White Oak's first delineated bike lanes

PlumOrchard

Really late to this but earlier this year Montgomery County announced the first "protected bike lanes in White Oak," even though I don't think a lot of readers of this blog would call them "protected". Not to poop on them, as it's great that they have them, it's just they're buffered with flexposts, but don't provide real protection. 

The bike lanes were built by Washington Adventist Hospital as part of the agreement to amend their site's zoning. They're on Plum Orchard Road and stretch for about a mile, connecting to the sidepath along Cherry Hill Road on one end. The flex posts were a late addition and are better than simply buffered bike lanes, IMO. An older design included a two-way bikeway on one side of the road. 

They represent the first time that a private entity - the recently opened Adventist HealthCare - has constructed separated bike lanes in Montgomery County. The Plum Orchard Ave bike lanes are the first installment of the  White Oak separated bike lane network, which will be further expanded as part of the Viva White Oak development project.

Someday this (highlighted in yellow) will connect to a larger network, but not a trail along Paint Branch.

Plan

18% of DC Households Use a Bike Once a Week

Some interesting facts from the Transportation Planning Board's Regional Travel Survey. 48% of the region's households have at least one bicycle available for use. Also, no surprise here, but households in the core areas of DC, Alexandria and Arlington (the old diamond) use bicycles more than areas outside of it. All this data is from 2017-18.

Screenshot 2020-11-20 at 12.32.50 AM

There's no comparison with earlier years, because they've never asked these specific questions before. 

Arlington County makes plans for a safer Bluemont Junction Trail

Arlington County is redesigning three at grade crossings along the Buemont Junction Trail, at Emerson, Buchanan and Kensington, a project called for in the county's 2019 Master Transportation Plan (MTP) (page 55). The crossing distance will be shortened with bulb outs, cars will be slowed with speed tables and the trails will be better market and in one case realigned. The MTP called for more than this as it included lighting and repaving too, but it's a start.

Bluemont2

The short rail trail between the W&OD Trail and the Holliday Inn at Balston (ok, Fairfax Drive) has four at-grade crossings, but the other one at Wilson/George Mason was rebuilt more than a decade ago. The County says that

They will:

  • Improve visibility and sightlines for trail and road users
  • Increase predictability of intersection interactions
  • Account for traffic volumes on both the trail and the intersecting streets
  • Manage storm water effectively
  • Incorporate transit improvements where the trail crosses N Kensington Street

Trail safety and access issues for the Bluemont Junction trail were first raised by the community in 2013. The project has evolved to focus on the three intersections included based on site visits, data analysis, and community input.

The County is currently accepting public comments this month.

Not really related but close enough, Arlington is also making plans to rehabilitate Upper Bluemont Park, located just north of the point where the BJT meets the W&OD Trail. The W&OD is just outside the project limits, but a section of Four Mile Run passes through it and replacing that part of the trail is one of the goals of the project.

UBP

This project kicked off last year, but it doesn't seem they've gotten out of the scoping and improvement identification phase - even though a 2nd and 3rd meeting were to have already taken place by now. About the trail, they noted that the width varies, there are few associated amenities, there are pinch points and low visibility. At the very minimum the trail should be repaved and brought up to current standards. They also recognize that the trail has drainage issues. The good news about it being early is that there is plenty of time for people to comment on it. The same people who have complained about widening the trails at other places in the Four Mile Run valley apear to be pushing back at widening this trail here, arguing that it causes storm water runoff and that it's not needed. 

FMRbluemont

Everyone is talking about Pennsylvania

The idea of building a bikeway on Pennsylvania Avenue SE goes back to the District's original 1970's bike plan when they proposed building one on the old streetcar median, but it looks like after decades of thinking about it, DDOT is actually going to do it. 

In July, DDOT presented three alternatives for Pennsylvania Ave SE that would transform the corridor by creating a separated bike lanes and bus only lanes on the Ave between Barney Circle and the Capitol. Once an alternative is selected, the project would be completed in two phases, the portion west of 13th in 2022-23 and one to the east of it, following completion of the Potomac Avenue intersection project, in 2023-24. 

