Public Meeting for the WB&A Trail Bridge!

Do you know about the bridge across the Patuxent River that will connect the two pieces of the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis (WB&A) Trail?

Well, it’s going to be amazing. AND it’s one step closer to reality!

Anne Arundel County’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Department of Recreation & Parks will host a public meeting to discuss the WB&A Trail Bridge at Patuxent River Capital Project.

What: WB&A Trail Bridge Public Meeting (more info)

When: Wednesday, February 13, 6 pm

Where: Two Rivers Community Center/Clubhouse, 1425 Two Rivers Blvd, Odenton, MD 21113

Submit written comments: Email Dawn Thomas (rpthom00@aacounty.org)

The WB&A Trail has a gorgeous segment in Anne Arundel County, and an equally fantastic portion in Prince George’s County. But the trail is cut apart by a significant barrier—the Patuxent River.

At Patuxent River Park looking over the gap into Anne Arundel County, MD.

Last year, the project was awarded $4.7M, proving that the bridge was a priority for Maryland. The WB&A Trail has been a WABA priority for decades, and this funding commitment was an important win.

The trail bridge will be located south of Conway Road in Odenton and will connect the two trail segments. And it’s not just about local connectivity—this link will be a component of national trails, like the East Coast Greenway and American Discovery Trail!

Is the WB&A Trail along MD 704 feasible? Study says YES

A critical gap in the region’s trail network is closer to completion! Prince George’s County took a big step forward on the WB&A (Washington Baltimore & Annapolis) Trail by publishing a feasibility study of a trail extension along Martin Luther King Jr. Highway (also known as MD-704) to connect the existing WB&A Trail to DC.

Rendering courtesy of Wallace Montgomery and Prince George’s County.

A 12-mile rail-trail in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties, the WB&A Trail is already one of the region’s great recreation and transportation trails. Along the tree-lined route, the trail rises over and tunnels under major highways, connecting neighborhoods, parks, schools and jobs.

But the trail is far from complete.

The trail ends miles from DC’s northeast border and remains isolated from the rest of the DC trail network. Extending the trail to DC would fill a substantial gap in the regional trail network (in fact, the trail would go all the way across Prince George’s County!), creating safe walking and biking options for the communities along the corridor. That’s one reason why the trail has been at or near the top of the Prince George’s County’s Bicycle and Pedestrian transportation funding priorities since 2011!

The WB&A Trail was converted from an old railroad. Unfortunately, planners didn’t make the entire rail corridor into a trail—some was converted into a highway. That highway is Martin Luther King Jr. Highway (MLK Highway), a straight shot from the trail’s southern terminus to the DC line.

WB&A in Green, trail extension in Red

MLK Highway was built to move cars quickly, making the corridor a hostile place for people biking and walking. Despite close proximity to neighborhoods, schools, parks and stores, sidewalks are missing on more than half of the 6.5 mile corridor. Wide intersections make safely crossing the street challenging even where crosswalks and traffic lights are present. It’s a stressful place to bike and walk, so few people do it.

MLK Highway is a 6-8 lane speedway. Building a trail alongside it would make it accessible to people outside of cars.

That’s exactly why WABA, together with Prince George’s County, Oxon Hill Bike and Trail Club, the Capital Trails Coalition and many others are working to change MLK Highway. This major highway is the only connection between dozens of communities, and we strongly believe it should be a safe place to bike and walk.

With a new multi-use trail, MLK Highway could transform from a barrier that separates communities into a safe, inviting corridor that unifies them with new options for getting around.

And the neighbors would benefit tremendously from a safe place to bike and walk along MLK Highway! The corridor has 16 parks and recreation centers, five schools, two libraries, and over 30 places of worship all within a half mile of MLK Highway.

WABA has been with this project from day one. We’ve been leading rides on the trail and on MLK Highway, meeting with elected officials along the corridor, supporting the planning department, researching the economic effects of extending the trail, and organizing trail advocates across the county.

A WABA-led ride on the WB&A! Here we are at Mile 0.

The feasibility study identified places along the corridor that have plenty of room for a multi-use trail, and other areas that are more challenging (based on physical and engineering constraints). The study gives us solid footing, and helps all partners understand what the hurdles will be as the vision for this trail and a path towards completion takes shape.

