RAISE Grants fund two critical trail projects

Great news! Two of the Capital Trails Coalition’s top priority trails projects will receive $30 million in funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s extremely competitive FY22 Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program: 

The Long Bridge Bike-Ped Span

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) will receive $20M to build a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Potomac River between Long Bridge Park in Arlington, VA and East and West Potomac Parks in Washington, DC. This new bike/pedestrian span, part of the larger Long Bridge rail expansion project, will create a safer and more accessible way for residents and visitors to cross the river. This is the culmination of over a decade of advocacy alongside more than 1,400 community members like you who called on our transportation leaders to include accommodations for people who walk and bike as part of this once-in-a-generation bridge project. Early concept designs released this summer are encouraging but have room for improvement, and your support will enable WABA to continue to fight to ensure the project is sufficiently wide to ride and connected on either side.

The South Capitol Street Trail

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) was awarded $10M to move forward a 3.8 mile walking and biking trail along South Capitol Street SE in DC’s Ward 8, extending the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail network and providing a connection to the Oxon Hill Farm Trail in Prince George’s County, MD. This new trail fills a crucial gap in the low-stress network and will give residents in Ward 8 and across the region a new low-stress option for commuting and access to green spaces. WABA has been on the ground helping organize community members to call for improvements to the South Capitol Street corridor and throughout the underserved neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, and this successful grant demonstrates the power of that grassroots activism towards transportation equity.

WABA also congratulates Prince George’s County on their award of $20.5M for the New Carrollton Multi-modal Transportation System Project that will include a new train hall, sidewalks, bike lanes, enhanced signalization, and traffic calming improvements. This project will improve safety and increase accessibility for the community, improving the County’s on-street low-stress bicycle and pedestrian network. Transit-oriented development complements trails to create sustainable and walkable communities, and that future starts with bold projects like this.

While we celebrate

While we celebrate, we know there’s more work to do to keep up the momentum for continued expansion of the low-stress network. Of the nearly 900 miles of trails in the Capital Trail Network, there are still more than 400 planned miles to build. We need your support today to keep up the fight for more and better trails throughout our region. 

These grants are a huge step forward for our region’s trail network, but game-changing funding like this doesn’t happen out of the blue. Advocates like you have spoken up for these trails over and over, in petitions, emails, and public meetings. Our staff and coalition partners have worked with a tangle of state and federal agencies for more than ten years to move these projects forward. We can’t organize that support or dismantle those bureaucratic barriers without your help.

Chip in today to build out the trail network!

Let’s get the Long Bridge right.

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) shared plans for the Long Bridge Project during a public meeting on June 22nd. Those plans included a design flaw that will impact people who wish to walk or roll across the bridge: it’s not wide enough. We have two new opportunities to call for improvements to widen the design of the Long Bridge bike and pedestrian span (comments due by July 10th).

Improve the Long Bridge Bike/Ped Bridge Design for the Long-Term by:

  1. Responding to a VPRA design feedback survey.
  2. Emailing comments to the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC).

Suggested comments are at the bottom of this post.

New bridges are rare; this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to significantly improve transportation across the Potomac River, doubling rail capacity and creating new connections for people walking and biking from Long Bridge Park in Arlington, VA to East Potomac Park in DC.

The current design is 14’ wide with vertical safety barriers on either side. Though 14’ is a good design for a trail through a park, the barriers on either side narrow the effective usable width of the trail. Trail users, especially those on bikes and scooters, are often uncomfortable riding close to vertical barriers. VDOT’s trail guidelines recognize this and require a 3’ buffer between a trail and any vertical barrier. When 3’ of usable space on both sides of the trail is removed, the remaining 8’ of remaining trail space would be insufficient for the expected number of trail users, not to mention the potential growth in pedestrian traffic over time. Building a wide-enough trail from the start will avoid later difficulties and expenses associated with expanding later, such as limitations due to the width of a truss bridge.

There are currently two ways for you to weigh in: provide feedback through a survey to the project lead and share comments with the National Capital Planning Committee who will provide input on the plan. See below for suggested comments you can personalize in your response.

