After more than 20 years of advocacy, the Rock Creek Park Trail is finally getting a much needed makeover! The District Department of Transportation just broke ground on the first phase of construction to rebuild and widen 3.7 miles of trail in Rock Creek Park, including a new access trail on Piney Branch Parkway and a new trail bridge south of the tunnel. This project compliments the trail rehabilitation and reconstruction of Beach Drive that finished in 2019.
Decades in the making, the improvements will be worth the wait. DDOT, in partnership with the National Park Service, is completely rebuilding the trail west of the creek. Among the highlights are:
- A new trail on Piney Branch Parkway – the well-used dirt trail alongside Piney Branch Parkway will be turned into a paved, ADA accessible trail to help neighbors east of the park safely access it. Until very recently, there was no sidewalk or low-stress bicycle connection to Beach Drive between Klingle Road and West Beach Drive at the Maryland Line.
- A new bike / ped trail bridge – a new 110 ft trail bridge will span the creek immediately south of the Zoo tunnel, a huge improvement from the current narrow sidewalk adjacent to car traffic
- Reopening the Zoo Tunnel Bypass – For decades, the trail around the tunnel has been slowly falling into the creek. (a 2013 photo)). After a large storm in 2018, three sections of this trail collapsed into the creek, forcing the closure of the tunnel bypass trail. This project will finally rebuild the creek banks and replace the trail. This work is expected to begin in 2021. Unfortunately, this fix will not change the nighttime closure that routes trail users into the tunnel because this trail is still within the National Zoo’s security perimeter and subject to it’s operating hours.
- Widening & pavement improvement – The existing 8-foot crumbling trail will be rebuilt to modern trail standards with improved foundations and drainage. Most sections will be widened to 10 feet plus a gravel shoulder except at some environmentally sensitive pinch points.
The National Park Service also recently started construction on repairs and upgrades to the 1.5 miles of trail along the Potomac River including the Rock Creek Trail south of Virginia Ave NW and the West Potomac Park Trail between Ohio Drive and the Tidal Basin inlet bridge. Both will be widened to 8-10 feet, repaved, and re-aligned for a more comfortable ride. The work includes some intersection safety improvements, more green space, and a new trail tunnel through the supports of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge for more room and comfort! Learn more here.
What to Know About Construction and Detours
Construction started in Spring 2021 and will continue through 2023 in phases. Detours for trail users will be set up and signed.
See the DDOT project page for more information and detailed detour maps for reconstruction north of Virginia Ave. DDOT made a quick video about the changes here. See the NPS project page for detour maps for reconstruction south of Virginia Ave by the Kennedy Center and Ohio Drive.