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Posts Tagged ‘trails’

DDOT Unable to Provide Deadlines for Major Trail Projects

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Mary Cheh, second from left, pressed DDOT on its lack of progress.

“Will I be alive [when the trail is finished]?” asked Transportation Committee Chair Mary Cheh of DDOT, with regard to when she can expect the Metropolitan Branch Trail to be completed.

On Fri., March 20, the D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment held a performance oversight hearing for the District Department of Transportation. After hours of public testimony, DDOT Director Terry Bellamy testified on behalf of the agency. Chief Engineer Nick Nicholson and Director of Planning Sam Zimbabwe were also on hand to answer questions from the councilmembers.

WABA provided testimony about DDOT’s performance for implementation of its bicycle program over the past year. Executive Director Shane Farthing expressed concerns with no progress on major trail projects, as well as with significant delays and design compromises with on-street facilities like the M Street Cycle Track.

Councilmembers Mary Cheh and David Grosso pressed DDOT for responses related to many of WABA concerns. “Rock Creek Trail—that has been many, many, many years in consideration,” asked Cheh. Over 2,400 people signed a recent petition effort by WABA to speed up the planning and design of a major rehabilitation of the Rock Creek Park Trail.

Raising the issue of public safety on trails, Councilmember Grosso noted, “The fact is the Met Branch Trail is something that people have been waiting on for a long time. And we know for a fact it will be safer for people to ride on that trail if it’s connect all the way to the top and we get more people using it. So that’s an urgent item.”

Committee Chair Mary Cheh pushed DDOT to provide deadlines for the completion of major trail projects. DDOT Chief Engineer Nick Nicholson replied, “We’d be placing ourselves in another place where we don’t make our dates. I would really like to get back to you with a firm schedule…by next week.”

Currently, there are no firm dates for completion of the Rock Creek Park, Metropolitan Branch, South Capitol Street, Oxon Cove trails or repaving of the Capital Crescent and Suitland Parkway trails. Under the leadership of Director Terry Bellamy, DDOT has not many any significant progress on trails in D.C.

A Rock Creek Park Trail Update, Plus an Open House

Rock Creek Park Trail-10

After we told you that we would no longer stand for the deplorable condition of the Rock Creek Park Trail, over 2,400 people signed our petition to fix the Rock Creek Park Trail.

That incredible action did not go unnoticed. Major regional news outlets covered the demand for a better Rock Creek Park Trail: Read the WAMU story here. Washingtonian, Fox 5 News, NBC 4 and Active Life DC also covered the egregious state of the trail.

An official from Rock Creek Park was quoted in the WAMU story as saying, “The current status is a [environmental] decision will be issued in the near future, this calendar year. And DDOT has budgeted for a trail reconstruction in fiscal year 2015.”

WABA will meet with officials from DDOT and Rock Creek Park in early March to discuss the details of this project. We will hold both public agencies to the timelines to which they have committed, and will continue to advocate for much-needed repairs to the Rock Creek Park Trail. Keep reading our blog for updates on this project.

The Rock Creek Park Foundation will host an open house from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m at Mon., March 3, 2014 at St. John’s College High School in Vaghi Dining Room at 2607 Military Road NW, Washington, D.C. This is a great opportunity to be engaged with the park on this issue and other issues related to it. You can learn more about the open house on the NPS website here.

Image via Flickr user TrailVoice

Fund a Regional Trail Summit in 2014

Last week, we posted our year-end appeal letter on our blog (WABA members and supporters may have also received the appeal via surface mail in the past few weeks). This week, we’re reposting descriptions of the projects we hope to fund through your donations for 2014; we asked for $30,000 to fund entirely and we have currently raised $15,796 thanks to your generous contributions. Make a tax-deductible donation to WABA right now and make our advocacy, education, and outreach dreams a reality!

Today, read about our proposed trail summit, which would require $10,000 to organize and host.

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For all our success in growing biking over the past few years, we’ve failed to bring meaningful progress to our regional trail network. Continued movement on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and the Rhode Island Trolley Trail are notable exceptions to the fact that the Met Branch Trail isn’t complete, that Rock Creek and the Capital Crescent need major infrastructural work, the Suitland Parkway Trail is falling apart, or that the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail doesn’t begin or end at a main destination. Too many projects are taking too long and have lost momentum. Interjurisdictional battles and land use disputes have dragged on to the point that project managers don’t even talk to one another anymore.