Call for improved design of the Long Bridge Bike/Pedestrian Bridge: 

  1. Comment on the VPRA survey asking them to correct design flaws.
  2. Email the NCPC before they review the Long Bridge Project Plan.

Suggested comments are at the bottom of this post.

WABA has been invested in the effort to build a better Long Bridge for over a decade, standing alongside the more than 1,400 community members who submitted comments on the project (read more here). Let’s seize this opportunity to ensure the Long Bridge Project meets our communities’ needs, now and into the future!

Suggested Comments: 

Include some variation of the following comments for Question #5 of the VPRA Feedback Form, as well as in an email to info@ncpc.gov, with the subject line “Comments on Long Bridge Project”

The proposed 14′ wide bike/ped bridge is too narrow. Due to the vertical barriers on each side of the trail, the usable width will be only 8-10′, too narrow for the expected volumes of bike/ped users when it opens, not to mention the increased numbers of trail users that will use the bridge in the future,

It is difficult and expensive to widen a bridge once it’s built. Instead, VPRA should build the Long Bridge for the future. For example, even though the rest of the W&OD trail is significantly narrower, the recently-built W&OD Trail Bridge over Langston Blvd features a 20′ clear width.

Given the length of the bridge, it would be difficult and slow to get emergency services to the site of a bike/ped crash on the bridge. The bridge width should recognize this hazard and strive to minimize potential conflicts by ensuring sufficient width for the expected future traffic growth.

Page 22-12 of the Draft Long Bridge EIS indicated that “The materials and dimensions of the bridge would be confirmed in a final design phase following completion of the EIS”. We must take the opportunity to call for a wider bike/ped bridge now to ensure our comments are included in the review process.

Better bridges = better bike rides

Ask people about their favorite bike rides an you’ll hear it over and over—the weeping willows along the Mount Vernon Trail, the wide open green spaces and leafy shade along the Anacostia River Trail. We love biking along our rivers. But trying to cross those rivers on a bike is a different story. Your options are limited, and all variants of one flavor: sidewalk. A couple are mostly OK, most are too narrow, at least one is terrifying. None are what you’d call 21st century bike infrastructure.

That’s all about to change. Thanks to many, many years of support from people like you, WABA has successfully advocated for a number of new and improved bridges. Here are a few of them:

Thousands of you spoke up to support the The Long Bridge. You showed up when it mattered, and now we’re on track to build a brand new, car-free bridge between DC and Arlington. We still have a lot of work to do to make sure that it gets designed well and built on time. Donate today to make sure it happens.

The Arboretum Bridge will connect two of the region’s most beloved greenspaces: the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the National Arboretum. The Anacostia River Trail opened the Aquatic Gardens to car-free visits, and this bridge will do the same for the Arboretum. Make a gift today to help us keep the pressure on!

The Frederick Douglass Bridge is mostly a highway project (boooo), but includes two great bike paths over the river. The bridge fills a gap in the Anacostia River Trail and provides a much needed bike connection between Ward 8 and downtown. Paired with the Long Bridge and recently installed protected bike lanes through Southwest DC, it also means you’ll be able to ride from the Custis, W&OD, and Mount Vernon Trails in Virginia to Anacostia Tributary Trail network in Maryland, almost entirely separated from cars. Not bad, eh

The WB&A Bridge over the Patuxent river brings us one important step closer to a continuous trail between DC and Baltimore. WABA and other advocates have been pushing for this bridge for decades. Construction starts in April. Want to ride your bike to Baltimore? Make a donation today to close the remaining gaps in the corridor

A few others to keep an eye out for: A new bridge at the zoo tunnel in Rock Creek Park; a wider sidepath on the East Capitol Street bridge; a new bridge over Route 29 on the W&OD Trail, and (still a ways off) a bridge connecting DC’s Fort Lincoln neighborhood to the Anacostia River Trail.