Two of the concepts (A and B) put bike lanes on the right hand side, with either full-time parking or a peak-restricted parking/dedicated bus lane. The third option puts the bike lanes next to the median and the peak parking/bus lane. In option A and C, the bikes lane would be 5 feet wide, but in option B it would be 6 feet wide. They would all have a pylon delineated, one foot buffer between them and traffic.  

AltA

WABA found all to be an improvement, but preferred Alternative A.

In our view, Alternative A, which includes curbside protected bike lanes, bus-only lanes, and easy to navigate intersections, is by far the best option for people who bike, for bus riders, and overall safety on Pennsylvania Ave.

DDOT also appears to prefer Alternative A. While one neighbor was concerned about diverted traffic and congestion, 

[Project Manager Greg Matlesky] noted that the pandemic has reduced total daily vehicular daily trips by 30 – 60%, and suggested that after the pandemics asides subsides, “we likely won’t see traffic return to pre-Covid levels for quite some time.”

ANC6B supports the planning and so we now await completion of the preliminary design phase and a second public meeting.

Meanwhile, DDOT also held a public meeting in September on Pennsylvania Avenue's west side, where they presented block plans, perspective renderings, 360 degree street views of each block, and an overview of some of the specific design considerations. The project includes protected bike lanes from the White House to 22nd Street. 

PennW1

This road could use a diet and the protected bike lanes would be gold standard facilities.

PennW2

In some parts the bike lanes would be at street level, as they're shown above and others at sidewalk level - to allow access to pick-up / drop-off and loading areas, but always protected. It's hard not to get excited. They plan to keep refining the design through 2021.

In between the two, of course, is the downtown section which already has the center running bike lanes. They just repaved it and are repainting it, but with the same design as before. They still haven't reverted to the original design that Fenty forced DDOT to remove after he was pressured by AAA. Oh well, maybe in 2024.

An idea for naming the proposed Potomac Shared-Use Bridge

Screenshot 2020-11-04 at 7.43.21 PM

Not to count our chickens before they hatch, but if all goes well there could be two new bridges across the Potomac River in the area of the current Long Bridge - a second railroad bridge and a shared-use path bridge. People have been calling them all part of the Long Bridge, but really this is an opportunity to choose something better.

Even the Long Bridge name isn't really a name we picked. When it opened the Long Bridge was the Washington Bridge, but it acquired the sobriquet Long Bridge as a short form of "The Long Bridge across the Potomac" to distinguish it from the shorter Chain Bridge. Over the years the bridge was replaced by another and another and then pairs of bridges that resulted in "Highway Bridge" and "Railroad Bridge" in the early 20th Century. The latter got the historical "Long Bridge" name in the 1980's when the planners of VRE began to call it that again and the name stuck. 

I was talking with my kids about what we could name the new bridge, suggesting that a woman or a person of color, or even a woman of color should be considered. We threw out a bunch of ideas with "MIchelle Obama" being my kids favorite, but then while reading a book together at bedtime it hit all of us at the same time: Louvestre Bridge. Mary Louvestre (sometimes Touvestre) was a self-freed former slave living in Virginia during the Civil War

Mary [Louvestre], a freed slave, worked as a housekeeper for one of the Confederate engineers who were repairing the U.S. Navy’s Merrimac. The steam-powered frigate had been partially burned on April 21, 1861, when Federal forces abandoned the Gosport Navy Yard. Rebuilt as an ironclad, she was renamed the C.S.S. Virginia. [Louvestre] overheard the engineers talking about the ship and realized its significance as a weapon against the Northern blockade. Traveling at great risk with a stolen set of plans, she made her way to Washington and got an audience with officials in the Department of the Navy.

Surprised by the momentum of the Confederate project, the officials speeded up the building of the Union ironclad, the Monitor. Some historians believe that if the former slave had not carried her warning to Washington, the Virginia might have had several unchallenged weeks for a rampage against vulnerable Union ships, thwarting the blockade long enough for the arrival of desperately needed supplies from Europe.

