The District Department of Transportation is proposing a new Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge that will not connect to the Suitland Parkway Trail through Anacostia. The Suitland Parkway Trail’s trailhead is only one mile from the proposed bridge.DDOT will invest $600 million in a new South Capitol Street / Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge across the Anacostia River. This is the largest capital investment project in the DDOT’s history and represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the design right for bicyclists and pedestrians. Bridge engineers have been listening to the concerns of bicycling community over the last two years, and DDOT has made improvements to the bridge design for bicyclists and pedestrians. The new span will have two 18-foot-wide multi-use trails, one of each side of the roadway. The sidepath space will be divided into an 8-foot sidewalk and a 10-foot-wide bicycle path. There will be direct connections from the bridge, around the traffic circles, to the street grid and existing or planned trail networks. But there is a glaring exception: There is no direct connection to the Suitland Parkway Trail from the bridge. The Suitland Parkway Trail is a multi-use path that extends two miles east from Anacostia to the District’s border with Maryland. Prince George’s County is beginning plans to extend the trail another 3.5 miles east to the Branch Ave Metro Station. It is a preferred route for bicyclists because the trail is steady uphill grade ; many nearby residential streets have very quick and steep climbs.
Bicyclists wishing to travel from the bridge to the trail will follow one of two routes. The first is on the south side of the trail, follows the traffic circle around counterclockwise, underneath I-295, and ends at the intersection of Firth Sterling and the Suitland Parkway. This route crosses roads eight times including two high speed interstate ramps. The second route begins on the north side of the bridge, follows the traffic circle around clockwise and ends on Howard Road. Engineers would then paint bike lanes on Howard Road. Neither route ends anywhere near the Suitland Parkway Trail.Residents who live just up the Anacostia River experience a similar roadway design every day. The unpleasant walk or bike ride from the Pennsylvania Ave Bridge underneath the freeway to Minnesota Avenue SE is nearly the same layout. Pedestrians and bicyclists must navigate a sea of crosswalks, high speed interstate highway ramps and numerous traffic lights. It’s unsafe, unpleasant and intimidating. DDOT should not repeat the same mistake. DDOT engineers need to propose a direct connection from the new bridge to the trail. This connection should aim to keep pedestrians and bicyclists separated from car traffic, minimize crosswalks and prioritize grade separated trail crossings. Trail user should not have to cross high speed freeway ramps. The design should prioritize the experience of bicyclists and pedestrians. Most importantly, the trail connection should keep kids, adults, and seniors safe and be a direct, safe, and convenient connection of communities. Sign the petition asking DDOT to design and build a safe trail connection from the South Capitol Street Bridge to the Suitland Parkway Trail
On Tuesday night, DDOT held a well-attended meeting to update residents on the status of the South Capitol Bridge planning. Previously, WABA raised a number of concerns about the the project’s scale, accommodations for bicyclists, and contribution to overall connectivity for bicycling. We have met several times with DDOT’s Anacostia Waterfront Initiative team, and we’re pleased to report that the majority of our concerns about the bridge and connectivity to and from the bridge have been addressed. The bridge will have a 10-foot wide two-way cycletrack on each side. The cycletracks will be physically separated from automobile traffic, and will connect directly to the Anacostia and eventual South Capitol trails. For additional details, see Washcycle’s post here. Renderings of the bridge are available at DCist. We still believe that the overall scale of the bridge may be too large and that traffic volumes should be re-analyzed in light of the recent opening of the new 11th Street bridge. Additionally, the monumental ovals prioritize aesthetics over traffic flow, safety, or community connectivity. But given the overall scale, we feel that DDOT has done well in listening to the needs of the bicycling community and designing solutions. It is important to remember that these designs are roughly 30 percent of the total design work. From this point, DDOT will select a design-build contractor to complete the design and construct the bridge. That means that 70 percent of the design work is still to come. The chosen contractor will be motivated to be on time and under budget—not necessarily to involve the community or continue efforts to accommodate all modes of travel. Many thanks to those who attended the meeting to represent the interests of bicyclists. See the presentation given by DDOT below the jump.