There’s a lot to like about these projects—they connect communities, they open up new, low-carbon transportation options to thousands and thousands of people. 

But maybe you’re like me. If I’m honest with myself, what’s most exciting is simple:

More.
Awesome.
Bike rides.

If that sounds exciting to you too, take a moment right now to make a donation to WABA

Long Bridge Bike-Ped Crossing Moves Forward

The Long Bridge Project, which will replace an aging rail connection between DC and Crystal City, includes a brand new bike-pedestrian bridge over the Potomac River. As they finalize plans and funding sources, DC government officials need to hear from you: the bike-pedestrian crossing must remain in the plan.

I support the bike-ped crossing!

The Long Bridge has the potential to be the best crossing of the Potomac River for people who ride, and will support the transportation and environmental goals of DC, Arlington and Alexandria. The entire project will only be a success if the bike-pedestrian crossing is included.

The Long Bridge (as seen in the background)

Northern Virginia, particularly Crystal City, is expecting significant growth in the near future. Wise transportation investments like the bicycle and pedestrian bridge associated with Long Bridge, will ensure that personal mobility can be prioritized without the negative impacts of increased traffic congestion or air pollution.

The Long Bridge Project is 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. You can read more about the details of the Long Bridge Project here

In September 2019, District Department of Transportation published the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS), and included the bike-pedestrian crossing as a mitigation measure for the rail components of the project. This is great news! It also shows that the 1600+ people who spoke up in support of the connection (thank you for taking action!) made a difference in the project.

The project managers are accepting public comment until October 28. Will you speak up in support of the bike-pedestrian crossing?

Great infrastructure doesn’t just happen. It takes all of us standing up and asking for better bike connections, better trails, and better river crossings. Help this great project by submitting your comments right now

Another opportunity to comment is at the public hearing on Tuesday, October 22. 

What: Long Bridge Project DEIS Public Hearing 

Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Time: Open House between 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Presentations (same presentation at both times) will be at 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm. Public comment will follow the presentations.

Where: DCRA Building, 1100 4th Street SW, Washington, DC 20024 Room E200 (Bring your ID and leave time to go through security!)

Whether you show up in person and testify in support of better biking connections, or write in to show your support, please stand with us to show that there is tremendous demand for this bike-pedestrian bridge.

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.

The Best Way Across the Potomac Isn’t Built Yet (But It Could Be)

Recent construction on bridges over the Potomac has been a bit of a disaster for bicyclists. In a sense, the existing inadequacies of Potomac River crossings (trails dead ending, narrow sidewalks, dangerous fencing, and more) have been exacerbated by the construction highlighting a need for more, high-quality Potomac River crossings to be connected to both the Virginia and District’s bike networks. But that might change. We have an opportunity to build the finest Potomac River trail crossing in an unlikely place—the Long Bridge. Wait…what is the Long Bridge? The Long Bridge is the the rusting hulk of a rail bridge that you can see heading over the Potomac River on Metro or from the Mount Vernon Trail. Currently, it is a two-track railway bridge that serves freight, commuter trains and Amtrak. However, this bridge needs some improvements. Built in 1904, the bridge has outlived its usefulness and needs some serious improvements to meet the needs of our growing region. DDOT, VDOT, CSX, the Federal Railroad Administration (and more) are working on a series of potential redesign options. Though the scope of the project is focused on increasing rail capacity, included in those redesigns are two bicycle/pedestrian options—one option is for a bike/ped bridge that is connected to the rail bridge and the other option is a free-standing bridge that runs parallel to the bridge. However, DDOT is only considering these options. These options are not guaranteed and we have already heard some grumbling about cost and security for a bicycle/pedestrian crossing.

“Build the Long Bridge for people.” Has a nice ring to it, no?