It is time to convene a regional meeting to bring together responsible agencies, relevant elected officials, and the general public to rebuild a vision for our trail network and reinvigorate efforts to build it. WABA can convene such a meeting, but big meetings take time and money.

Estimated need for a regional trail summit: $10,000. Donate now!

Resources: Bike Route Planning

This blog post is part of a new series by our bike ambassadors. It’s dedicated to presenting tips that will encourage new riders to get started. We’ll link these posts on our Resources page, forming a library of tips for beginning cyclists.

Once you’ve found the bike that works for you, it’s important to ensure it’s in working condition for riding before venturing out onto the road. Now that you’re all geared up, it’s time to plan your two-wheeled tour—of D.C., Maryland, Virginia, or anywhere!

Before mapping out your bike route, it can be helpful to consider your options. How comfortable are you riding in traffic? Do you prefer bike lanes and trails? How much time do you have to get to your destination? What time of day will you be riding? Do you want to avoid or tackle the hills?

Basic Route Planning
Google Maps (both the desktop browser map and the smartphone app) has an option to select bicycling directions. Just as if you were trying to get driving or walking directions, simply type in the start and end locations and click the bicycle icon.

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Often, there is more than one way to get from point A to point B. Dark solid green lines show separated bicycle facilities like trails or cycle tracks. Medium solid green lines indicate that street has a dedicated bicycle lane, but is not separated from traffic. Dotted green lines represent places in the city that are considered “bicycle routes” and/or have sharrows painted on them.

Depending on personal comfort level, mileage, and timing, you could choose any number of different ways to get around D.C. While an electronic mapping function like Google Maps may produce the directions for the most direct route, it may mean riding on busy streets without any dedicated bike infrastructure.  Some riders may be comfortable taking the lane, but others may not. Getting to your destination via the most bike-friendly route may mean taking an indirect path on trails and side streets in order to avoid major thoroughfares.

D.C.-Area Trails
While the D.C. trail network is not complete, there are a number of connections to and from the city for commuting to work or getting your workout. Trails can provide a safe alternative for riders looking to get out of traffic or to those looking for a scenic weekend ride. In some cases, trails are the only real connection between destinations. Check out or complete list of trails in the D.C. region.

Multi-Modal Routes
Having the option to hop on transit with your bicycle is a handy one. Whether you get a flat, get caught in a blizzard, or are too tired ride, knowing your options for getting home can make it easier to decide to go by bike.

Metro: Folding bikes are allowed on Metro Rail anytime during the usual hours of operation. Regular bikes are permitted at all times except for certain holidays and Monday-Friday rush hours, which are 7 a.m.-10 a.m. and 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Bicycles are permitted any time during the weekends. You must use the elevator with your bicycle.

Bus: Every Metro Bus has two bike racks on the front of the bus. You can carry your bike on the front of the bus at any time with no additional charge. Learn how to put your bike on the bus.

Park and Ride: Many of the area metro stations have bike racks or lockers on site. Check WMATA’s website to find out if your station has these amenities. Consider bicycling from home to the Metro for your commute to save on parking costs!

With over 200 stations in the region, Capital Bikeshare gives you the option of one-way, short bike trips. Check Bikeshare’s website for details about how to join, and use the app SpotCycle to figure out which stations near you have available docks or bikes.

Paper Bike Maps
If your smartphone is dead or if electronic maps just aren’t your thing, there are plenty of printed bicycle maps available for navigating your way through the city. Check out our complete list of maps available in the Maryland, Virginia, and the region, or stop by the WABA office to pick one up.

Friends and Forums
Pair up with a friend who bikes in your area and ride together. Talk to them about their favorite or fastest routes. If you don’t have a trusted bicycle buddy, hop onto the Washington Area Bike Forum and ask other bicycle enthusiasts in the area. Everyday bike riders are an invaluable resource when it comes to finding out where the best places to bike are, where you’ll find the biggest hills, and where to enjoy the best views of D.C.!

Remember:

  • Double check your bike route on a map before heading out!
  • Come prepared! Don’t count on trails to be well lit or for bicycle routes to be well signed. Knowing ahead of time where you’re going will save you frustrations later.
  • Leave extra time for new routes. Sure, there are times when getting lost can be a fun adventure, but not when you’re running late!

How Will the Shutdown Affect Regional Trails?

NPS' Capital Crescent Trail Improvements

This may or may not be open now or later today. Photo by Greg Billing.