And we’ll continue to be involved, because closing this gap in the trail network is critical to WABA’s mission. A feasibility study is a significant milestone, but we’ve got lots of work to do before we’re safely riding a completed WB&A Trail.

Want to get involved in this project?

Join neighbors and advocates to build momentum and support for a new 704 trail. Sign up below!

I want to support the WB&A!





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!





Speak up for a bridge across the Patuxent River!

The Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Trail (WB&A) is a 12-mile rail trail in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County. It’s a wonderful trail- except for one critical gap.

The trail has no connection over the Patuxent River. No bridge means the two segments of the trail are totally disconnected. It’s a critical gap that stands in the way of what could be an incredible trail experience.

But, with your help, that could change! Anne Arundel County has proposed a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the river. Please sign the petition to show your support!

Why is the connection important? With the bridge, the trail could connect communities on either side of the river to jobs, retail, parks, amenities, and much more.

Why is this significant, regionally? The WB&A Trail is not a stand-alone project. It’s an important piece of a handful of regional and national trails, including the East Coast Greenway, the American Discovery Trail, and the September 11th National Memorial Trail. It’s also a key spoke of a network being defined by the Capital Trails Coalition, a collaborative effort to connect the regional trail network in the Washington, DC region.

Where are we in the process? Anne Arundel County is considering three alternatives (a no-build alternative and two build alternatives) and accepting public comments. From that point, the county will move into the initial design of the bridge, which will allow the counties to pursue funding to complete the design work and construction.

Patuxent River bicycle and pedestrian bridge- Alternative #2

Patuxent River bicycle and pedestrian bridge- Alternative #3

What are the two build alternatives? There is a northern and a southern option.

Alternative #2 is the northern option. It is the shortest distance and the most direct route. During the initial assessment, the County noted this alternative will have the least negative environmental impact, although the approach to the bridge will be a bit steeper than Alternative #3.

Alternative #3 uses a previously cleared segment on the Anne Arundel County side of the river, and would include building a longer section of trail to approach the bridge. The bridge would cross into Prince George’s County a bit further south than Alternative #2. The County anticipates a larger environmental impact, and would require that easements from an adjacent homeowners’ association be secured. Both of these factors could slow the process down.

How else can I take action? WABA will submit the petition signatures to Anne Arundel County before the deadline, but if you’d like to dive deeper with your comments, you’re welcome to send your thoughts directly to the county, using this form.

When is the deadline for submitting comments? The deadline is April 17.

Did you know? The WB&A Trail is one of WABA’s advocacy priorities. You can learn more about our continuing work on the development of the trail here.

April Advocacy Roundup

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VA Dooring Bill Signed into Law

Brief Explanation: SB 117 requires drivers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic. A violation constitutes a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $50. Getting “doored” is an all too common cause of crashes between bikes and cars, often resulting in severe injury to the bicyclist.

Current Status: Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of Virginia residents, advocates, and legislators, SB 117, the “dooring” bill, passed both the Virginia House and Senate. On April 1, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law.

Funding for Complete Streets in Alexandria

Brief Explanation: Alexandria’s Complete Streets program is key to the city’s strategic objectives — protecting the safety of residents, building a multi-modal transportation network, enhancing the health of citizens, and supporting the wellbeing of our youth and children.  Last year, the program delivered nearly $1.5 M in safety fixes for intersections, schools and neighborhood streets. But if the city’s proposed budget is enacted as-is, funding for the Complete Streets program will be reduced to about 1/3 of it’s current budget in FY17. This will have direct negative impacts to the safety and well-being of Alexandria residents and visitors.

Current Status: After years of neglect, the city is to be commended for more than doubling the Street Reconstruction (Paving) budget, from $2.6M in FY14 to $5.6M in FY16 and proposed for $5.3M in FY17. But by not providing commensurate funds for Complete Streets, the city is prioritizing the convenience of motorists over the safety of people who walk and bike. WABA members and supporters have weighed in on this issue and we will have more updates after we see the final budget.

