Our Future Trails Celebration was a blast!

Last weekend WABA partnered with REI to bring the region an event that celebrated our amazing network of biking and walking trails.

Even though it was pretty chilly outside, hundreds of people came out to warm up with us in our heated tent, enjoy some free cookies and coffee, get their face painted, play some games and learn about the network of trails that exists and future plans for expanding trails in DC, MD and VA. Check out photos of the celebration and read on for more highlights of the event below.

One of the highlights of the event was the three trail tours of the nearby Metropolitan Branch Trail led by our very own Trail Ranger Coordinator. About 45 people joined us on bikes for informational tours on the trail, and many even took advantage of the free bike rentals we provided for the tours.

Another highlight of the day was REI. This celebration and WABA’s current advocacy project around the Arlington Boulevard Trail (you can read all about our concept plan for this new Virginia trail here) was made possible with REI’s amazing support. They even brought out an REI bike mechanic to the celebration, who became the star of the whole show with a line of bicyclists at least 10 deep the whole day, to help fix people’s bikes for free! REI also had their incredibly beautiful signature camp set up to let event participants see what it’s like to bike camp in style.

Interested in staying in touch and receiving updates about WABA’s work on regional trails? Sign up for trail-related news here.

WABA would also like to thank the NoMa BID for their partnership in helping to make this event happen.

Trail Tours a Hit!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been taking a close look at some exciting developments for trails in DC and the surrounding Washington Area.  In September and early October, we invited trail neighbors and curious advocates on three trail tours (each on our advocacy priority list) to see the trails, build some context, and explore options for moving forward with rehabilitation and extensions.  In case you missed the tours, read on a for a recap.  While many of these projects are progressing forward, continued public support and pressure are crucial to seeing them through.

Feeling like you missed all the fun?  Join us on November 15 for our Future Trails Celebration to celebrate our region’s trail’s and learn about the next ones.  This trail tour series, and our ongoing trail advocacy work, was made possible thanks to the generous support of REI!

Metropolitan Branch Trail

Traveling by foot, we toured the future northern route of the Met Branch Trail between the Fort Totten and Takoma Metro Stations, now in design.  This phase will connect directly to the existing trail on John McCormack Road and extend the trail almost to the DC boundary through a combination of wide sidepaths, separated trail, and possible on street improvements.  Click here for more details.

Southeast DC’s Unbuilt Trails

This time by bike, we toured two of the District’s existing trails in Ward 8, experiencing the needs, barriers, and possibilities for better mobility by bike and foot.  In particular, we discussed the new South Capitol St. Trail, the Oxon Run Trail Rehabilitation, and improved connection ot the Suitland Parkway Trail coming with the Douglas Bridge replacement project.

Washington Baltimore & Annapolis Trail

For our third field trip, we took a leisurely ride on the WB&A Trail, a rail trail that runs more than 10 miles in two sections between PG and Anne Arundel Counties in Maryland.  With quiet wooded stretches and luxurious bridges and tunnels, this trail is a delight to ride and would be a crucial connection from DC to Baltimore and Annapolis, if the ambitious plan is completed.  More on extension possibilities to come.

Announcing WABA’s Future Trails Celebration, Nov 15

It’s a party for trails!  Don’t miss out

Biking in the Washington area is easier and more popular than ever. Multi-use trails, like the W&OD, Anacostia Tributary, Capital Crescent, and Metropolitan Branch are a big part of that explosion, and it is high time we celebrate their success! On Saturday, November 15, join WABA, REI, and trail lovers from around the region for a free celebration of the biking and walking trails that connect our region. It’s a party for the whole family!

Join in the fun & Tell your friends!

Where:  The grassy field at First & Pierce Street NE in NoMa, DC
When:  Saturday, November 15, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Cost: Free!!

Come for music and food, a bike repair clinic, carnival games, face painting and bike fun!  Explore a great trail in the making, and discover the community links in your backyard.  Have some fun with interactive activities and win great raffle prizes, including a free registration on REI’s C&O Canal Overnight Cycling Tour!  And stick around for the release of WABA’s concept plan for the Arlington Boulevard Trail, which outlines a vision for the next regional bike trail project in Northern Virginia.

Bring a bike.  Bring the family.  Celebrate our trails!

