The Capital Trails Coalition’s new trail network map!

Our region is well-known for our complex transportation systems for cars, trains, and Metro Rail, but what about our biking and walking infrastructure?

What if there was a superhighway system for bicyclists and walkers, where you could start on one side of the region and end up on the other side of the region, without having to mix with drivers?

Shouldn’t we think as big about bike infrastructure as we do about massive interstate systems for motorized vehicles?

The answer is YES. That’s exactly why WABA and the Capital Trails Coalition are proud to announce a new vision for transportation in the region. We’re working to complete the region’s paved trail network, and today, we’re launching a map that articulates our bold vision for trails in the DC region.

The new Capital Trails Network map.

Currently, the region has 436 miles of existing trails, with 302 miles of planned trails to go. The planned trails will close gaps in the regional trail network and connect smaller trails to high-capacity and well-loved trails, like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, Mount Vernon Trail, and Anacostia River Trail.

Show your support for a regional trail network!

With the support of REI, WABA has spent the past three years building and managing the Capital Trails Coalition, a collaboration between public agencies, nonprofit organizations, business improvement districts and other groups. The Coalition is working toward a world-class trail network that prioritizes connectivity for people who walk and bike.

But the completion of this trail network is not going to magically happen. We need everyone—whether you commute via trail everyday or live far from a trail but wish you had one nearby—to speak up for this network and help us get it done.

Show your support for a regional trail network!

We know that people in the DC region love trails and want more of them. From Arlington County to Prince George’s County, “more trails!” is the rallying cry from nearly every survey on public amenities.

That’s why we need your voice. We need to cultivate widespread consensus that this trail network is a regional priority!

Sign up here to show your support and get updates on the progress of the Capital Trails Coalition.

Hundreds of people speak up for a better Long Bridge

Want to keep up on Long Bridge updates by email?  Yes!






The Long Bridge is a rail bridge across the Potomac River, and it’s getting an upgrade from two tracks to four. This project represents a once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new, continuous biking and walking connection from Crystal City to DC’s waterfront core. Unfortunately, the current designs only go halfway. You can find more info here.

Last month, we encouraged people to take action and contact the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the agency overseeing the project. Their assessing the environmental impact of the project, so it was an an ideal time to speak up for better bicycling connections.

And speak up you did! Throughout the month of January, more than 1600 people contacted DDOT and let them know that the river isn’t the only barrier for people who walk and bike. A better trail bridge would consider and provide solutions for getting past two major highways and the tangle of dangerous intersections, congested sidewalks, and freeway ramps that separate DC from Arlington.

WABA was proud to stand with numerous other groups and elected officials that sent official comment letters to DDOT, including Arlington County, DC Bicycle Advisory Council, Councilmember David Grosso, DC Recreational Trails Advisory Committee, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Southwest Business Improvement District, and Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling.

A public and agency update is planned for sometime this spring. Sign up for WABA’s advocacy updates if you want to stay up to date on this project!

 

A new trail bridge over the Patuxent!


Great news! About a month ago, we learned that the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis (WB&A) Trail will receive $4.7 million for a bridge over the Patuxent River, connecting Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties!

This long-awaited bridge will close a key gap in the trail network. Currently, the WB&A Trail is in two segments— six miles in Anne Arundel County (from Odenton to the river), and six miles in Prince George’s County (from the Patuxent River to the trailhead on Annapolis Road). The bridge will connect these segments, connect communities on either side of the river to jobs, retail, parks, amenities, and much more.

The WB&A Trail has been a WABA priority for decades, and this funding commitment is an important win. Please join us in thanking Secretary Rahn for investing in trail infrastructure:

Say thanks

The first of several important connections

The WB&A Trail is a converted railroad corridor, and not surprisingly, the railroad line used to connect all the way into DC. While 12 miles were converted into a rail-trail, the other seven miles to the south were used to create a state highway, Maryland 704.