Last night, we sent an action alert email to our members and supporters warning them that regional trails may be closed as a result of the shutdown, which you can read here:

WABA has learned that if the federal government shuts down tomorrow, the National Park Service intends to close many of its properties, including regional trails, to the public.  We have been provided very little detail, but we have seen preparations for closure on the Capital Crescent Trail.  All or part of the heavily-commuted Rock Creek Trail, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and George Washington Memorial Trail are on NPS property.  While we cannot provide additional information on the impacts to these trails because NPS has not been in contact with us, please be prepared for the possibility of closures in the event of a federal government shutdown.

We will continue to seek additional information and provide updates as available at www.waba.org/blog and through social media.

As of this morning, we have received no official update from the National Park Service about closures.

We’ll continue to update this post with information about trail closures as we receive them from our staffers and from the NPS. On Twitter, we’re retweeting reports of trail closures from users. If you use Twitter and notice a closure, let us know. If you don’t, you can still follow along.

UPDATE 8:54 p.m.: Bike ambassador Pete reports, “Hains Point bathrooms are closed and locked and the water is shut off.  The golf course parking lot has been turned into a parking lot for all the furloughed park vehicles” and “Meridian Park at 16th and Euclid is closed entirely.  All the entrances are blocked.”

UPDATE 4:26 p.m.: Washington City Paper has a list of roads closed by the National Park Service around Rock Creek Park, including Beach, Sherrill, Bingham, Ross, Morrow, and Glover drives.

UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: East Bank DC has photos of a closed Anacostia Park.

UPDATE: 2:27 p.m.: The C&O Canal Trust sends this email, which you can see on its website here:

As you may be aware, our Federal Government has shut down for an indeterminate amount of time. What you may not have realized, however, is that the closure of the Federal Government means the closure of the C&O Canal National Historical Park and all other National Parks. For the C&O Canal, this means:
THE TOWPATH IS CLOSED
  • Visitor traffic, whether on foot, bike, or horse, is strictly prohibited.
  • Bicyclists planning rides from Pittsburgh to DC on the GAP and C&O Canal should plan to turn back at Cumberland.
  • All Visitors Centers are CLOSED.
  • Hiker/Bikers and campgrounds are CLOSED.
  • The Canal Quarters lockhouses are CLOSED.
  • All restroom facilities, both permanent and portable, are CLOSED.
  • Handles have been removed from all well pumps.
  • The only Park staff that will be on duty will be law enforcement rangers.
  • The portion of the Capital Crescent Trail that runs parallel to the towpath in DC is managed by the C&O Canal NHP and is CLOSED.
  • All access roads to the Park are CLOSED. This means you will not be able to trailer boats to boat ramps along the towpath.
  • Interpretive and educational programming in the Park will be temporarily suspended. School field trips to the Park will need to be rescheduled once Park staff has returned.
  • Volunteer events and events requiring special use permits will not be able to take place.
  • All volunteers working in an official capacity should cease volunteer activities immediately and not enter the Park’s premises.

After working side-by-side with the wonderful staff of the C&O Canal NHP for many years, it’s heartbreaking for the Trust to see them closing the doors, given no choice but to turn away thousands upon thousands of visitors seeking to recreate and rejuvenate along the canal’s towpath.

While the Park staff has no choice but to stand idly by, we as civilians can take action:

  • Educate yourself and others on how the shutdown affects National Parks.
  • Be vocal on social media and use #KeepParksOpen.
  • Use any means of communication you can – letter, email, phone call, social media, or even a carrier pigeon – to appeal to Congress.Find your US Representatives and Senators on the National Park’s Conservation Association’s Legislative Lookup.
  • Send notes of encouragement to the Park staff through our FacebookTwitter, andemail. To say this is a rough time for them is an understatement. We’ll forward your notes on and post them on social media, letting our Park Rangers know how much we appreciate them and are anxiously awaiting their return.
  • Last but certainly not least, respect the closure. While we don’t like it one bit, we have to respect it. Disregarding the closure can create potentially unsafe and hazardous situations, damage Park resources, and create undue work and stress on the few staff left standing.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.: Streetsblog notes that Beach Drive is closed to cars.

UPDATE 10 a.m.: WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle tweets, “More government shutdown closures: Hains Point. So if you ride/run down there, you’re going to have to do so illegally” and that ”According to NPS, Rock Creek Pkwy, Joyce Rd. and Wise Rd. will stay open. Beach Drive, though, will close to cars today.”

