The Arboretum Bridge and Trail is a once-in-a-lifetime connection

UPDATE: The comment period for this project has been extended to July 31. We encourage you to share your thoughts with the project team! Give your opinion on the Arboretum Bridge and Trail by emailing stacee@tbaconnects.com before July 31.

Rendering courtesy of DDOT and NPS.

The Arboretum Bridge and Trail is a project that will connect Wards 5 and 7 in DC for people who walk and bike. It is an incredible opportunity to improve access to some of the District’s most unique outdoor places, and it’s an important step to a better connection across the Anacostia River for everyone.

This project is one of the final pushes in a much larger vision called the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. Started in 2003, this initiative created the blueprint for the Anacostia River Trail, which is nearly complete. This bridge will be one of the final segments in the larger plan.

Connection is the main focus of this project. Currently, to cross the river without this bridge, people have to travel from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens either 1.5 miles south, to Benning Road, or 2.5 miles north, to the pedestrian bridge at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. These distances make it impractical and difficult for residents of Eastland Gardens, Kenilworth or Deanwood to walk or bike across the Anacostia River. It’s important that we aren’t placing an undue burden on the communities adjacent to the trails if they are trying to cross the river.

National Park Service and DDOT have revisited and modified the plans for the bridge to accommodate the concerns of the rowing community, and maintain the navigability of the deepest part of the channel. While the compromises made have slowed the project a bit, we think that the redesigned bridge is a winning design that serves all users.

Support the Arboretum Bridge and Trail!

Prince George’s County Has A New Countywide Trail Plan

Last month, Prince George’s County’s Planning Board adopted a new plan to improve, greatly expand and better care for the county’s network of paved off-street trails. The plan is an important step towards better trails and more options for getting around by bike in the region.

Prince George’s County has some of the most popular and well-connected trails in the region. The Anacostia Tributary Trails, the Washington Baltimore & Annapolis Trail, and the Henson Creek Trail are fantastic. But those trails only reach a subset of the county and need substantial attention to meet increasing demand. Residents in Largo, Oxon Hill, and Glenarden rightfully want a trail near them that links into a broader network. They want safe, reliable options for getting around without a car, and they see new trails as the obvious choice. These are some of the many issues the new plan tackles.

 

The Strategic Trails Plan lays out a new vision for what the county’s trail system could and should be. It proposes an interconnected, countywide network of high-quality trails that link parks, major destinations, and neighborhoods. The plan calls for 250 new miles of primary trails and a feeder network of secondary trails to bring convenient trail and park access for 300,000 more county residents. The future network will encourage walking and biking by creating safe, convenient, and connected routes.

Kids riding along a trail on the Anacostia Tributary Trails System in Prince George’s County.

Prince George’s County doesn’t currently reward folks who travel by bike with safe, protected, dedicated infrastructure. In fact, in many places, the roads discourage and punish people who get around without a car.

But this plan changes that. The vision is a connected county that is easy to navigate by foot and by bike. To achieve that vision, the Department of Parks & Recreation needs to make significant changes to its approach to planning and managing trails. The plan identifies a comprehensive roadmap of strategic investments, policy changes and new programs to support existing trails and develop new ones.

The county will need more dedicated funding, additional staff, new partnerships with state and local land stakeholders, and a new, proactive approach to fix trail problems before issues become irreversible. But the payoff—a connected county that encourages active transportation—is more than worth it.

There is a lot of work to do, but for the first time, Prince George’s County has a countywide vision and a roadmap to implement it. And WABA, the Capital Trails Coalition, and the broader community of trail advocates are ready to help make it happen!

Click here to see the approved network map and read the full plan.

Connecting Virginia and DC via the Long Bridge

2018 has been quite the year for mobility in the region. We’ve seen some highs and some lows — the rise of scooters and e-bikes (CaBi plus is fire…) has been pretty great for the region. For lows, well…Vision Zero hasn’t exactly gone super well and, of course, the all too frequent Metro shutdowns have really not been good.

And yeah, there are too many cars doing terrible things. Like killing and maiming people.

But, sneaking in during the last month is some surprising and absolutely necessary news — we are going to get a dedicated bike and pedestrian bridge from Long Bridge Park in Arlington east to DC.

Make no mistake, the Long Bridge Project represents a once in a generation opportunity to transform our regional transportation network by adding freight and passenger rail capacity, connecting major regional bicycle and pedestrian trails and providing new, direct links to two of the fastest growing areas of our region.

Regional density is increasing and roads are becoming more crowded. Demand for non-motorized modes of transportation that are safe, accessible and convenient to employment hubs is on the rise, too. Long Bridge could be an answer, resulting in a better connected regional trail network.

So, what does this new crossing actually look like?

Well, we don’t know yet.

A few facts:

  • The existing Long Bridge, built in 1904, requires significant upgrades in order to meet rail capacity projected in the coming years;
  • It is significantly less expensive — both in dollars and environmentally — to keep the existing span and build another rail bridge upstream;
  • To mitigate (called 4(f) mitigation) any existing impacts to National Park Service (NPS) land, the project team will have to design and build a bike/pedestrian bridge upstream of the proposed rail bridge (in between the existing rail bridge and WMATA’s yellow line);
  • Current plans call for connecting Long Bridge Park to the south to East Potomac Park to the north — and we don’t know exactly what the connection will look like in DC;
  • We still have a long way to go until this is built (current plans are shooting for 2025) and there is no project sponsor — so, we don’t know who will own this bridge.

What will the bike/ped bridge look like?