Today, Route 704 is an over-built highway and a barrier to safe travel by foot or bike. Luckily, leaders in Prince George’s County see the value in a trail along the entire corridor. Planners and engineers are looking into converting a portion of the roadway into a trail— extending the trail to the DC line. A feasibility study  is currently underway, but it will take a lot of work to get our vision to reality.

All told, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced more than twenty million dollars in grants to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety and connectivity across the entire state. With Secretary Rahn’s leadership in funding the Patuxent River bridge, the future looks bright for WB&A Trail users.

 


Want updates on this project by email? Yes!





Long Bridge needs to be, well, LONGER

Imagine biking from Crystal City to DC’s waterfront along a brand new bike bridge next to the railroad tracks. You’d sail over the George Washington Memorial Parkway and I-395, riding directly from one urban core to the other on a wide, protected trail. Sounds like the best Potomac River crossing in the region, right?

This vision is enshrined in the master plans of DC, Arlington, and the National Park Service, but the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is about to pass on the chance to make it a reality.

Let’s get this bridge right

Long Bridge is the rail bridge you can see from the Yellow Line as you cross the Potomac River.  It carries Amtrak, commuter rail, and freight rail from Arlington over the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Hains Point, and I-395 to L’Enfant Plaza and eventually on to Union Station. It’s getting a long planned, much needed upgrade from two tracks to four. This project is an opportunity to attach a biking and walking trail to the new bridge, creating a continuous non-motorized connection between Arlington and DC.

It’s a once in a century opportunity that DC, Arlington, and the National Park Service have been discussing for years, but the current trail designs only go halfway— from the Mount Vernon Trail to Hains Point.

DDOT can do better, but they need to hear from you.

Take action

The current proposal treats the river as the only barrier that for people who bike and walk, ignoring two major highways and the tangle of dangerous intersections, congested sidewalks, and freeway ramps that separate DC from Arlington.

DDOT is going through the environmental impact statement process for this project, so now is the time to speak up for better bicycling connections.

Ask DDOT for a better bridge

Comments close on January 16, so it’s important to act on this now!

Contact DDOT and ask them to:

  • Make the Long Bridge bicycle and pedestrian connection continue across the George Washington Memorial Parkway to connect to the Long Bridge Park (Arlington County’s Long Bridge Park Master Plan has long called for a connection from the park’s multi-use esplanade across the George Washington Parkway to the Mount Vernon Trail),
  • Make the Long Bridge bicycle and pedestrian trail connect directly to Maine Avenue, instead of requiring an indirect, congested or outdated connection across the Washington Channel.  This is called for in both DC’s MoveDC plan and State Rail Plan,
  • Leave space for a future trail connection across Maine Ave to Maryland Ave and Hancock Park, and
  • Build the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure simultaneously with the rail span, not as a separate project.

Read more about the status of this project in our Dec. 2017 blog post.

Want to get into the weeds? Here are our (really detailed) comments from October 2016.

Find additional information on the Long Bridge Project website.

2017 Trails Symposium

On Thursday, November 16, the Capital Trails Coalition convened at the Hill Center for the fourth annual Trails Symposium. The Symposium was presented by REI, and we had record attendance, with nearly 100 participants.

The Capital Trails Coalition is a collaboration of public and private organizations, agencies, and citizen volunteers working to advance completion of an interconnected network of multi-use trails for metropolitan Washington, DC.

The Coalition convenes and coordinates among the public and private stakeholders who are critical to accomplishing the vision of an interconnected network. The group identifies trail funding, broadens the base of support, and cultivates widespread consensus that a trail network is a regional priority.

At the Symposium, the Coalition dove into topics related to trail use and trail development, including economic development, converting potential trail users into current trail users, how bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure fit into mega million dollar infrastructure projects, and how changing technology will help us build out the regional trail network.

