Walk the Takoma DC Met Branch Trail with DDOT and ANC 4B

Please join ANC 4B Commissioners, DDOT Trail planning staff, and members of the Takoma DC community for a walkthrough of the proposed Northern segment of the Metropolitan Branch Trail to learn more about options for constructing the segment from Blair Rd to Piney Branch Rd and give feedback.

Meet on Friday, February 11 at 3:30 pm at the intersection of Van Buren and Blair Rd NW. Sponsored by Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners Evan Yeats (4B01), Erin Palmer (4B02) and Geoff Bromaghim (4B07).

The hosts ask that all who attend be fully vaccinated (boosted if applicable) and wear a mask.

Metropolitan Branch Trail: Blair Road to Piney Branch Road Design Survey

While construction nears completion on the Metropolitan Branch Trail to Fort Totten, and final design nears completion to Takoma, DDOT has begun detailed planning for the half-mile between Blair Rd and Piney Branch Rd on the west side of the rail tracks in Takoma DC. DDOT held a public meeting in December 2021 and wants your feedback on the design concepts presented. The online survey closes on Friday, January 7, 2022. 

green = off-street trail
orange = protected bike lane
red = on-street & traffic-calmed

Two Critical Points for Advocates

  1. On Segment 6: none of the proposed on-street facility types for Whitter or 4th St are sufficient to create a continuous and safe trail experience that is suitable for all ages and abilities. Instead, we propose a new multi-use trail on the south side of Whittier St (using park land and DDOT right of way) and a continuous 2-way protected bike lane along the east curb of 4th St. from Whittier to Cedar St (converting 4th one-way southbound and repurposing existing parking)
  2. On Segment 5: only alternative 3 delivers a manageable slope and a wider trail. The others are quite steep.

Take the Survey Here

View DDOT’s presentation and other meeting materials on the project website, here.

See our detailed comments below. Segments are listed in reverse numerical order (south to north) to highlight the importance of the longest segment in need of most attention.

Segment 6 (Bair Rd to Cedar St)

WABA supports branching the through-running trail from Blair Rd starting at Whittier St, then turning north on 4th St. NW. However, none of the proposed on-street facility types for Whitter or 4th St are sufficient to create a continuous and safe walking and biking trail experience that is suitable for all ages and abilities. Instead, we propose: 

  1. A new multi-use trail on the south side of Whittier St (using park land and DDOT right of way),
  2. A continuous 2-way protected bike lane (PBL) along the east curb of 4th St. NW from Whittier to Cedar St (as proposed from Aspen to Cedar and by converting 4th one-way southbound plus repurposing east side vehicle parking between Aspen to Whittier), and
  3. A new traffic signal at Whittier St and Blair Rd to facilitate a safe trail crossing.

Why is a PBL is critical for 4th street? 

  1. If the PBL is not continuous, southbound bicyclists must transition from the east side of the street to the general travel lane at a stop-controlled intersection (either Aspen or Butternut). This is not intuitive and drivers will not expect it. Furthermore, less confident riders will not feel safe navigating this transition. 
  2. This would eliminate no more than 8-11 legal/safe parking spaces. All west side parking spaces would remain.
  3. This block has 5 homes on the east side and 2 have driveways for off-street parking.
  4. The safety and all-ages usability of a regional trail should be a priority versus residential car parking 1,000 feet from a Metro Station.

At the Cedar/Blair intersection, WABA supports alternative 1 which directs people on bikes to cross Cedar to the west of the pedestrian crosswalk. This locates potential bike and pedestrian conflicts on the widened north side sidewalk rather than the middle of the intersection, where additional conflicts are possible and the potential for injury is higher. If the north side travel lane removal is, for unforeseen traffic reasons, not possible, consider removing the south side travel/parking lane and narrowing the median island to find the needed road width. Widening the north side sidewalk should be a priority for improving the inadequate pedestrian spaces near the Metro and retail corridor.

Segment 5 (343 Cedar Trail)

WABA supports alternative 3 which provides a 12 ft trail and the most gentle slope behind 343 Cedar St. A 12’ trail is preferable here because it will be a popular pedestrian path to the Metro and shops for residents. The additional width allows for more comfort near the tall retaining wall. Most importantly, the gentler 5% grade will be much easier to climb than the 8% grade proposed for alternatives 1 and 2.

Segment 4 (Spring St)

WABA supports alternative 2 with chokers and chicanes. As the vehicle parking and alley access for many Cedar St and Blair Rd buildings, Spring St sees more frequent vehicle use and is a tempting location for illegal parking. Chokers and chicanes will keep vehicle speeds low while discouraging illegal parking that may block sightlines and endanger more vulnerable trail users (like children). This design prioritizes safety for vulnerable road users and trail users while they walk and bike in the shared street.