WABA still has not received an update from NPS.

UPDATE 9:32 a.m.: Commenter Bilsko writes, “At about 8:30AM,   I rode the stretch of the CCT trail from the Foundry Branch Park tunnel down into Georgetown with no sign of enforcement of closure – there were plenty of cyclists heading in both directions on the trail. There was also someone (NPP, perhaps) doing something with the lock mechanism on the gate, but I didn’t have a chance to stop and find out what.”

UPDATE 9:03 a.m.: Our bike ambassador Pete Beers writes: “The only trail closure on the west side of town is the C&O Towpath.  The tough part is that the Cap Crescent Trail connects to C&O at the edge of Montgomery County… so it is closed before getting to Georgetown. People are ignoring the barriers. My friend Ricky took that. I shared it on my Facebook wall. Other stuff seems to be open. I haven’t heard about stuff coming in from Tacoma Park or Rock Creek Park yet.”

Trail Ranger Tuesdays: More MBT Light Troubles

This entry is part of a weekly series following WABA’s Trail Rangers.  The D.C. Trail Ranger Program is giving some needed attention to DC’s off-street paved trails and the people who use them with daily patrols, maintenance, and outreach.

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One of 7 lights vandalized on the MBT Saturday night.

This week, we take a break from the usual reports of branches trimmed and volume of trash bagged for an update on an ongoing concern on the Met Branch Trail.  Those who ride it often know that though light fixtures run the length of the off-street route from M Street to Franklin Street, it is not uncommon to find many either burnt out or missing altogether.  On Saturday night, vandalism left an additional seven lights and one security mirror smashed and broken on the ramp leading down to M Street. While the glass has been cleared (more than 10 pounds’ worth), what remains is a blind corner, a total of 10 consecutive smashed fixtures and more than 25 feet of continuous darkness on the ramp after sundown.  The NoMa BID and DDOT are aware of the problem and working towards a fix. In the meantime, remember to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at night.

MBT Mirror

Trail Ranger Tuesdays: Measurable Progress

Trail Ranger Trailer Training

This entry is the part of a weekly series following WABA’s Trail Rangers.  The DC Trail Ranger Program is giving some needed attention to DC’s off-street paved trails and the people who use them with daily patrols, maintenance, and outreach.  Each week, you’ll find updates on conditions and improvements on the Met Branch, Anacostia Riverwalk, Marvin Gaye and Suitland Parkway trails.

Since rolling out the program last month, the Trail Ranger team has made steady progress in establishing a presence and improving trail conditions. Regular travelers on the Met Branch, Anacostia Riverwalk, or Marvin Gaye trails have likely received an eager greeting from a team of cyclists with yellow trailers in tow, but without following them around each day or stopping for a chat, it’s easy to wonder what they have been up to. We’d like to fill in some of the blanks and give a taste of last month’s achievements.

Every day, during morning and evening commutes, trail rangers roam D.C.’s trails in search of folks to assist and areas in need of some extra help. With a stash of bike tools and patch kits, trimmers and brooms, we’re equipped to handle most issues we come across. A flat tire or a low hanging branch in your face can be equally daunting obstacles at the end of a long day, so for each, Trail Rangers are here to help.

In the past month, we have covered over 370 miles on the 15 mile trail network and identified over 100 specific areas in need of further work. Along the way, we’ve helped with 3 emergency bike repairs, removed over 14 bags (or a volume of roughly 230 gallons) worth of garbage  from trail corridors and made big steps towards clearing back vegetation.  The results are cleaner trails and far fewer obstacles to weave around or duck under. Some improvements are hard to notice. We hope that the obvious work brings a smile or two in the coming weeks.

We could tell you more, but the before and after photos speak for themselves.

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Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, west connection to Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge (map)

MGT bush beforeMGT bush after

Marvin Gaye Trail, corridor reclaimed (map)

ART wooded beforeART wooded after

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, headroom reclaimed (map)

MBT growth beforeMBT growth after

Metropolitan Branch Trail, overgrown trail cleared thanks to DDOT (map)

If trail cleanup or a trail ride interest you you, join us for our MBT Trail Day on Sun., Aug 17. It’s a terrific opportunity to get to know the Met Branch Trail, connect with a valuable community resource, and end the afternoon at NoMa’s Beer Fest.

Will the Rock Creek Trail Be Repaved Soon?

