It was a great day, and in the two years since WABA has returned regularly to the trail for organized rides, Bike Ambassador outreach events, safety patrols, and all sorts of activities. A lot has happened on the trail, both positive and negative.
But one thing hasn’t happened in those two years: Extension of the trail.
There have been beautification projects and races, bike rides and community events. But not another inch of asphalt has been laid to move the trail toward completing its connection between Silver Spring and Union Station.
Both the District and Montgomery County need to be held accountable for this delay. Certainly, there are challenging segments that will take more time and effort than others. But there are also less challenging ones, and those haven’t progressed either. There have been numerous funding and operational battles going on in the background to ensure that the trail continues, from getting police in the District to protect trail users to saving funding for the trail in the Montgomery County budget. And by and large, trail supporters have won those battles. But we must judge based on results. The District and Montgomery County have failed to make reasonable progress in the construction of this trail. Beyond the section that opened in June 2010, we still ride the same “interim” route as years ago.
It is time to renew our focus on the trail and to push local leaders to demand more than conversations in the conference rooms of DDOT and MCDOT. We want to see the trail grow and provide that long-awaited connection from Silver Spring to Union Station.
In the District, no one has provided a solid reason why work cannot begin immediately on the northern segment of the trail from Riggs Rd. to the Montgomery County line. Everyone understands that the center segment, with various issues to be resolved around Ft. Totten and the connector spur to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, includes a number of land usage and management challenges that the various parties (DDOT, NPS, WMATA) need to resolve. But we find no such issues on the northern segment. It needs to be done. Idleness is unacceptable.
It is no more acceptable in Montgomery County, where WABA fought to have funding for the trail restored to the budget after it was removed from County Executive Ike Leggett’s original proposal. The restoration of funding has come with no commensurate sense of urgency to put it to use, however. Despite the existence of funding and the inclusion of the trail in approved master plans, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has not even begun the design of the critical crossing of Georgia Avenue, much less initiated any form of construction. Instead, they continue to tiptoe around and negotiate with owners of the historic Silver Spring B&O Train Station, who do not want bicyclists able to travel along the master planned route, which includes an area the group currently rents as event space.
Four months after a meeting facilitated by representatives of the County Executive, we have seen no further action.
In the District and in Montgomery County, we need to renew our push for the completion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. To do that, we need to once again bolster our support and grow our coalition of individuals, groups, and businesses who believe in the importance of our trails in general, and this trail in particular.
To add your voice to the effort by contacting your local officials in support of the trail:
- CLICK HERE to contact Montgomery County leaders.
- CLICK HERE to contact District of Columbia leaders.