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Memorial Circle Transportation Plan Open House - Tonight

The National Park Service will be presenting rough sketches of design concepts for the Memorial Circle Transportation plan that were developed at a workshop that evaluated previous studies of the area, existing and projected traffic conditions including accident, speed and road/trail volumes, and the memorial character of the area. These concepts will be the foundation for the development of alternatives to be presented later in the year.  

I know there are a lot of cyclists who use this area - as the Mount Vernon Trail passes through here - daily, and this is your opportunity to offer your thoughts about this process and the ideas that were generated before they develop alternatives.

Comments will be accepted at the open house or may be provided online through the NPS Planning Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website. 

The sketches have been posted to the project website and comments will be accepted from March 3, 2015 to March 10, 2015. You can access this site here.

The sketches are really rough, they look like the actual marked up maps from the workshop, so don't expect studio-style art.

The open house is from 5pm to 8pm at NPS National Capital Region Headquarters, 1100 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC. 

Here are my comments I submitted back in September:

  • While the scoping document mentions the social paths that runners and cyclists have carved from the north side of Memorial Bridge to the MVT, it seems to be out of concern for their use and dedicated to finding ways to stop it. Instead, NPS should view these as desire lines which are to be embraced and improved to meet user need
  • The MVT is only 9 feet wide in this area - and sometimes less, but best practices would dictate that such a heavily used trail, and its spurs to Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Pentagon's 9/11 Memorial, be widened.
  • From Memorial circle to Arlington National Cemetery, cyclists use narrow sidewalks made with an aggregate surface. Aggregate becomes very slippery and unstable when wet, and thus NPS should consider a safer material be used.
  • The scope should be enlarged to include the bicycle/pedestrian path on the downstream (south) side of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. Currently this path is disconnected on the Virginia side, but a connection to the MVT is possible. Extending the trail from the current Virginia end of the bridge path, it could be turned south along the connector between S. Arlington Road and US-50. The ample green space along the north side of the connector’s bridge over the Washington Channel could be used to cross that body of water and then the trail could cross over or under the GWMP, or even at-grade. This would allow for a direct connection between the MVT and Constitution Avenue, while bringing access to two large parcels of parkland currently inaccessible to users. 

1st Anacostia River Festival to feature bike rides and a bike parade

The 11th Street Bridge Park and the National Park Service are sponsoring the First Anacostia River Festival this April at the end of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Among many other free events, the festival will feature a bike parade run by ArtReach and Illumination coalition, a WABA led trail ride, and street activities like bike decoration and a tune-up tent. 

“The Anacostia is poised for a renaissance,” National Park Service Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said. “The National Park Service is committed to helping people discover the beauty, fun and possibilities in Anacostia Park, and I hope that events like the River Festival inspire people – especially young people – to visit and get involved.” 

Held in Anacostia Park, one of America’s national parks, and steps away from the future 11th Street Bridge Park, the event is free of charge and is a new premier offering that culminates the 2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival. 

I believe the CaBi single day record was set at last year's Cherry Blossom Festival, so a bike-oriented activity in another part of the city could make for another record-breaking day.

WABA honors winners of first Bicyclists' Choice Awards

From a WABA press release (it's the first time I've ever heard of someone being referred to as a "twitter personality."):

On Friday, February 20th, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association hosted an award ceremony to honor the recipients of the 2015 Bicyclists' Choice Awards. These awards, nominated and voted on by the region's bicyclists, celebrate the people and places that make the DC region a great place to ride a bike. The event took place at the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust on 12th NW, and was hosted by Brian McEntee, a bike advice columnist and twitter personality.

A complete list of winners is below.

WABA has given awards in the past, but this event marks the first time award winners have been chosen by a vote. In addition to 15 Bicyclists' Choice Awards, WABA also gave out seven awards to individuals and organizations that furthered WABA's goals in 2014.

The Advocate of the Year for 2014 Winner: Jim Durham, Chair of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, for his work bringing bike lanes to King Street in Alexandria, and founding Alexandria Spokeswomen.

The Vision Zero Award WinnersBruce Deming and Cory Bilton, local attorneys who provided pro-bono legal assistance to WABA’s contributory negligence campaign.

The Biking for All Award Winners: Bayley Vanderpoel of Velocity Co-op and Katie Lupo of Gearin’ Up Bicycles, which bring low cost bicycles, service, and education to the community.