Learn more, Then tell your friends

Seatbelts Everyone! Explore the WB&A Rail Trail

On Saturday, Oct 11 at 1:00 pm, join WABA for a field trip into PG County to the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail.  With summer just behind us and hints of fall colors on every tree, now is the perfect time to get out for a trail ride.  Join us for a relaxed, family friendly ride, a look at an exciting emerging rail trail, and a discussion of the possibilities for connecting the trail to the District.

Join Us

As you move from busy urban areas towards quiet suburbs, the places you want to go tend to be farther from each other.  As destinations spread out, roads get wider, faster, and more like highways, and if you get around by bike, just getting to the grocery can be tricky.  Traffic calming, bike lanes, and side paths are essential, but they cannot compete with the joys of a rail trail.  The Washington Baltimore & Annapolis Trail is still a work in progress, but is already a fantastic bike highway.

The WB&A runs a total of 10.25 paved miles over two discontinuous stretches in Maryland’s PG and Anne Arundel Counties.  It follows the route of the long abandoned WB&A Electric railroad offering a direct path from Glen Dale to the Patuxent River, then to Odenton.  Though a 1.4 mile gap remains between the two built segments, the built portions through quiet woods and open sunlight are already a dream to ride.  And don’t forget the bridges and tunnels that whisk riders past those busy roads.

On Saturday, we will meet at the end of the PG County segment near the Patuxent River and bike westward towards DC, then turn around and head back.  Along the way, we’ll discuss the trail’s history, current holdups, and some possible connections towards DC.  This will be a completely off street and relaxed ride, so feel encouraged to pile the family in the car to join in.

Join Us


This is the third and final tour of our future trails series this fall.  We are grateful to our good friends at REI for making this series possible.  Be on the lookout for future trail advocacy and events later this fall.  Read more about our trails advocacy partnership with REI.

WABA’s Future Trails Tour Series

September 20 – Unbuilt Met Branch Trail Walking Tour
October 4 – Southeast DC’s Unbuilt Trails Bike Tour
October 11 – Washington Annapolis & Baltimore Trail Bike Tour

No Tunnel for the Capital Crescent Trail at Wisconsin Ave

The Bethesda tunnel. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Plans have fallen through for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave in downtown Bethesda. Montgomery County attempted to facilitate a redevelopment of the Apex Building that would have allowed a large and more efficient Purple Line light rail station and trail tunnel. In a closed session several weeks ago the County Council, at the recommendation of County Executive Ike Leggett, decided not to move forward with this attempt.

WABA is disappointed that the county has abandoned these plans. The Capital Crescent Trail is one of the most travelled multi-use trails in the county, and the Purple Line transit project is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in better trail infrastructure. Redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed for the best possible station and trail.

The construction of the Purple Line will connect the Capital Crescent Trail to Silver Spring and will upgrade all trail crossings along the corrdidor, which is why WABA supported the project. The loss of a grade-separated crossing where one already exists is a significant compromise and loss. Wisconsin Avenue is the busiest road in downtown Bethesda. More than 1.3 million people use the trail annually. An at-grade crossing of this road is not an acceptable long term solution.

Repeat, there will be no trail tunnel.

A redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to design a larger, more efficient Bethesda Purple Line station with better multimodal facilities. A new building above the station would be considerably taller and denser. The plans also included a bicycle and pedestrian tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave for the Capital Crescent Trail.

With this latest news, the MTA will go forward with the original plan for the project: when construction begins in late 2015, the existing trail tunnel will be closed and the light rail station will be built in that space. The completed station will include a very narrow pedestrian (and walking bicycle) entrance from Woodmont Ave. The Capital Crescent Trail will follow a surface route described below.

Now what happens to the Trail?

Plans for the Purple Line have always included the construction of an additional “surface route” for the Capital Crescent Trail through downtown Bethesda. You can think of the surface as the “business route” and the tunnel as the “express route”. The Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation is developing the plans for the surface route right now. The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (CCCT) and WABA have been involved for over a year with a stakeholders group advising MCDOT on their plans. With the tunnel now off the table, the surface route will carry all of the traffic on the Capital Crescent Trail.