The opening plenary was given by Jack Koczela, Chair of the Recreational Trails Advisory Committee and vice Chair of the Capital Trails Coalition. We took a look back at major milestones of the last few years, as well as a chart forward for 2018.

After the morning plenary, attendees broke out into two sessions- Trails Coalition 101 and Trail Project Prioritization.

The session addressing Trail Project Prioritization was lead by Beth Porter from National Park Service and Kelly Pack from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The Coalition has a list of projects and a network map. The session was focused on how the group leverages the strengths of each Coalition member group to take the trail network from vision to reality.


Trails Coalition 101 was an introductory session for people that were new to the Coalition, and explained the ways that new organizations and agencies could get involved with the Coalition’s work and become Coalition members.

The next set of sessions were a panel on Mega Projects and a panel on Local Government and Trails, specifically ANCs.

Stewart Schwartz, from Coalition for Smart Growth moderated the Mega Projects Panel. Three experts from three departments of transportation joined us for that panel- Susan Shaw (VDOT), Katherine Youngbluth (DDOT) and Tim Cupples (Montgomery Co. DOT). Projects like the expansion of I-66, the Purple Line, and Long Bridge affect those who walk and bike. The panel discussed the challenges and opportunities for trails in these megaprojects.

The Local Government and Trails Panel was moderated by David Whitehead from Greater Greater Washington. Panelists were Natalee Snider (ANC 4B), Eddie Garnett (ANC 5E) and Joe McCann (former ANC Transportation and Public Space Committee Chair).

After lunch, the third breakout sessions began: Changing Times, Changing Tech, and Using the Web Application.

Wayne Clark with East Coast Greenway Alliance moderated the Changing Times, Changing Tech panel. The panelists discussed how new technologies (from automated vehicles to dockless electric bikeshare to digital maps) relate to the Coalition’s work to complete the trail network. Panelists were Brandi Horton from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Nelle Pierson from Jump Mobility, Joshua Nadas from National Park Service, and Jeff Ciabotti from Toole Design Group.

Kelly Pack from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy walked through the web application with the trail network map, and explained its functions and tools to new Coalition members.

Our next sessions were Partnering In a Fiscally Constrained World and a work session focused on equity.

David Daddio from U.S. DOT Volpe Center explained how National Park Service is engaging with partners locally and nationally to meet its biggest infrastructure challenges. That conversation was incredibly relevant to our work in DC, especially because transportation funding is increasingly competitive, localized, and debt financed. The Q&A for this session was moderated by Beth Porter from National Park Service.

The Equity Work Session was lead by Liz Thorstensen from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and Sterling Stone from Gearin’ Up Bicycles. The Coalition has created a working definition of “equitable trail development.” The next step for the group is to use our equity definition to guide our trail development work. This was a working session, and participants came ready to share their thoughts and chart a course forward.

The final choice for participants was between a session addressing Economic Development Groups, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Trails and Converting “Potential” Trail Users Into Current Trail Users.

The first of those sessions was moderated by Will Handsfield from Georgetown BID. Panelists were Galin Brooks from NoMa BID, Stuart Eisenberg from Hyattsville Community Development Corporation, and Robert Mandle from Crystal City BID. Participants learned that BIDs and other economic development groups can embrace trails as part of their brand, and support trail development and trail use, as all three of the panelists’ groups have done. They shared innovative examples of how BIDs help trails (and how trails help BIDs).

During the trail user session, Brandi Horton from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy lead the conversation with a panel of trail use experts, including Sterling Stone from Gearin’ Up Bicycles, Ursula Sandstrom from Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Henry Dunbar from Bike Arlington, and Lynn Butler, M-NCPPC, Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Prince George’s County. The panelists shared their experiences with different community groups, and discussed the reasons that some people don’t use our current trail network. With the session participants, the panelists discussed how we can lower the barrier to entry when it comes to trail use.

The Trails Summit wrapped up with a closing plenary by Jack Koczela. We recapped the sessions and talked about ways to stay involved with the Coalition.