The story is that she walked to Washington. If she did she would have had to cross on one of two bridges, most likely - you guessed it - the Long Bridge. Louvestre checks a lot of boxes including a connection to the area and active transportation as well as being a Virginian (Virginia is paying for the bridge and will have a say in naming it). I'd be really surprised if a name I liked better came along, so I'm suggesting it now, early in the process.

The Long Bridge project has had a good year so far. In December, Virginia and CSX announced a $3.7 billion agreement for the state to buy 225 miles of track and build new passenger rail improvements to allow for more passenger rail traffic into L'Enfant Plaza station. 

More trains would be added between 2026 and 2030 as additional construction work on new tracks and the new Long Bridge over the Potomac is completed — eventually doubling the number of Northeast Regional trains running in and out of Virginia.

In September, the DC and VA completed the environmental study for the new bridge.

In addition to rail congestion relief, the Long Bridge project will create a new, independent pedestrian and bicycle bridge crossing of the Potomac River between the Mount Vernon Trail, Crystal City, and the monumental core of the District of Columbia.

The Lovestre Bridge would be hard to jettison (still some ICC Trail scars there) because NPS is considering it part of the mitigation package for the impacts on NPS land. 

The Parties have agreed to address the impacts of the Project on NPS lands through the implementation of a broad package of mitigation measures, identified during compliance with various federal, environmental, cultural, and natural resources review requirements, including NEPA, the Section 4(f) evaluation process, and the NHPA Section 106 consultation process. Those measures include the construction of the elevated bicycle-pedestrian bridge...

Unfortunately the preferred option is to put the Lovestre Bridge between the railroad bridges and the Metro Rail bridge (so no unobstructed views of the river for you). 

Screenshot 2020-11-04 at 7.29.48 PM

Screenshot 2020-11-04 at 7.31.19 PM

The separate bridge was chosen for safety reasons and the location upstream of the bridges was chosen to reduce impact on NPS's viewshed from the parks. (eye roll).

Based on input from the December 2017 meeting they are now seriously considering a connection to both the MVT and to Long Bridge Park/Crystal City (as apposed to just the MVT), which makes this two bridges really - one from Long Bridge Park to the MVT and one from the MVT to Ohio Drive in DC.

The ramps connecting to the MVT in Virginia and to Ohio Drive SW in the District would begin sloping down to existing ground once the crossing reaches land on either side of the river or may begin sloping down while still over the river, which would minimize the length of ramp switchbacks. The determination of whether the bridge can begin sloping downward while still over the river channel would be made in consultation with the United States Coast Guard regarding the minimum allowable vertical clearance over the channel. 

They aren't sure if this would be built with the railroad bridge or later.

It may be possible to phase construction of the bike-pedestrian bridge so that some of the bridge is constructed concurrently with the railroad bridge, and DRPT will pursue this approach to the extent feasible. However, the EIS analyzed the scenario that would result in a longer duration of impacts, which assumes an additional 2 years of construction following the construction of the railroad bridge due to the space constraints between the new bridges and the Metrorail Bridge. The EIS analysis assumed that construction of the bike-pedestrian crossing would use some of the same construction access and staging areas as the railroad bridge construction.

This would be a great new crossing, it deserves a great name. 

Capital crescent news roundup

With the good news that Montgomery County will build a new Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel, and the bad news that the trail extension is almost surely delayed, one might ask about the surface route that should already be done really. This 3 block long project has been moving excruciatingly slow and will be done in two phases. Phase one will go from the current end of the trail east to Elm Street Park using a cycle track along Woodmont Avenue from Miller Avenue to Montgomery Lane. Construction for this section was supposed to start last summer, and finish by now according to a story in January. The second phase goes north-south between Willow and Elm and will eventually connect to the end of the Purple Line section of the trail. That was to be done in summer of 2021. Not sure why it's been delayed and the project website isn't much help

Surface Route

Also, NPS has approved a plan to improve access to Fletcher’s Cove

Anyone who has visited Fletcher’s Cove knows how tricky it can be to get down the narrow ramp to the parking lot,” Superintendent Tina M. Cappetta said. “The new, wider, two-way entrance for drivers will provide a safer, more direct connection between Fletcher’s Cove and Canal Road, and the new pedestrian and bicyclist crossing near the existing entrance will improve access from the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath and the Capital Crescent Trail.”