Segment 3 (Chestnut St)

WABA supports the proposed street design. Vehicle traffic is for the few local addresses only, so a new speed bump and in-street sharrow markings should be sufficient. Additional MBT branded wayfinding signage would also be helpful and should be planned for. 

Segment 2 (Ramp to Chestnut St)

WABA is supportive of either alternative 4 or 5. Though all five alternatives have similar slopes and are ADA compliant, the smoother turns of alt 4 and 5 will be easier to navigate by bike. Stairs create potential conflict points between walking and rolling users if they use the ramp simultaneously, but stairs also offer a more convenient path for pedestrians. WABA supports either alt 4 or 5, whichever is more popular with the public. 

We also recommend that DDOT explore options and neighborhood interest for a small pocket park with benches at the top of the hill or partner with DC’s Department of Parks and Recreation to explore a recreation use for this public space.

Segment 1 (Piney Branch Rd)

WABA supports Alternative 1 which constructs a new off-street multi-use trail on the south side of Piney Branch Road from the ramp to Eastern Ave. Alternative 2 (2-way protected bike lane) does not provide enough space for a comfortable 2-way protected bike lane and creates a complicated intersection at the bottom of the ramp that requires sharp turns without adequate space. Alternative 1, with appropriate wayfinding signage for southbound trail users, will avoid any confusion about where and how to cross PIney Branch Rd.

What is the deal with the Met Branch Trail?

When complete, the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) will be an 8.5-mile multi-use trail from Union Station in the District of Columbia to Maryland’s Silver Spring transit hub. With advocacy and concept plans going back 30 years, this rail-with-trail has been a long time coming. So far, about four miles are complete. The remaining pieces can be a bit overwhelming to track, so here is an update on the latest happenings from south to north. For a truly detailed look, you can follow along with this interactive map of the Met Branch Trail’s progress.

8th St. NE in Edgewood

Under the Franklin St. bridge, the Met Branch Trail emerges onto 8th Street NE for a half-mile where walkers move to the sidewalk and people on bikes share the road with cars and trucks. WABA, trail advocates, and the local neighborhood commissioner are pushing DDOT to transform this often stressful road with a two-way protected bike lane on the west side. DDOT has drawn up rough plans and aims to install them in 2021. Click here for more information and to sign our petition in support.

Brookland to Fort Totten

DDOT broke ground on this ~1 mile addition in summer 2018 to link the existing trail on John McCormac Dr to the Fort Totten Metro Station along the Metro and freight rail tracks. Though progress has been very slow due to contractor issues, work is in full swing and expected to be complete by May 2021. Find construction photos and progress updates on the project website.

Fort Totten to Takoma

The last long section in DC runs ~2 miles from Fort Totten to Takoma. In 2017, WABA worked closely with DDOT, neighborhood advocates, and Takoma’s advisory neighborhood commission to solidify the trail’s route along First St. NE, McDonald Pl, and Blair Road NE. In 2020, DDOT began final design, which will be complete by March 2021. Construction is funded and should be done by Fall 2023. 

DDOT is holding a virtual public meeting to present and collect feedback on the current design on February 10th at 6:30pm. The trail will run along Blair Road as a wide side-path as it crosses many wide driveways, parking lots, and business entrances. It also includes needed traffic calming and new pedestrian crossings on Blair, so getting the fine points of design right is critical. Please attend to ensure this trail is a great experience for trail users of all ages.

Get Meeting Details

Takoma’s Main Street

How to route the trail from Blair Road around Takoma’s main street and Metro Station has been a persistent question for the Met Branch Trail since the beginning. The 2011 Environmental Assessment identified two possible routes east and west of the elevated rails tracks in a mix of on-street signed route, protected bike lanes, and off-street trail. The eastern alignment continues the trail at Sandy Spring on Maple, left on Carroll, right on Cedar around the Metro parking lot and up the steep hill on Eastern Ave.

The western alignment takes 4th street to the (now rebuilt) Cedar/Blair Road intersection, squeezes between the building at 343 Cedar St and the rail embankment to meet Spring Street, then right onto Chestnut Street. From here, it either ramps down to the south side of Piney Branch Road or bridges to the north side before joining the existing trail at Eastern Avenue. See this interactive map for more detail.

Until now, DDOT has worked to preserve both routes, while negotiating to add pieces of the trail as part of some recent housing developments. Both routes are still viable, but the western alignment is getting attention first. DDOT has committed to beginning preliminary design of the western alignment starting in Spring 2021.