Many thanks to our speakers, panelists, and moderators, as well as all of the event attendees.

Want to learn more about the Capital Trails Coalition? Check out http://capitaltrailscoalition.org/

Is your organization or agency a potential Coalition member? Email katie.harris@waba.org for more information on membership.

I-66 Trail- Still nowhere near good enough

Remember that bad trail design being proposed along Interstate 66? The one with five miles of bike lane crammed between ten lanes of highway and a concrete sound barrier?

It’s been getting a lot of attention.

In July, the Washington Post described the current Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) designs and shared a video from FABB that showed what the trail experience would be like with the trail on the inside of the sound wall.

Over the summer, hundreds of people wrote to VDOT and contacted their state senators and delegates. Their message was clear: the design for the trail along the I-66 corridor needs major improvement.

In August, Senator Scott Surovell, along with 18 state senators and delegates from Virginia, sent a letter to VDOT Secretary Aubrey Layne, expressing their opposition to the current design and calling for a redesign of the trail to take the trail outside of the sound walls and ensure it is wide enough to accommodate the anticipated volume of trail users.

Despite all that, we haven’t seen much from VDOT that indicates they’re willing to change this sub-standard and uninviting trail design.


Live in Fairfax County?

Take action!


The bulk of this project is in Supervisor Linda Smyth’s district. A recent Freedom of Information Act request showed emails from Supervisor Smyth that revealed a lack of concern for the opinions of her constituents that care about the health and safety of people who will use this trail.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re not satisfied.

WABA and other trail advocates have been saying for years that we need a trail outside the sound barrier, and up until 2016, that was where the designs indicated the trail would go, until a small group of homeowners complained loudly enough to have those plans scrapped.

We agree with Senator Scott Surovell that it’s disappointing that “a handful of homeowners’ desire to view a sound wall instead of a bike trail seems to trump the health, safety and convenience of thousands of Virginians.”

It’s time for Fairfax County and VDOT to stop treating bicycling infrastructure as an afterthought, rather than an integral part of the transportation network.

If the “goal of the project is to move more people, not more cars,” as VDOT Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw says, then VDOT needs to design the I-66 Trail in a safer and more accessible way, including finding space outside of the sound barrier for the trail. Billions of dollars are going into this infrastructure project. It will likely not be revisited for another 40 years once built. It should be designed with care, and done right the first time.

All Northern Virginia residents are affected by this interstate expansion project. That’s one of the reasons that VDOT is justifying spending billions of dollars on it. By the same reasoning, all Northern Virginia residents have a stake in whether this trail is designed well.  That’s why it’s so important that you speak up.

This trail is unlikely to be rebuilt for 40 years.

This is our only chance to get it right. That’s why your help is urgently needed.


Live in Fairfax County?

Take action!


Here’s how to get involved:

  1. If you live in Fairfax County, tell your County Supervisor that you expect them to stand up for your interests, and ensure that public money is spent responsibly! They should be pushing VDOT to design a trail people will want to use. Click here to ask that the trail design be improved.
  2. Keep the pressure on the VDOT trail design team by attending one (or all) of the public hearings in November:
    November 13 at Oakton High School
    November 14 at Stone Middle School
    November 16 at Piney Branch Elementary School
  3. Send your comments directly to the VDOT project team. Email Transform66@VDOT.Virginia.gov
  4. Volunteer with WABA. In November, we’ll be prepping for the November meetings and getting the word out to those who walk and bike in Northern Virginia. Will you pitch in? (If you’re interested in helping out, email katie.harris@waba.org)

We know VDOT can do better than this, and we’re excited to see what they’re ready to share at the November meetings. We only have a few chances to make this major piece of infrastructure (22 miles of trail!) a success. Let’s make sure it’s done right.

The Beach Drive rebuild moves north

(read our last Rock Creek update here.)