No idea when that will happen though. 

This is also pretty old news, but starting this past spring, Montgomery County has been closing part of Little Falls Parkway on the weekend to make room for active users and take pressure off the Capital Crescent Trail. They're also closing part of Sligo Creek Parkway and Beach Drive, and other streets by request.

Also, did you hear about the guy who lost it on some kids putting up Black Lives Matter flyers on the trail. Well, he was arrested and Charged with assault

In an immediate apology, released through his lawyers, Brennan said, “I am sick with remorse for the pain and fear I caused the victims on the trail, and online.”

Good news and bad news for the Capital Crescent Trail expansion - victim of the troubled Purple Line

CCTBridge

Workers building the Purple Line, and with it the Capital Crescent Trail, have stopped construction as the companies they work for quit the project.  This will likely delay the opening of the trail by at least a year. .

Contractors closed up the sites and then management was transferred to the state which took over, via MDOT and MTA, some of the contracts. The state says it's committed to completing the project, and using money from the Transportation Trust Fund to do so, but Maryland also says that the departure will result in delays of a year or two, which would push opening to 2024 or 2025. Montgomery County is paying for the trail (and part of the Silver Spring Green Trail), though Maryland is in charge of building it.

The two have been bickering about cost overruns and delays for at least half a year and over the summer a court had to grant a restraining order to temporarily prevent the contractors from walking away while they tried to resolve it, but that has failed and the restraining order was lifted. 

The cost overruns are caused by a combination of coronavirus delays, construction changes demanded by CSX, right-of-way acquisition problems (or failures), code requirements, oh yeah and a stupid lawsuit filed by the anti-transit group the "Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail".

The lawsuit added 266 days and about $200 million 

CCT2

It's mixed news on the lawsuit front

FOCCT (pronounced fəked) continues to sue to shut the Purple Line project down for good, and they continue to lose. In April, a federal judge ruled that the permit that the Army Corps of Engineers issued for the project was proper. And so that ends the suing.  

Just kidding. Nothing but the heat death of the universe can do that as long as some people argue that BRT off the ROW would have been better (The state studied that and decided it wouldn't be). FOCCT, along with resident Leonard Scensny and former Chevy Chase resident John Fitzgerald was back in court in July arguing that the Federal Appeals Court should vacate the permit.  Last month the Army Corps of Engineers argued that FOCCT hasn't identified any material flaws in their permit and urged them to affirm the lower court's ruling. 

Good news - Bethesda Tunnel approved

In a related subject, Montgomery County has committed to building the new trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue. For those who don't recall, the Georgetown Branch Trail used to run through the old rail tunnel, but that tunnel will be needed for the Purple Line and can't easily be widened. So instead they're going to build a new, additional tunnel south of the Purple Line tunnel. There will also be an on-street route south of that.

image from www.montgomeryparks.org

In 2017, the County estimated the tunnel would cost $25M, however when they completed 70% of the design that cost went up just a smidge to $54M.

The 1,000'-long tunnel would begin near the north end of Elm Street Park, pass beneath 47th Street and the east leg of Elm Street, continue under Wisconsin A venue and the new Carr Buildings, and emerge at the planned Woodmont Avenue plaza. It would be 16' wide, containing a 12'-wide trail with 2' to either side as shoulders/shy areas to the side walls. It would have about 12' 6" of headroom. It would have two underground curved sections: a slight curve near the west end beneath the Carr Buildings and a tighter curve near the east end beneath Elm Street Park The steepest grade would be 4.9%, within the 5% grade required to meet ADA standards. The tunnel would be well lit and be outfitted with security cameras and emergency phones. 