The stakes are now much higher for the design and execution of this surface route. Councilmember Roger Berliner has tasked MCDOT to build a “gold standard” trail experience for the at-grade crossing of Wisconsin Avenue. MCDOT is hoping to have draft plans to present to the public later this fall, finish designs and begin construction by next summer. This sounds like an aggressive timeline because it is one—the surface route must be completed before construction starts on the Purple Line, as the tunnel will be closed. We will post notice about a public meeting here when the information becomes available.

What next for the trail?

WABA has been working for more than two decades on the Capital Crescent Trail. The trail is a well loved community resource which provides an important recreation, fitness and transportation benefit to visitors and residents of all ages. The vision has always been a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring. While the Purple Line will complete a major gap in the trail, it leaves behind a new one.

We are disappointed by this loss of an tunnel option and hope that County officials exhausted all options before making this decision. We expect a safe, grade-separated crossing of the trail at Wisconsin Avenue to be the long-term solution.

Tell Montgomery County you want a safe trail crossing

Tell Fairfax County to Adopt the Bike Master Plan

Fairfax County currently does not have a bike master plan. And that’s not good.

The proposed Bike Master Plan contains recommendations for developing a comprehensive bicycle network. It also includes guidelines for bike-friendly programs and policies. The plan vision is “Meeting the safety, access, and mobility needs of bicyclists today, while encouraging more people to bicycle in the future…making Fairfax County bicycle friendly and bicycle safe.” Without a master plan, Fairfax County Department of Transportation has fallen behind in implementing bicycling improvements.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the county’s Bicycle Master Plan (Phase II) on Wednesday, October 1 at 8:15 p.m. There needs to be a strong showing by residents who support the plan. Please consider attending the public hearing to show your support for the plan.

Details about the October 1st hearing can be found online here. You can sign up to testify at the Planning Commission using this form. The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on October 28. Look for another WABA email alert prior to that hearing.

We are also asking cyclists to sign the FABB Bicycle Master Plan petition urging the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to approve the plan.

This petition is from the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, a sponsored project of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association

Tour the Unbuilt Met Branch Trail’s 2nd Phase

Next Saturday, September 20th, come take a walk with WABA’s trail advocates on the planned but unbuilt route of the Metropolitan Branch Trail in NE DC.  The existing and interim 8.5 mile trail from Union Station to Silver Spring Is already a hub for neighborhood recreation and a major commuter route, drawing bicyclists from Silver Spring and beyond.  But the unbuilt second phase, between Fort Totten and Takoma, remains a significant gap in the trail network.  Join us Saturday at 1 pm to see where the trail will go, what it will look like, and what stands between the interim route we have today and the seamless trail of tomorrow.

MBT Phase 2

Met Branch Trail Phase two in blue. Click for a larger map.

One of the most common questions we get these days is “When will the Met Branch Trail be finished?”  The simplest answer is that while projects of this magnitude take time, progress is being made.

The Met Branch Trail that we have today is the result of over twenty five years of steadfast effort from committed residents, advocates, and planners through a lengthy public process.  Construction, too, spread for over a decade with early segments opening as early as 2004 (Michigan Ave to Ft. Totten Drive) and as recently as August of 2013 (Monroe St. to the Brookland Metro).

Today the trail boasts 4.2 off-street miles stretching from Union Station to Fort Totten Park and a short span in Montgomery County.  This spring, the District added a half a mile protected bike lane through NoMa as an additional southern option, and in the coming fall and winter, a connection to Florida Ave NE and a bridge to the the Rhode Island Metro are expected to open.

MBT-Progress-Chart-clean

Breakdown of what is built, under construction, in design, and yet to come

While there is plenty of progress to celebrate and enjoy (thousands of MBT users do each month), there remains a substantial gap in the trail between Fort Totten and the District line.  And though the interim on street route offers mostly quiet streets, it is no substitute for a fully separated trail.  In July, we received the exciting news of small steps toward design of this large missing link.  This Saturday, we invite you to join us for a block by block tour of the trail’s proposed route, design challenges, and next steps.

Sign up here


This tour is the first of three trail tours this fall.  Join us in October for a look at two other crucial trail priorities and a glimpse of what the region’s trail network could become.  This tour series is made possible thanks to REI.

September 20 – Unbuilt Met Branch Trail Walking Tour

October 4 – Southeast DC’s Unbuilt Trails Bike Tour

October 11 – Washington Annapolis & Baltimore Trail Bike Tour