Eastern Avenue

Work is finally set to begin on a short trail segment on Eastern Avenue between Piney Branch Road and the already-complete trail through Takoma Park, Maryland. This project will repurpose some parking spaces to build a new trail, curb extensions for traffic calming and shorter crossings, and bioswales for some extra greenery and stormwater management. DDOT issued a Notice of Intent in December 2020 and work should start in February 2021.

Montgomery County’s Section

Montgomery County’s ~1.3 miles of the Met Branch are being built slowly but steadily in small segments. More than a decade ago, Takoma Park built it’s half-mile piece on Eastern Ave and Fenton Street. This was extended as part of the Montgomery College expansion that built the footbridge over the Metro tracks, and Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) extended it to King St. in 2018. The Silver Spring Transit Center brought a large stretch, and another piece, so far disconnected, came with the new Progress Place development.

North of King Street, MCDOT will run the trail along the rail tracks, under Burlington Ave in a new tunnel, and alongside Selim Rd. It will cross over Georgia Ave on a new trail bridge and run around the parking lot of the reconstructed historic B&O train station to connect with the trackside Progress Place Trail. Final design has been complete since 2019. MCDOT is in the final stages of obtaining the final permits and sign-offs to move forward with construction. They are planning to put the project out for construction bid in Spring 2021 and could potentially move forward with construction in Fall 2021. Construction will take about 2.5 years.

The final 400 feet will be built as part of the planned Ripley II mixed-use development project which is expected to finish in 2022. At the Silver Spring Transit Center, the Met Branch Trail will directly connect to the Capital Crescent Trail bridge over Colesville Road when the Purple Line project is complete.

Want to stay up to date on the project status? Be sure to follow us on Twitter @TrailsCoalition and sign up for our quarterly newsletter! You can also sign up to receive project updates and notifications here: http://www.capitaltrailscoalition.org/metropolitan-branch-trail/

Met Branch Trail – Fort Totten to Takoma Public Meeting

multi-use trail separated from car traffic by a low concrete wall in Tokoma

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will host a public meeting to discuss the progress on the design of the remaining sections of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT). The MBT is an important transportation route, providing connections to neighborhoods where residents live, work, and play.  Once fully completed, the MBT will be an eight-mile trail that runs from Union Station in Washington DC to Silver Spring, Maryland. The latest section being designed connects the Fort Totten Metro Station to the Takoma neighborhood.  The preliminary design for this section was completed in 2016. DDOT is currently completing the final design of this section. The key elements of the next section of the MBT include:  

  • New off-street and on-street trail segments 
  • Traffic calming features 
  • Storm water and low-impact development  
  • Traffic signals & Lighting 
  • Lighting & Utilities  
  • Maintenance of Traffic plans 
  • Landscaping plans 

For more information about the project, please visit metbranchtrail.com . If you have questions, please contact Samer Alhawamdeh at samer.alhawamdeh@dc.gov or (202).369.4637

TO PARTICIPATE IN THE MEETING: : Please use this link to join the meeting:  rebrand.ly/MetBranchTrail  

How to Join via Phone: 

  • Dial the US Toll – Washington D.C. Phone Number: +1-202-860-2110 
  • Dial the meeting’s Access Code: 180 173 7522, followed by the # key.
  • The Webex system will prompt you for an Attendee ID, this is not required. Press the # key to join the meeting. 

Can’t Make a Meeting? 

Materials from this meeting will be made available at metbranchtrail.com within 24  hours of the conclusion of the meeting.   

If you need language assistance services (translation or interpretation), please contact Karen Randolph at 202-671-2620 or Karen.Randolph@dc.gov 72 hours in advance of the meeting. These services will be provided free of charge.

These trails are going to transform our region

Something exciting is growing in the DMV: a world-class trails network that will provide car-free connections between job centers, schools, and neighborhoods across our region. These gorgeous trails are a destination in themselves, creating much-needed outdoor space for exercise and play in addition to transportation.

With more than 10 miles of trails under construction right now, we’re closer than ever to a region where trails are an everyday option for transportation. There are priority trail projects in progress across our region:

  • The I-66 Trail in Fairfax County will improve transportation options, bicycle connectivity and safety throughout the I-66 corridor 
  • A new section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, won by decades of advocacy, will fill an important gap between Brookland and Fort Totten
  • The Maryland Department of Transportation has broken ground on the Capital Crescent Trail extension (a part of The Purple Line project). When complete, this project will be transformative for the region—finally completing the vision of a Capital Crescent Trail directly linking downtown Silver Spring to Bethesda to Georgetown in the District of Columbia. 