Though we don’t have much more clarity on those options, what we do know is that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build what could be the safest, highest quality Potomac River bicycle and pedestrian crossing on the day it opens. So WABA—along with fourteen (14) partner organizations—called for the project team to include a bicycle and pedestrian trail to be constructed concurrently with the rail component. You can find our letter here. The letter itself lays out five principles for designing the project:
  1. Include a bicycle and pedestrian trail across the Potomac River.
  2. This bicycle and pedestrian trail should be funded and constructed concurrently with the rail component of the Long Bridge project.
  3. The bicycle and pedestrian trail should be incorporated into the design of the broader project in a way that optimizes the achievability of the project with regard to cost and complexity.
  4. The bicycle and pedestrian trail should be designed to enhance the connectivity of the regional trail network. Specifically, the trail should connect to the esplanade in Long Bridge Park in Arlington. In the District, the trail should extend as far towards L’Enfant Plaza as physically possible to maximize connectivity to existing trails.
  5. The bicycle and pedestrian trail should be designed and constructed to the highest design standards, with a minimum width of 12 feet wide, and seamless connections to existing trail networks.
To be clear, this project is a long way from being built. And we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that the bridge includes a bike/ped trail. That’s why we want you to show up to the next public meeting on November 29th to speak up for Long Bridge. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Building 1100 4th St SW (Room E200) Washington, DC 20024 4pm – 7pm (presentations will be at 4:30pm and 6pm)

Let us know if you’re coming

You can find out more about the project at the project webpage here or on the WABA blog. At the meeting, DDOT will show us their proposed alternative. The benefits to having a pedestrian and bicycle trail across the Potomac along with the rail component are clear for the region. In addition to connecting the Mount Vernon Trail to East Potomac Park (and providing bicyclists and pedestrians a safe crossing along the Potomac), there are very real economic and transportation benefits to this project. That’s why we’ve got to show up and work to make this happen.

A step in the right direction for Long Bridge!

The current proposal (red line) crosses the Potomac River and George Washington Parkway, but not I-395. Done right, the Long Bridge Trail would cross both highways, connecting Crystal City to Maine Ave., and L’Enfant Plaza (green line).

Opportunities for great leaps in transportation options here in the Washington region don’t happen everyday. So, that’s why we are so excited about the Long Bridge Project. A little background: The Long Bridge, the railroad bridge that spans the Potomac River south of the 14th St. Bridge, is getting an upgrade from two tracks to four. Currently, there is no way to get across the bridge on a bike or by walking. However, as part of the proposed bridge upgrade, we asked people to take action in January to tell DDOT that any upgrades to this crucial Potomac crossing should include options for biking and walking. Of the 1639 comments DDOT received on the Long Bridge project, 1605 were regarding bicycle and pedestrian access — that’s just amazing. You couldn’t have been more clear: any upgrades to this crucial Potomac crossing must include options for biking and walking. That says a lot about the need for this critical pedestrian and bicycle connections between the Commonwealth and the District. Our voices have been heard, but we still have more work to do! In a report released in mid-June, DDOT noted the tremendous amount of public support as one of the reasons that a biking and walking trail will continue to be included in the alternatives moving forward. And as great as that is (and it is great!), the plan still falls short. We need a trail bridge running the entire length of the bridge (from Long Bridge Park to L’Enfant Plaza). And while the team at DDOT will study western connections, to Long Bridge Park and the Mount Vernon Trail, the report says nothing of improving the east side of the bridge. So, the trail bridge would end at Ohio Drive, on Hains Point, leaving trail users many barriers to getting to the Wharf and further downtown. Any option that does not contain a safe connection on the East side of the bridge is not just bad design — it’s dangerous and someone will be hurt by this engineering omission. Here’s where you can help. Will you email info@longbridgeproject.com and thank them for including the trail connection to Long Bridge Park in Arlington in further studies, but also, can you make sure to demand that the project also include the eastern extension to L’Enfant Plaza? If you’d like to read the full Environmental Impact Assessment Alternatives Development Report for the Long Bridge Project, you can find it here. We’vre got more work to do, but this is a great mini-win along the way and, with a project of this magnitude, we’ve got to celebrate the fine work YOU do every day to make your voices heard. PS….If you like the work that we’re doing, support our advocacy work by joining or renewing your membership.

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!  

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.