We’re nearly a year into the reconstruction of Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Park Trail. In total, this will be a 3.7 mile trail rebuild, but it’s broken into four segments.

Let’s take a look at the status of the project, and what’s on the horizon for the months ahead.

Segment 1 (Shoreham Drive to Tilden Street/Park Road) was completed on August 28, 2017.

This segment includes a repaved and widened trail alongside Beach Drive and the (slight) widening of the sidewalk within the Zoo tunnel.

Rock Creek Conservancy and National Park Service threw a block party on the newly completed segment. It was great to experience the fresh pavement (on both the trail and road) without cars! The event was a great reminder of how important (and fun!) Open Streets events are, and we’re pleased to see National Park Service gave people a chance to enjoy this new space before letting the cars back onto it.

Take note—the trail that goes through the Zoo property (that allows trail users to bypass the tunnel) will be reconstructed by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in a subsequent phase. It’s still in bad shape right now, but there are plans in motion to reconstruct that segment.

Segments 2 and 3 are now closed to all traffic.

Beach Drive is now closed from Park Road/Tilden Street NW to Joyce Road NW (immediately south of Military Road NW). Originally planned to be addressed as two separate phases, both segments 2 and 3 will close at the same time so that work can begin concurrently on both.

The bicycle and pedestrian detour for these segments are Ross Drive and Ridge Road, which will be completely closed to cars until Fall 2018. And just like Segment 1, it’s important that people biking and walking stay out of the active construction zone on Beach Drive!

These segments of construction will impact the portion of the road that is usually closed to cars on weekends. That means that on the weekend, bicyclists will only be able to ride on Beach Drive from Joyce Road north to the Maryland line, but Ross and Ridge will be alternatives to Beach Drive to connect further south.

WABA has been advocating for this project for decades. More than 2500 WABA supporters demanded the rehabilitation get back on track in 2014, and many have fought for years prior to prioritize this project with NPS and other relevant agencies.

DDOT will tackle the trail sections through Rose Park, northwest of Rock Creek (the trail on the Zoo property), a new bridge across Rock Creek near the Zoo, and a trail extension on Piney Branch Parkway. DDOT’s anticipated construction start is Summer 2018 and the approximate cost of construction is about 11 million.

You can find more information about DDOT’s plans here: https://ddot.dc.gov/page/rock-creek-park-multi-use-trail-rehabilitation-project

If you want more info, visit the project website: go.nps.gov/beachdrive

Paul Meijer Tulip Garden Dedication on the Met Branch Trail


The Metropolitan Branch Trail has been in development for a long time—since the mid ‘80s. Riding or walking on the trail, it’s easy to forget the three decades of work that it took to bring it to its current (partly) complete state.

This beloved trail is only as successful as it is today because of dedicated individuals pushing the project from vision to reality. Since the beginning, one of the Met Branch Trail’s “super-advocates” has been Paul Meijer. WABA and the Capital Trails Coalition recently honored him with a dedication of the tulip garden near the Rhode Island Ave. Metro station.

The tulip garden was built in November 2014 and pays homage to Paul’s Dutch roots. Last Saturday, we spiffed up the garden, adorned it with a plaque and held a dedication ceremony with Paul’s friends, family and other Met Branch Trail champions.

After a spring of growth, the garden needed a little love before it was photo ready. The WABA Trail Ranger team joined with Friends of Edgewood and Gearin’ Up to remove grass & weeds, and reshape the boxwood into “MBT.” Tulip bulbs remain undisturbed in the soil – ready to flower next spring.

While Paul was unable to attend the ceremony, his children and grandchildren were present and brought back a recording of the event to share with him. Paul was 95 years old and passed away the day after the dedication ceremony.

Many thanks to the DC Trail Rangers, Friends of Edgewood Gearin’ Up Bicycles, and citizen volunteers for cleaning up the tulip garden and trail. Thanks also to the Carlos Rosario School who joined us on the trail (which runs through their “backyard”) and spoke to the importance of the trail to their school community.