Bike up and downWe’re consistently asked by WABA members and community members when the Rock Creek Park trail will be repaved. The trail is a very popular, multi-use path in Rock Creek National Park that winds north from Georgetown into the park and connects to Beach Drive (which, on weekends, is closed to cars). It’s well-liked by runners, dog walkers, families, and bicyclists, but desperately in need of repair.

The current condition of the trail is rough, rooted, uneven, and too narrow for daily use. A ride on the trail is a bumpy one, due to tree roots cracking the asphalt. The edges of the trail have deteriorated, due to years of unattended grass and weed overgrowth. This has also reduced the usable width of the trail, which was insufficient to begin with: It was originally to be eight feet wide. In addition to the decline of the paved surface, the trail was built with 90-degree turns approaching bridges and a narrow sidewalk on the bridge near the tunnel. When the National Zoo closes its gates, trail users are forced to use the three-foot sidewalk in the tunnel. Many cyclists have chosen alternate routes because the condition of the Rock Creek Park trail has declined.

Plans to rehabilitate the trail have been in the plans since the late 1980s. Federal recreational trail funding  for design and construction was established over 10 years ago. And the federal environmental assessment planning process has been ongoing for over seven years. So why don’t we have a finished trail?

During the initial planning and scoping for the project, talks between the District Department of Transportation and the National Park Service stalled over a core issue: trail width. DDOT, as the agency funding and constructing the trail, wanted the trail to be 10 feet wide. Rock Creek Park, as the agency with jurisdictional control and administrative authority over the land, rejected widening the trail for its entire length, citing negative impacts to the environment. The negotiations stalled for years.

After much intervention from WABA and the community, NPS and DDOT compromised to widen most of the trail to 10 feet, except for a few pinch points where the eight-foot width would remain. With middle ground reached, the environmental assessment process restarted. A draft EA was released in December 2011 with a 30-day period for public comment.

Under the draft environmental assessment (download the draft here), DDOT would completely repave the entire asphalt surface of the trail and new access trail spurs. The paving would take place on a 3.7-mile segment of the Rock Creek Park multi-use trail from Broad Branch Road to P Street NW; a 0.8 mile segment of the Piney Branch Parkway trail from Beach Drive to Arkansas Avenue NW; a 0.2 mile segment of social trail from Broad Branch Road to Peirce Mill (referred to as the Peirce Mill trail spur); and a 0.5 mile segment of the Rose Park trail from P Street NW to M Street NW. Also incorporated into the EA is construction of a new, wider bridge parallel to the car bridge that crosses Rock Creek immediately south of the zoo tunnel, and a reconfiguration of the tunnel to allow for a six-foot-wide sidewalk for use during hours that the zoo gate is closed.

With no outward progress on the environmental assessment, and therefore a slowing the implementation phases of design and construction, WABA requested a meeting with Rock Creek National Park Superintendent Tara Morrison and DDOT to discuss the current status and next steps to finishing this project. Currently, DDOT is completing the final EA, which will be released to the public in the late summer/early fall. Following the EA, Rock Creek National Park must issue the decision document called a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI—best acronym ever) for the project to move forward.

Superintendent Morrison and her staff expect the FONSI to be finished by the year’s end. Operating in parallel, DDOT has the trail project at 30 percent design but cannot get to a 100 percent complete design until the FONSI is released. In the bike/ped program’s obligation plan for federal transportation funding, DDOT has obligated to design and construction funds for fiscal year 2014/2015. DDOT is considering hiring a consultant under a design/build contract for this project, which would increase delivery but limit public input during the individual phases—especially between the design and construction phases.

WABA would like to thank DDOT and Rock Creek National Park for meeting with us and for their commitment to finishing this very important rehabilitation. We expect the two agencies to work quickly, efficiently, and effectively to deliver a completed project on time or early. The region has seen a recent renaissance of bicycling for transportation and demands on the infrastructure that support it need urgent attention to sustain that growth.

Read: BAC/PAC/DDOT Oversight Hearing Testimony

During the oversight hearing for the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and the District Department of Transportation on Mon., March 4, WABA Executive Director Shane Farthing testified on the importance of installing the M Street cycletrack and identifying and prioritizing a cycletrack project to follow M Street, as well as the necessity of completing trail projects like the Metropolitan Branch Trail and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.

Read Shane’s testimony below.

March 4 BAC Testimony by

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail Bridge Construction Halted

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The final span of the bridge on the east side of the Anacostia River as construction has stopped.

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.

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