the 15th Street cycletracks.

Extend the 15th cycletrack one block south, to Constitution Avenue
Currently, the cycletrack on 15th Street NW ends at Pennsylvania Avenue. Bicyclists headed south are dumped onto a wide street with many tour buses and fast-moving traffic. Less experienced riders often choose the sidewalk, which has heavy pedestrian traffic and can be filled with vendors selling T-shirts and hats. DDOT’s original cycletrack plans included an extension one block south, but that was never built. So let’s build it!

Sign the route
The Mall is filled with multi-use sidewalks to view our national memorials. There is plenty of space on these paths that pedestrians and bicyclists can share. But new riders and tourists do not know the bike routes across the Mall. Wayfinding signs, which can explain the bike route for those traveling between the 15th Street cycletrack to 14th Street Bridge, should be installed. Those signs should also tell pedestrians to be aware of the presence of bicyclists. Bicyclists who feel comfortable using the road can still do so, but signing the route would give an alternative to inexperienced riders.

Fix the path to the 14th Street Bridge and multi-use sidewalks around the Tidal Basin
The paved path from the Jefferson Memorial to the 14th Street bridge needs serious repair. The 8-foot width is insufficient, and DDOT long ago placed an interstate sign support directly in the path of trail users. The path needs to be widened to at least 12 feet, and the sign needs to be moved. Also, the multi-use sidepaths around the Tidal Basin, between the bridge, need attention. There are pinch points along desired riding routes, especially at intersection of 15th Street SW and Maine Avenue SW. Fixing these small issues would go a long way for improving the riding experience.

The 14th Street Bridge is a major river crossing for area bicyclists coming to downtown from Virginia. Now is time to finish the connection with a few immediate fixes.

View Connect Virginia Cyclists to DC in a larger map

NPS Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Alternative Concepts for Gravelly Point and Roaches Run Enhancements

The National Park Service George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) is conducting the Gravelly Point and Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary Environmental Assessment (EA). GWMP is now seeking public comment on alternative concepts intended to enhance visitor access, safety and education for a study area that includes Gravelly Point, Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary (Roaches Run) and a segment of the Mount Vernon Trail.

NPS invites you to a public meeting on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Indigo Landing Restaurant on Daingerfield Island. The meeting is being held so interested public can ask questions, learn more about the alternative concepts for the EA and submit written comments.

This planning effort was initiated in 2008 and included a public meeting and comment period. The alternatives now presented look solely at proposed actions on NPS property including revisions based on public comments and renewed internal scoping. More details about the project, including maps and descriptions of alternative concepts, are available at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/gprr.

Public comments will be accepted from May 23, 2012 through June 22, 2012. Comments can be made electronically at the website above. Next steps in the process include further development of alternatives and environmental impacts analysis. There will be further opportunity for public comment when the EA is released which is anticipated later in 2012.

For further information or if you have special needs to be accommodated during this public open house, please contact: Thomas Sheffer at 703-289-2512 or tsheffer@nps.gov