Paul’s relentless work over three decades with countless others brought the trail from dream to reality. We owe him our gratitude for his dedication to the Met Branch Trail, and we hope that the garden inspires other super- advocates for projects across the region!

Fairfax County Advocacy Updates

There are a few big projects in Fairfax County that we’re working on this month that you should know about:

The I-66 Trail

Thanks to the hard work of a number of advocates, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is extending the Custis Trail from Dunn Loring to Centreville as part of the Transform I-66 project, but the designs we’ve seen don’t look good. In many sections, the trail is squeezed between the highway and the sound barrier, which limits access and makes for an extremely unpleasant trail experience.

Like this, but without the grass. Doesn’t that look fun?

VDOT needs to hear that this design is not good enough.

The agency is hosting three meetings next week, if you’d like to tell the project managers that the design needs to be improved.

Monday, June 12, 2017
6-8:30 p.m. A brief presentation will be held at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A session.
Oakton High School Cafeteria
2900 Sutton Road, Vienna, VA 22181

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
6-8:30 p.m. A brief presentation will be held at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A session.
Stone Middle School Cafeteria
5500 Sully Park Drive, Centreville, VA 20120

Thursday, June 15, 2017
6-8:30 p.m. A brief presentation will be held at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A session.
Piney Branch Elementary School Cafeteria/Gym
8301 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA 20136

You can find more information about the Transform I-66 project here.

Support Bike Lanes on Rose Hill Drive:

Despite having almost no impact on parking or existing travel lanes, the County has received vocal pushback to proposed bike lanes on Rose Hill Drive.

The comment period is open until June 19, so share your support for bike lanes in Fairfax today: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/bike/rosehillbikelanes2017.htm

Also some good news: Have you seen Fairfax County’s new bike map?

You can obtain a free copy of the print version of this map at a variety of locations around the County, or you can see the online version here.

You can provide feedback, too! If you have input or feedback on the map, give the bike team a call at 703-324-BIKE (2453).

What’s the Status of the Rock Creek Park Trail Reconstruction?

We’re eight months into the reconstruction of Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Park Trail. In total, this will be a 3.7 mile trail reconstruction, but it’s broken into four segments. Let’s take a look at the status of the project, and what’s on the horizon for this summer and fall.

Beach Drive and Rock Creek Park Trail Reconstruction. Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Segment 1 (Shoreham Drive to Tilden Street/Park Road) will be completed mid-late summer. This segment includes a repaved and widened trail alongside Beach Drive and the (slight) widening of the sidewalk within the Zoo tunnel.

Take note- the trail that goes through the Zoo property (that allows trail users to bypass the tunnel) will be reconstructed by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in a subsequent phase. It’s still in bad shape right now, but there are plans in motion to reconstruct that segment.

Immediately following completion of Segment 1, Beach Drive will close from Park Road/Tilden Street NW to Joyce Road NW (immediately south of Military Road NW). Originally planned to be addressed as two separate phases, both segments 2 and 3 will close at the same time so that work can begin concurrently on both.

Just like Segment 1, bike and pedestrian access will be maintained while the road is closed for Segments 2 and 3. And just like Segment 1, it’s important that people biking and walking stay out of the active construction zone.

WABA has been advocating for this project for decades. More than 2500 WABA supporters demanded the rehabilitation get back on track in 2014, and many have fought for years prior to prioritize this project with NPS and other relevant agencies.

DDOT will tackle the trail sections through Rose Park, northwest of Rock Creek (the trail on the Zoo property), a new bridge across Rock Creek near the Zoo, and a trail extension on Piney Branch Parkway. DDOT’s trail construction will start after Federal Highway Administration (FHWA, the lead agency on the Beach Drive segments) is done with their work.

If you want more info, visit the project website: go.nps.gov/beachdrive