The Green Lanes Award Winner: The Montgomery County T&E Committee. The GREEN LANES AWARD highlights WABA's commitment to advocating for safe, protected, on-road facilities. A number of local jurisdictions have installed green lanes, or protected bike lanes, in the past year, but no jurisdiction has come so far so quickly in its understanding of the importance of protected biking infrastructure as Montgomery County.

The Future Trails Award Winner: REI, for their support of and commitment to WABA's Future Trails celebration and regional trails stakeholder summit.

The Access to Justice Award Winner: DC Councilmember David Grosso, for his work to change the District's Contributory Negligence standard for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Bicyclists’ Choice Awards:

Best New Bike Infrastructure in the District of Columbia in 2014: Winner: M Street protected bike lane

Best New Bike Infrastructure in Maryland in 2014Winner: MARC train Bike Cars from DC to Baltimore

Best New Bike Infrastructure in Virginia in 2014Winner: King Street bike lanes in Alexandria, VA

Bike Friendliest Neighborhood or Business Improvement District Winner:DowntownDC BID

Bike Friendliest Bar, Restaurant or Coffee Shop Winner: District Taco, various locations in DC and VA

Bike Friendliest Developer or Property Manger Winner: Nationals Park

Best Bike Shop Winner: BicycleSPACE

Bike Friendliest School Winners (tie): School Without Walls High School, DC and the Washington & Lee High School, Arlington, VA Bike Friendliest College or UniversityWinner: University of Maryland at College Park

Best Shop Ride Winner: BicycleSPACE Hills of Anacostia

Best Use of Biking Data Winner: Bike Arlington’s Freezing Saddles 

Best Media Coverage of Biking Winner: Martin DiCaro for WAMU

Best Social Ride Winner: BicycleSPACE’s 7th Street Social

Biggest Advocacy Win of 2014 Winner: Snow Removal on Arlington County Trails

Best Overall Trail or Bike Lane (anywhere in the region) Winner: W&OD Trail

Rock Creek Park Trail going to design phase, other work could be done sooner

DDOT recently obligated money to hire a contractor to work on the formal design of the rehabilitated Rock Creek Park Trail and is working on selecting a contractor for that. 

Meanwhile, DDOT is also planning to do a full reconstruction of Beach Drive from Connecticut Avenue all the way to the Maryland boundary in the near future. This will involve rolling closures of Beach Drive (Gotcardammerung!) and a full rebuild of the road from the bottom up. The road won't be widened, but DDOT is hoping to do some spot work on the trail in conjunction with the road work. 

South Capitol Street Trail back on track

The South Capitol Street Trail had been in a bit of a holding pattern since this summer as DDOT has negotiated with the Air Force to move a wall along Bolling Air Force Base to allow for a trail wide enough to meet DDOT standards. But those negotiations have nearly been completed, and so DDOT will soon begin right-of-way work and make plans to move the wall in a few places. They're working with the Air Force on that and hope to finish that in 6 months, at which time they can issue either a design/build contract or a contract to create the final design. 

Most residents support improving the Palisades Trolley Trail

The Trails Committee of the Palisades Citizens Association sponsored an online survey about possible trail enhancements of the old Cabin John trolley right-of-way. The results are in, and most participants support some improvements to the trail. Most popular are improving erosion control and drainage; mowing and trimming of plants; improving connections to other trails; bridging the gaps to create a continuous trail and improving the existing access points. All of those had more than 50% positive support. And only 24% of people said that they preferred no enhancements.

In addition, several others options registered more positive support than negative support. That includes creating more access points; burying the electric lines; installing trail signage, benches and trash cans; enhancing security features and providing dog waste bags.

Only the installation of lighting and trail parking had more people against than for. 

PTS1

A small majority of people (52%) preferred some change in the trail surface, but there was no agreement on what that surface would be. Crushed gravel (21%) and paving (20%) were the top two options. The preference for no change to the surface is strongly weighted toward residents of the immediate area, with people from outside the Palisades/Foxhall neighborhoods preferring paving the trail. 

Building bridges to connect the discontinuous segments was very popular, with each of the six proposed bridges getting at least 60% support and none getting more than 27% opposition. 

PTS2

80% of respondents wanted connections to the C&O Canal towpath and the Capital Crescent Trails and a majority wanted connections to hiking trails in Foundary Branch and Battery Kemble. 

61% of respondents want the trail to be accessible to cyclists. Areas of concern that ranked high were environmental harm, congestion, parking, cost, crime and litter. 

Usage of the trail would nearly double if it were enhanced according to self-reported projections of use, and most people (42%) settled on The Trolley Trail for the name, with the Palisades Trail coming in second (22%). [This could be confusing since PG County also has a Trolley Trail, but it would probably be fine.]