Update Arlington’s Bike Plan

Brief Explanation: Arlington’s bike plan is obsolete. It was written in 2007, when sharrows were the most exciting development in bike infrastructure.  It predates protected bike lanes, Capital Bikeshare and Vision Zero. Implementation of many of the projects called for in the plan have faced significant citizen opposition, because the plan lacked the robust, inclusive public process that is needed to generate consensus and support.

Current Status: Earlier this month, hundreds of Arlington residents sent in comments asking that the County update the Transportation Master Plan’s Bicycle element in the coming fiscal year. While specific funding was not identified in the 2017 budget, the County Board did make updating the plan a clear priority for staff in the coming year. We will continue pushing for robust public engagement as staff approach the planning process.


MARYLAND

A New Campaign for Montgomery County: Create the Silver Spring Circle

Brief Explanation: With the dense mix of transit, offices, entertainment, shops and homes, Silver Spring should be a paradise for walking and biking. But it’s not. Due to high speed traffic and a lack of dedicated space for bikes on the busy streets in downtown Silver Spring, most residents don’t feel safe biking in the road.  The Silver Spring Circle would trade excess road space for protected bike lanes, creating a connected, low-stress bike network in downtown Silver Spring.

Actions to Take: Come to the Campaign kickoff May 14th. Sign the petition to create the Silver Spring Circle.


Washington D.C.

Greg Kenyan McDuffie Tamara

Contributory Negligence

Brief Explanation: Contributory Negligence is an antiquated legal doctrine that limits bicyclists access to justice and compensation after a crash with a motor vehicle. The District of Columbia is a national outlier, as it is one of only five states that still use contributory negligence to allocate fault. The vast majority of states have updated their negligence standard to a fairer system.

Current Status: On April 21st, the Judiciary Committee voted 3-0 to move the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act out of committee and recommended it for consideration by the full D.C. Council. The bill will now be considered by the full DC Council when it meets as the Committee of the Whole sometime before summer recess. It needs seven votes to pass the Council, and the Mayor’s signature to become law.

Action to Take: Sign up to receive action alerts about opportunities for further public comment and testimony as they arise. We’ll need everyone’s involvement to get this across the finish line.

L St and Safe Accommodations

Brief Explanation: The L Street protected bike lane is a key part of the city’s transportation infrastructure. Following its completion in 2013, bike ridership on L Street exploded, increasing 65 percent within the lane’s first year of installation. The 1500 block section is a particularly important piece of the network because it intersects with the protected bike lanes on 15th Street and M Street.

Current Status: A permit issued to Carr Properties for the old Washington Post building site construction completely eliminates the protected bike lane and the sidewalk on the north side of the street, while leaving two vehicle lanes open. For more than two years, the publicly accessible portions of L Street will consist of a 13 foot motor vehicle lane (with sharrows) an 11 foot motor vehicle lane (formerly used for parking) and the southern sidewalk.

Action to Take: Report suspected violations of the Safe Accommodations Act to District Department of Transportation (DDOT) staff at the Public Space Regulation Administration. They will ask for information on the location, entity occupying public space (e.g. Pepco, Ft. Myer, etc.), and a brief description of what you encountered.  Photos of the location are especially helpful.

15th Street Bike Lane Connections at the White House

Ramparoo! New Paint and ramps make it easier to bike through Lafayette Park on segment of the 15th Street protected bike lane.

Brief Explanation: Thanks to some hard work by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and a bit of prodding by WABA, navigating past the White House on the 15th Street bikeway just got a little easier. DDOT, in collaboration with the National Park Service (which oversees the property) and the Secret Service (which is in charge of security for the area), installed new paint and curb ramps at the intersection of H St NW and Madison Pl NW.


TRAILS

The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail—Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Segment

Brief Explanation: Construction of the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Segment  is in full swing, and expected to be completed by this fall. This 4-mile segment fills a gap from Benning Road to Bladensburg Waterfront  completing an almost 70-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian trails on the Anacostia River and its tributaries.  It includes boardwalk sections that meander around trees and wetlands in the Aquatic Gardens and other National Park lands.

As it passes through the Mayfair and Parkside communities, the trail travels on widened sidewalks and protected bike lanes, linking these neighborhoods to more than 40 miles of trail, numerous schools, businesses, libraries, museums, shopping centers and transit stations. 

