At the recent NoMa BID-sponsored Metropolitan Branch Trail Safety and Trail Access meeting the BID presented nearly two-dozen ideas for ways to improve the MBT. The MBT has always seemed somewhat diminished compared to the concept originally proposed by WABA in 1999, but these concepts, if carried out (and one of them is already probably dead) would bring the trail much closer to that promise.
Shortly after that meeting was a meeting about the NoMa Parks project, and what was clear at that meeting is that they see the MBT as the spine that holds the whole area together. The Metropolitan Branch Trail isn't really like the other trails in the region. It doesn't run through some continuous green space far from most places where people work. The MBT, instead, is at the core of an emerging neighborhood. Not so long ago the whole neighborhood was rail-yards, warehouses, industrial uses and a bus depot, but now a community is growing there. A community without green spaces or much of a history and the one thing that really binds them all together is the MBT. At that NoMa Parks meeting they made the point that Pepco Park was a bit north of the neighborhood, but that it was OK because the MBT made it accessible to everyone. That neighborhood needs the MBT and the same will likely be true farther north as the trail is completed.
As the neighborhood grows, the MBT will need to grow with it. That's what this plan is - it's a plan to grow the MBT for a growing community. Growing it means making more connections to it, and feeding those connections with slower/more bike friendly streets nearby. It means making the trail safer and more secure. And it means adding park space and active space along it. This isn't so much a plan to improve a trail, it's a plan to build neighborhoods by improving a trail.
Because there was so much presented (and because I'm on vacation this week) I'm breaking this up into multiple posts.
One thing presented in the plan was numerous new connections between the trail and neighboring communities.
Franklin Street Alley
On the north side of the Franklin Street Bridge is an alley that while bikeable, is not particularly appealing. The BID proposes making this a part of the trail network, with an enhanced trail and a better crossing of 8th. I've thought that this was necessary since the first time I rode the trail, and it's actually kind of a no-brainer at this point. There's room for a trail with space to spare for green elements of art.
Edgewood Street currently dead-ends just above the trail, between the DC Prep Edgewood and Doar PCS schools. The suggestion here is to replace the current green wall...
With a staircase and public space where a young Patricia Arquette can read a book.
Another new connection would be made at Q Street, just north of the Pepco station, where a billy goat path used to exist.
New York Avenue and Union Market
Another connection on the south side of the Pepco building could connect the trail to New York Avenue by running along the NY Avenue Bridge, similar to what is proposed at Franklin.
A second, likely more expensive, road connection to Union Market would also serve trail users.
While technically not a "new" connection, the enhancements proposed to Florida Avenue would so radically change it that it would be "like new". The idea is to create a protected two-bike bike lane on the north side of Florida from 4th St NE and Union Market to the Washington Gateway development and its connection to the MBT.
Like I said, you can do this now, but cyclists often use the sidewalks here, and then find a somewhat intimidating path under the railroad tracks.
The final new connection would occur at Pierce Street, which could be completed when the building south of there is built.
These connections would add immensely to the utility of the trail, and would likely draw in more users as a result.