Based on the results of this survey, the PCA Trails Committee unanimously recommends that the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) undertake a comprehensive feasibility study to evaluate upgrading the old trolley right of way into a contiguous linear trail consistent with the moveDC Long Range Transportation Plan.

Areas of study should include:

• Conduct a land survey along the right of way (ownership and boundaries) – including
overhead rights where bridges are sought

• Identify a consensus surface consistent with the preference for a natural trail that drains
well and is bicycle accessible

• Assess the possibility of making near term improvements to grading, drainage and
mowing within the scope of a prospective larger project

PTS3

The survey results will be presented at the PCA General Membership Meeting on March 3rd at 7:00pm.

Oxon Run trail work could begin next year

DDOT has completed the 90% design for the Oxon Run Trail. I've seen the 65% design (from which the images below come), which does not create a lot of sexy images, but does show a much better trail.

The trail is frequently realigned for more direct paths with smoother, more maneuverable turns with better sight lines. For example, in the image below, you can see the old path marked with hashmarks and the new path that will replace it. The new path connects more directly with 1st Street on the west and allows cyclists to follow the stream as opposed to being forced up on to the sidewalk. 

OxonRun1

Abrupt right angles are replaced with curved connections, wide intersections or triangle-shaped intersections.

There's more trail, on both sides of the stream which will increase its utility; and there are more connections to roads like Chesapeake Avenue and Atlantic Street, which should better integrate the trail into the community.In the below image you can see the current path and the new path with a better line.

OxonRun2

Or in this one, there is a whole new connection to Mississippi at 6th Street SE.

OxonRun3

Along Valley Avenue, at 9th Street DPR will expand the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center with at least 20 new courts.

DDOT hopes to set aside funding for construction this year and start construction next year. 

Preliminary design of Metropolitan Branch Trail Fort Totten Section to be presented this spring

DDOT is planning to have a public meeting some time this spring at which they will present the preliminary design of the Metropolitan Branch Trail's Fort Totten Section. This is the section in the Takoma and Brookland neighborhoods, from Bates Road at the trash transfer station to the Maryland boundary at Eastern Avenue. They hope to have a draft 30% design completed by this summer and a final version of that completed by the end of the year. That would allow for a final design to be funded in FY 2016 and construction in 2017. 

MBTNorth

Image from the EA

PEPCO Park could be an opportunity to straighten out the Met Branch Trail

The NoMa Park Foundation, a group supported by the NoMa BID with the goal of creating parks in NoMa, recently released a map of proposed park space in the area. Since the area is bisected by the Metropolitan Branch Trail, it's no surprise that many of the trails are adjacent to the trail. These parks have the potential to make the trail even better. The underpass art parks have been written about before, but some of the others are new.

The L Street Plaza would be at the southern terminus of the trail. 

The Plaza will have traffic calming measures installed to allow for a curbless pedestrian experience and will have a special area for bicyclists and other Metropolitan Branch Trail users to gather and refresh before the next leg of their journey. 

But most interesting is the "PEPCO Park" located just south of R Street where the MBT has its Z-shaped curve. 

The largest open space currently existing in NoMa is a roughly 4-acre parcel of vacant land owned by Pepco. As envisioned in the Public Realm Design Plan, “Pepco Park” would provide for outdoor recreation and community gatherings and serve as the “backyard” for the neighborhood. The NoMa Parks Foundation is seeking to acquire two acres of this site. Two acres is large enough for active recreation.

This would, of course, be right next to the trail and make for a nice addition to the trail experience. But there is another possibility.

The cover of the old WABA concept plan for the trail, shows this area as a wide green space with the trail running down the center. When DDOT originally started to design the trail, they had it making a pair of 45 degree turns for a more fluid path from the tracks to the back of the buildings. You can see this on the original image below (unfortunately, I can't find the draft plan online anymore). But, DDOT wasn't able to acquire the land, currently fenced off for earth moving equipment storage, necessary. Staff had to work hard to get the current easement for the trail, and it was a source of some concern at the time.* (as I recall.) 

image from washcycle.typepad.com

The draft trail angled from the current first turn of the Z on the line with R Street to Randolph Place. The trail as built makes a sharp 90+ degree turn, follows the line with R Street and then makes another 90+ degree turn to run behind the buildings along the right-of-way.