Parkview bike lane 1

Current Status: The protected bike lane is one of the first to be developed in Ward 7, and it is nearly completed.  Extensive public outreach was done during the years of planning from 2004 to 2014. Unfortunately, some neighbors of the project have complained about the loss of the parking in front of their townhouses and are asking the city to remove the protected bike lane on Hayes St.  

Action to take: Residents of Ward 7 who want more safe places to walk and bike in their neighborhoods should contact their government officials at DDOT and the City Council to speak up in favor this and future projects.

Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail

Brief Explanation: WABA has been working for more than two decades on making the vision of a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring a reality. The Purple Line will make substantial improvements to a portion of that route, transforming the Georgetown Branch Trail segment into a safe, viable transportation and recreation connection between two of the county’s hubs of activity (Bethesda and Silver Spring).

Current Status: Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved a contract for a team of companies to build, operate and maintain the Purple Line, a 16-mile transit line that will link the Red, Green, and Orange lines in the Maryland suburbs. We will continue to track progress on the development of the trail, and will keep you informed along the way.

Met Branch Trail

Brief Explanation: When completed, the MBT will be a 8-mile multi use trail from Union Station in the District to Silver Spring, MD. The finished segment we have today is the result of more than 25 years of  steadfast effort from committed residents, advocates, and planners through a lengthy public process. But we aren’t there quite yet.

Current Status: There are two segments that MCDOT is currently engaged in. From the Maryland line to the Silver Spring Transit Center, the designs look good, with one exception: the B&O train station just off of Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Montgomery Preservation Inc (MPI), the nonprofit that controls this site, has spent years resisting proposed solutions, rejecting compromise design alternatives, and declining the County’s attempts to compensate them for the space the trail requires.

Action to Take:  Sign up to receive updates and action alerts from WABA about the Met Branch Trail.

Rock Creek Park Trail

Brief Explanation:  The Rock Creek Park Trail is in deplorable condition. Since 2014 when 2,500 WABA members and supporters signed a petition demanding action to rehabilitate the trial, a lot of work has been done. Over the next three years, the trail and beach drive will be completely reconstructed and improved.

Current Status: The funding is allocated, the engineering designs are complete and construction contracts are issued. We anticipate construction starting any day now. Beach Drive will be fully rebuilt and repaved over the next two years. It will be a long construction project but the road will a last another 50 years. 

Stay tuned for a more comprehensive update on this trail in coming weeks.

Washington Baltimore and Annapolis Trail

Brief Explanation: The Washington Baltimore & Annapolis trail (WB&A) is a paved multi-use trail that runs from Maryland Route 450 in Prince George’s County to the Patuxent River at the border of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties. Efforts are underway to extend the WB&A trail north-eastward over the Patuxent River and toward the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Current Status: WABA released a report that provides a preliminary analysis of extending the current WB&A trail in the opposite direction: southwestward to connect with the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail (ART) at the Washington, DC border. Extending the WB&A trail to the ART at the Maryland/Washington DC border would provide analogous trail connectivity for a large area of central Prince George’s County serving residents and visitors.


Meet Advocates in Your Neighborhood

Vasa 2016

All across the region great people are working to fix our streets to make biking safe and popular. They meet each month to share ideas and work together for better places and more reason to bike. Whether you’re looking for a fun group, a new cause, or a wonky policy discussion, our Action Committees have it covered.

Click here to see what we’re doing in your community and join us for the next meeting.

We’re fine tuning the way this monthly(ish) update works, so if you have thoughts on how to make this information more useful, send a note to communications@waba.org.

REPORT: Extending the WB&A Trail

WBA Trail Economic Analysis Cover2

WABA and BikeMaryland are pleased to announce the release of an exciting report by Jeff Lemieux (our 2016 Advocate of the Year) and Nolan O’Toole. Extending the WB&A Trail from MD450 to Washington, DC provides an economic analysis of the benefits of this critical connection in our regional trail network.