This is the million dollar question. Currently, the bridge is slotted in between the proposed upstream rail bridge (passenger rail) and Metrorail’s Yellow Line. As you can see in the image below, we don’t have more detailed renderings (or a proper design) yet. This will be particularly important for users moving between points south and the District, as the plans don’t take people all the way to Maine Avenue (and to L’Enfant), but would drop people off just north of Ohio Drive. That’s not ideal — and will require DDOT to upgrade the existing network to safely move people over East Potomac Park into the city.

Where do we go from here?

There is a lot of work that needs to be done to get this project over the finish line. Notably, nobody really knows who will own the bridge (let alone pay for the bridge). That’s important. Bottom line: without building the next upstream bridge, there will be no bike/ped bridge. The project steps below (from DDOT’s presentation) show that until pen goes to paper in Spring 2020, this project is still in flux. So, we will have a lot of work to do to make sure that this project stays on course.

Image from Long Bridge Public Meeting on Nov. 29.

So, there you go. We have lots of meetings and conversations (with Federal Railroad Administration, CSX, VDOT and DDOT) to determine exactly what is ahead. There will be lots of opportunities for public input (especially after the draft Environmental Impact Statement happens in Summer 2019).

Stay tuned. There is so much work left to do, but right now things are looking good for those of us moving between Virginia and the District.

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

Take a trail!

Bike to Work Day is a great opportunity to add a few extra beautiful, safe miles to your commute on a local trail. Or if this is your first time biking to work in a while (or ever?!), check out Google Maps biking directions or a paper bike map to see if your safest commute takes you on a trail.

The Washington DC region is fortunate to have an extensive network of trails that allow a near seamless off-street ride for much of your trip.  For a new bike commuter, trails alleviate many concerns of riding with car traffic and can simplify finding a route through the web of streets. For the regular commuter, trails are the expressways of bike infrastructure, offering direct routes that pass over and around busy intersections from as far as Vienna, Alexandria, Bethesda, Silver Spring and College Park.

Where these trails end, they often connect to streets with bike infrastructure like bike lanes and even protected bike lanes (cycletracks) which form a network of bike-friendly routes.  If you are an infrequent rider, these will make getting to work a little less stressful. Consult the Google Maps bicycling layer to find a route or join one of the BTWD Commuter Convoys that follow trails.

Sign up 

Dark green lines are trails on on the map are trails. Light green lines are on-street bike lanes.

Regardless of your experience biking to work, Bike to Work Day is the perfect time to try out a trail near you. With pit stops on or near many trails, you’ll find plenty of company and ample opportunities to exchange congratulatory high fives when you pick up your BTWD shirt. Below are some of the most popular trails with pit stops nearby.

Anacostia River Trail: South Capitol St to Benning Rd on both sides of the Anacostia River, and continuing north to Cottage City, MD

  • Anacostia at Martin Luther King Jr Ave & Good Hope Rd SE
  • Canal Park at M St & 2nd St SE

Capital Crescent Trail: Bethesda to Georgetown

  • Downtown Bethesda at Reed St.
  • Georgetown Waterfront Park at K St & Wisconsin Ave NW

Custis Trail: I-66 to Rosslyn

  • Rosslyn at the Rosslyn Gateway Park

Metropolitan Branch Trail: Ft. Totten to Union Station

  • Edgewood at Rhode Island Ave NE
  • NoMa at First St & Pierce St NE

Mount Vernon Trail: Mt. Vernon to Rosslyn

  • Old Town Alexandria at Fairfax Dr & King St
  • Crystal City Water Park

Washington & Old Dominion Trail: Purcellville to Shirlington Village

  • Merrifield at Sandburg St
  • Falls Church at Grove Ave
  • Falls Church at East Falls Church Metro

The Capital Trails Coalition

In October 2016, WABA, along with REI, the National Park Service, and many other regional partners announced the launch of a new 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. Read our blog post about the launch event here, and more info here. The Trails Coalition has a powerful vision: The Capital Trails Coalition seeks to create a world-class network of multi-use trails that are equitably distributed throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan region. The regional trails network will transform public life by providing healthy, low-stress access to open space and reliable transportation for people of all ages and abilities.

Check out the Coalition’s homepage for more info and updates on the new Capital Trails Coalition.

Don’t forget to sign up for Bike to Work Day: especially if you bike every day. This is the one day of the year to be counted (literally). Have a great Bike to Work Day.

Event: Bike to Work Day
Date: Friday, May 19th, 2017
Location: Find your pit stop here. There are 86 pit stops across the region.
Time: Various times, but most pit stops are open from about 6:30am to 9:30am. Some are afternoon stops.
Cost: FREE! Don’t forget to register.
More Info: waba.org/aboutbiketoworkday

 

Sign up » 

Meet the Capital Trails Coalition!

WABA is thrilled to announce an initiative we’ve been hard at work on for the past year.

On Thursday, Oct. 13 we will stand with our partners along the Mount Vernon Trail to announce the creation of the Capital Trails Coalition, 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.

In addition, the Capital Trails Coalition continually works to identify trail funding, broaden the base of support, and cultivate widespread consensus that a capital trail network is a regional priority.

As more and more people rely on bicycles to get where they’re going, it’s important to ensure that our bike network is connected, easy to use, and easy to navigate.

WABA is proud to serve as a partner in the Capital Trails Coalition. We are committed to the vision of a completed regional trail network and are very, very excited to have such a powerhouse team of agencies, nonprofits and corporate partners to work with.

The Coalition has been meeting regularly since the 2015 Trails Symposium last November and has made tremendous progress, including establishing a steering committee, three working groups, developing governance structures and a graphic identity. We have begun the gritty work of defining the trails system and establishing criteria for inclusion in the network.

But there is a lot to be done! And we are excited to share the news of the Coalition’s formation so that we can begin talking to the public about the trail network and garnering feedback and input.

For more information, and to sign up for updates, visit capitaltrailscoalition.org.