Despite this good progress, there are over 300 miles of planned trails that haven’t seen a shovel yet. We can change that in 2021  by making sure our elected officials know that trails are important to us.

Learn more about WABA’s work to build trails with the Capital Trails Coalition and the Coalition’s priority projects here.

Try It By Bike!: A Guide to Riding Around Red Line Metro Closures

For all of us who can’t take off a leisurely July 21st to Sept 3rd vacation and avoid some very humid days, the Metro closure of the Brookland and Rhode Island Ave Red Line stations are going to affect many travel patterns. There will be bus shuttles between stations and a temporary bus lane on Rhode Island Ave (!). But it can also be a easy bike ride—there is a trail that parallels the Red Line! Want to avoid crowded roadways and train platforms while Metro undertakes maintenance? The Metropolitan Branch Trail follows the Red Line from just south of Fort Totten past Brookland, Rhode Island, NoMa to Union Station with some great connections to downtown and points east & west.

Metropolitan Branch Trail signage.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail runs along the Red Line in D.C., and you can pick it up just south of Fort Totten! An easy alternative route to use while Brookland and Rhode Island Ave. are closed.


How to Prepare

Check your brakes, pump up your tires, and give biking a try! A few things we’ve seen that are useful for beginning to bike for transportation:
  • No need to start with the Big Ride. Maybe test out a daily commute on a weekend when there isn’t a 9am important meeting. Where are you going to park your bike?
  • Options are your friend. You can drive a car to a park-and-ride, and ride your bike from there. Take bikeshare downhill and bus home. Try out a bikeshare bike for a week and see how getting around feels.
    • A Capital Bikeshare corral with unlimited parking will be available at 3rdSt. NE and M St. NE from 8am-1pm, on Monday – Friday from 7/23 – 8/31, so you can easily drop off your bike.
  • You do need a working bicycle, a u-lock and some way to carry your things. A helmet is encouraged. But, like so many things, no need to go all in on all the fancy gear to start with! Are bike specific bags nice? Sure! But you can also use the random Aldi’s reusable bag you got free that one time. If you’re going to be biking when it is dark, a front light is legally required and you should have a rear light too.
  • It’s hot! Sunscreen, a water bottle and sun protection are probably a good idea. I like wearing casual clothes on my ride and changing at work to avoid sweaty clothes. But for folks with shorter rides or who aren’t perennially biking fast to avoid being late for meetings, a slower pace should help minimize sweat.
  • Trails are kind of like roads, but better. Ride to the right and pass folks on your left. Let people know that you’re passing them and give them space. Don’t do anything sudden. And above all, be courteous about the shared space.
  • We’ve got maps, events, classes, and all sorts of other resources below to make your bike commute comfortable, safe and fun.
We’ve also got tools for employers looking to make life a little easier for their staff.

What’s WABA Doing?

  • Pushing local transportation officials to create space and infrastructure for biking during the surges.
  • Steering our existing programs and resources to help and support people impacted.
  • Leading the bike community to help by providing resources, programming and events.
For press inquiries, please contact Colin Browne.

Already a Bike Commuter? Help your neighbors and your coworkers!

Metro maintenance is huge and we need your help to make sure that nobody on a bike is left behind. How can you help?
  • Be a resource for their questions.
  • Can you go on a ride with them? Collaborate on route route planning?
  • Connect them with other resources – any WABA events that they should join?

New to Bike Commuting?

Join us at a City Cycling class! This class is the right fit for you and will give you three things you can’t get anywhere else:
  • A safe and supportive environment to practice riding and build confidence
  • Access to the best bike teachers in the region to answer all your questions
  • Riding techniques, tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your ride
View the schedule and register for classes here. And check out our extensive resources for new riders! Ask our Trail Ranger team questions! We’ll be at a few more outreach events this summer with free bike maps, resources and answers. Can’t make it to a market? Email us at trailranger@waba.org or give us a call at (202) 518-0524 x208 and we’re happy to help. Takoma Farmers Market July 8th, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm Laurel Ave, Takoma MD Met Branch Coffee Hour July 13th, 7:30 am – 9:30 am 4th and S St NE MBT Meander Ride July 15th, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm Silver Spring Metro Details and registration here. NoMa Farmers Market July 22nd, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm First and Pierce St NE Oh, and here’s what you need to know about bikes on Metrorail and bikes on Metrobus.

Help Your Employees Bike to Work!

Make commuting the best part of their day by hosting an Everyday Bicycling Seminar with WABA. Our bike experts will solve bike mysteries and bust bike myths in a relaxed and engaging “brown bag” format. Complete the form here and our coordinator will be in touch.