The Washington Baltimore & Annapolis trail (WB&A) is a paved multi-use trail that runs from Maryland Route 450 in Prince George’s County to the Patuxent River at the border of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties. Efforts are underway to extend the WB&A trail north-eastward over the Patuxent River and toward the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

This report provides a preliminary analysis of extending the current WB&A trail in the opposite direction: southwestward to connect with the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail (ART) at the Washington, DC border. By 2016, the ART will be a continuous trail system connecting the Washington, DC riverfront with the extensive Anacostia Tributary Trail System in northern Prince George’s County. Extending the WB&A trail to the ART at the Maryland/Washington DC border would provide analogous trail connectivity for a large area of central Prince George’s County serving residents and visitors.

Download the full report.

A Path Forward for the WB&A Trail

The Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail (WB&A) in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties promises to be everything that a first class rail trail can be. Following the path of an abandoned commuter rail line of the same name, the WB&A cuts a remarkably linear route through woods and suburban neighborhoods from Glenn Dale to Odenton, MD. And while officials have been struggling for more than 15 years over the best place to cross the Patuxent River (another story), the bridge and tunnel bypasses already built make the trail a delightful reprieve from riding in traffic. Looking to the future, the WB&A could become the eastern spoke of the Washington area’s robust trail network. Just over 10 discontinuous miles of trails are already built; the hard work remains to connect it to other trails and the District of Columbia.

Give it a destination.  Extend the WB&A

Starting at the eastern trail terminus in Prince George’s County, today, the trail covers 5.6 miles to… well not much.  At Annapolis Road (MD 450), the trail ends, falling short of the District of Columbia line by nearly seven miles. At this intersection, a paved side path on Annapolis Road links to the Folly Branch trail to the north and a shopping center and Bowie Town Center to the east.  These connections are useful, but they serve better as feeders to the main trunk line rather than extensions.  To fully realize this trail’s potential as a recreation and commuter route, it needs a direct connection to the regional trail network. It must be extended west, and the first big hurdles are crossing US 50 and the Capital Beltway.

MD-704 is no place for trail traffic, but it could be

Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. (MD-704), which follows the same old rail right of way, is the best, direct link to the District of Columbia / Maryland border, but in its current configuration it is anything but ideal for trail users. With as many as eight traffic lanes, MD 704 is a divided highway with narrow to non-existent shoulders, high speed ramps to and from US-50 and the Capital Beltway, and traffic speeds that are typically 40 – 60 mph. While “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs warn drivers to expect bicyclists on the roadway, the road itself is inhospitable, dangerous, and sadly fatal for even the most confident bicyclists. Without sidewalks or convenient alternatives, the message is clear “Bike Somewhere Else.” Riding on the road should always be an option, but separated facilities are needed to accommodate and encourage trail traffic.

MD-704

Would you ride on this road? MD-704 at I-495 from Google Street View

This proposed 2.4 mile side path would provide both a place to walk and a far more welcoming alternative to riding with car traffic between the current end of the WB&A at Annapolis Road and Ardwick Ardmore Road. Once past US-50 and I-495, future trail extensions become possible.  Ultimately, it could connect to the New Carrollton Metro, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail through Cheverly, and extended to the District along MD-704 to the Marvin Gaye Trail.

Since 2008, WABA has urged the County to extend the WB&A Trail west along MD-704. Since 2011, building a trail along MD-704 has been at the top of the County’s bike and pedestrians transportation funding priorities for Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA). Now, it seems that Maryland SHA is on board, and even offering funds for planning and construction. It is time to replace this dangerous bike route with a trail.

Remind elected officials that this is important

Priority lists are one thing, action is another. For three years, we have seen progress delayed because details need to be worked out between the County, SHA, and other local agencies. Now, with SHA committed and money on the table, it is time for elected officials to step up and do their part.  Now is not the time for the back burner.

Last week, WABA sent a letter to County Executive Baker urging him to make this project a true priority, and today we ask that you do the same.  Click the link below to tell Executive Baker and Councilmember Andrewa Harrison to make improving bicycle access on MD-704 a reality.

Ask County officials to make the WB&A Trail a priority 

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

Planning to Extend the WB&A Trail in Both Directions

WABA is urging Prince Georges County to continue with plans to connect the Anacostia River Tributary Trails with the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Trail. At the annual budget hearing last week, WABA board member Jim Titus urged the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) to authorize $45,000 this year to extend the WB&A trail about 2 miles westward across US-50 and the Capital Beltway. (See map).