I know that the NoMa Park Foundation want this to be an active recreation space, but if they did acquire it, it could also be a chance to rebuild the trail more in line with the original vision by having the trail bisect it and an angle. This would move the diagonal south a bit from the original design, but still get rid of the Z turn, making for a better trail. On the one hand, it would create two smaller spaces separated by a bike/ped trail - which may not be desirable, but on the other, it would make a little more space available for the park (hypotenuse needs less space than the sides). It's worth considering.

*I heard that the reason they didn't get the land was that they couldn't get any property acquisition staff to work on it. They were all busy on the baseball stadium land. File that under opportunity cost.

311 is joke in your town

Dana writes in

After the snow storm last Tuesday (17 February), bicycle commuters using the 14th Street Bridge thought they knew two things.  Based on past experience, the bridge would be cleared and the Mount Vernon Trail would be untouched.  For my Wednesday commute it turned out the conventional wisdom was only half right – the Mount Vernon Trail was covered in snow but, while the traffic lanes on the upstream span of the 14th Street Bridge had been completely cleared, the bike and pedestrian lane remained covered in snow.  At the DC end of the span, the ramp from East Basin Drive (in front of the Jefferson) to the actual bridge had been fully cleared, apparently by the National Park Service.

After walking my bike across the bridge, I logged into the District of Columbia’s 311 system to record a service ticket for snow removal.  That process was a bit problematic in that the on line system insisted on a street address and the 14th Street Bridge doesn’t have one.

My ticket, recorded at 10:28 am on Wednesday read “Remove snow from the bike/ped lane on the upstream span of the 14th Street Bridge. Roadways were clear but bike/ped lanes were untouched.” The ticket was recorded as having been completed at 3:02 pm the same day. My evening commute across the bridge revealed the lanes had not been touched.

On Thursday morning, I called the 311 system and logged a second request.  I asked the 311 operator to contact me if there were any questions.  At about 10:15 am on Thursday, the 311 operator called me and conferenced in a District of Columbia Department of Transportation employee.  We discussed the location that needed snow removal and I thought success would be achieved.  Trail condition reports for the evening commute suggested that my optimism was premature as the snow and ice remained in the bike and pedestrian lane untouched. 

On Thursday evening, I logged my second on-line request, reading “Previous service ticket 15-00036086 was for the ped/bike lane on the southbound span of the 14th Bridge over the Potomac. The snow has not been removed from the ped/bike lane although the service ticket was shown as completed. Access to the ped/bike lane is from East Basin Drive in front of the Jefferson Memorial. If you think this has been completed, please contact me.”

That ticket was closed on Sunday (22 Feb) morning with the explanation that the ped/bike lane on the 14th Street Bridge was “Private Property - Close SR” and I was advised to contact the “Federal (sic) Park Service” by the 311 system.

While I can understand the District establishing snow removal priorities, I find the process of actually logging a service request so cumbersome it might discourage the public engagement the system was intended to enhance.  It is baffling that the District’s service request process seems to make identifying and requesting municipal services by the public less effective.

To improve the process, the District needs to allow individuals identifying service requests to either point on a map or describe the location.  To rely on a pull down without some ability to provide other location information is a recipe for failure.  The 311 system should also provide some ability to challenge the conclusion of the system operators without the need to log a new service request.

The reality is that the District government, agencies, as well as members of the public all would benefit from a system that actually allows users to successfully log service requests. 

I use the app, and have had mixed results, but one nice feature over the website, which Dana used, is the ability to pick the spot on a map.

Nonetheless, I've had mixed results. Requesting bike parking installation (which does not have it's own category - should I use "Bicycle Issues" or "Parking"?) is an act of faith, a little like throwing a message in a bottle and hoping it gets found. Potholes have more success, though I battled with 311 over one particular pothole last summer. They kept reporting it fixed and I kept hitting it. It's not as user friendly as it could be, and clearly wasn't designed for dealing with bike issues like trails and sidepaths. 

In addition, pushing responsibility off to the citizen to contact NPS is a low-service move. The DC government is there to serve citizens, and dealing with the federal government is one way that they - being the professionals can do that. Certainly someone at DDOT has a better chance of contacting the right person at NPS than Joe Citizen does. In addition, I'd be surprised if clearing snow off the 14th Street Bridge is really NPS' responsibility. 

I've not used the Arlington report a problem tools, so I can't speak to how much better or worse those are.

In an ideal world, there would be but one regional toolset that would lead to the proper agency (DDOT, DPW, NPS, Arlington DOT, AOC, VDOT, etc...) being tasked, but that is admittedly a big lift. CaBi and WMATA are really exceptional in that regard. 

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