The WB&A Trail follows the right of way of the old WB&A railroad from the Patuxent River in Bowie to MD-450 in Lanham. MD-704 has been built along the right of way from about that point to the DC line. Many people who use the WB&A Trail would like to continue along MD-704, but doing to can be hazardous because the speed of traffic is typically 55-60 mph, and there is no shoulder along MD-704 until one crosses to the other side of US-50.

Extending the WB&A across US-50 and the Capital Beltway would immediately improve the usefulness of the trail because the Beltway is often a serious barrier to mobility. It would also provide a route to the New Carrollton Metro. On the broader scale, extending the WB&A across the Beltway is a key step toward the eventual goal of a trail between the WB&A and the Anacostia River.

Last year, Councilman Eric Olson persuaded M-NCPPC to commission a design study on how to connect the WB&A to the Anacostia River Trail. More than $125,000 was set aside for the study, whose scope of work included the following task:

Identify appropriate long-term improvements necessary for a safe and attractive bicycle and pedestrian connection(s) linking the Anacostia Trail Network with the WB&A Trail. This portion of the study should address the “big picture” of how we ultimately want to connect the Anacostia Tributaries Trails Network with the WB&A Trail over the long term. This route(s) may serve as the alignment for the East Coast Greenway and the America Discovery Trail within Prince George’s County, as well as serving as a critical east-west connection in the countywide trails network.

The winning contractor’s bid was for less than half the money—but in the end, the contractor only did half the job. The study designed a trail from the Anacostia River to New Carrollton, but not the “safe and attractive connection” between New Carrollton and the WB&A Trail. We are hoping that M-NCPPC will now complete the study—possibly using the funds that were left over from last year.

M-NCPPC’s decision to focus on the inner portion of the Anacostia to WB&A corridor is understandable, given the County’s need for safe bike routes into the District of Columbia. Yet the near-term opportunities from extending the WB&A may be just as great. This two-mile extension would probably be built by the State Highway Administration (SHA) because it will follow MD-704. It is already the county’s top bike-ped request to SHA. While SHA’s budget is down, it has not declined to the same extent as M-NCPPC‘s budget, which relies on the property tax in a county where assessment are down 40%. So this is an opportunity to leverage scarce resources to accomplish something big.

We are mindful that many of our members are especially interested in extending the WB&A Trail east into Anne Arundel County, where a 4-mile segment to Odenton has been built. Officials hope to eventually build a trail along the right of way of the WB&A’s South Shore line from Odenton to Annapolis. For the last decade the planned trail crossing over the Patuxent River has been on hold because the owners of the right of way on the Anne Arundel side of the river oppose the trail. (We offer our condolences to the family of Buz Meyer, the most prominent foe of the trail, a devoted naturalist, and community-minded environmental educator and gun safety instructor, who died last month.) Although Anne Arundel County and a developer own the land immediately next to the right of way, the County has chosen not to pursue a trail next to the right of way, for reasons it has not stated publicly. (County officials did make off-the-record statements about their thinking; but it is unclear whether those reasons are still relevant today.)

County officials have instead pursued a detour that would cross the Patuxent River about ½ mile northwest of where the trail currently reaches the river on the Maryland side. The Maryland State Highway Administration and M-NCPPC are cooperating with Anne Arundel on the detour crossing.

Rail trails almost always follow the old railroad right of way as closely as possible, unless there are unusually compelling reasons for a significant detour. Such reasons may exist in this case, but so far they have not been articulated to the public.

WABA is unlikely to play a leading role in the extension of the WB&A Trail eastward from Bowie to Odenton and beyond. Our area of advocacy includes Prince Georges County, but not Anne Arundel County. Nevertheless, we are concerned that the long-established plans of Prince George County and the City of Bowie for the trail to cross the Patuxent near the old railroad bed may be cast aside for an inferior detour, without a serious effort by local governments or the State of Maryland to engage cycling organizations in a dialogue about the alternative routes and potential costs and benefits of each option. We hope that the voices of bicycling advocates statewide, including groups like like Bike Maryland, the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and the Prince Georges Bicycle and Trail advisory Committee, will all be consulted before the state or M-NCPPC takes significant steps to move the trail’s crossing away from the railroad right of way.