Construction will take 30 months. 

County Executive Marc Elrich decided not to fund the tunnel in January because it was too expensive and more than 100 residents showed up to complain. Council staff recommended a slightly cheaper tunnel that was narrower and with less headroom. But the County Council ignored that recommendation and in an informal vote(?) in April, voted unanimously for the good tunnel. Work is to begin in 2023 and finish in 2026. 

Arlington and Alexandria seek funds to improve the Mt. Vernon Trail

Arlington County and Alexandria have applied for a SMART SCALE grant that will allow them to widen and improve the Virginia portion of the Mt. Vernon Trail between Roosevelt Island and Jones Point Park. The portion that runs across Columbia Island is in DC and will be funded separately. 

The project widens the trail’s paved surface from between seven and eight feet to 11 feet where feasible, and makes other associated improvements including striping center and edge lines, signage, improved bridges, and realigned trail intersections.

NPS completed a comprehensive Mount Vernon Trail Corridor Study in May 2020. The study recommends major capital improvements in the Arlington and Alexandria sections of the trail; these are included in the SMART SCALE application.

SMART SCALE funding is pretty competitive, but it's encouraging to see this get such high priority. NPS has been talking about widening and realigning the trail for at least 15 years and it's well past time to do so. 

Much of what this grant would do is covered in the Corridor Study, which I have not written about before, but it calls for creating a much better trail and fixing many of the problems that trail users have just been living with.

It should come as no surprise that the study determined that the trail is crowded and conflicted; has too many crashes; is showing it's age in some places and is out-of-date with best practices. And if nothing is done, most of these problems will get worse. 

In order to modernize and improve the trail, they have a long list of suggestions including signage; bridge replacement; at-grade crossing improvements; new trailheads; and trail widening and realignment. Also the section in Fairfax County has significant issues with root heave and needs to be repaved in sections. 

Four bridges are already scheduled and funded for replacement, including the long bridge (#31) under the TR Bridge. 2 others are in need of replacement soon, 25 need maintenance and 9 have chain railings that should be upgraded to metal ones. Bridge 31 is to be replaced and widened and the intersection will be improved for safety. 

Bridgerepair

On signage they report that

Signage is highly variable throughout the trail. Many key sites lack site entrance/orientation signs. The use of regulatory/warning signage also varies considerably and is sometimes excessive. Emergency signs are weathered and may not communicate up-to-date information. Wayfinding/directional signage tends to be weathered, under-sized, and vary widely in terms of style. Signage at at-grade intersections with roadways also varies and is missing completely in some locations. There is a lack of signage for the on-street portion of the trail in Alexandria.

And then they recommend both near and long term changes. They also recommend adding a full time trail manager, bike parking, bridge treatments that reduce slippage and new trail counters. 

In the longer term they want the trail in Arlington County widened to at least 11 feet where possible, with bridges that are 4 feet wider than the trail. They recommend adding trail intersection enhancements, such as implementing trail roundabouts, at the 14th Street Bridge and Four Mile Run Trail and implementing bicycle-pedestrian separation at areas like Gravelly Point. 

KeepEmSeparated

Another trouble spot they explicitly called out is the Daingerfield S-curve. Without going into specifics they suggest realigning and widening this area when the rehabilitate Bridge 28, which I think is the bridge just north of there.

Other intriguing recommendations include:

  • Develop a connection from the Mount Vernon Trail to the south side of Theodore Roosevelt Bridge
  • Conduct alternatives analysis to provide off-road trail connection from the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to Arlington Ridge Park
  • Reduce motorist lane width from 20 ft to reduce motorist speed at Airport Crossing Trail or add rumble strips
  • Remove stop and dismount signs at Airport Crossing Trail and replace with yield signs
  • Install bicycle traffic lights, which would remain green unless a vehicle approaches, at Airport Crossing Trail
  • Add button or pressure actuated sensors to active crossing warning lights at Arlington Memorial Bridge
  • Provide formal access to the MVT from the northern side of Arlington Memorial Bridge
  • Provide grade separation at crossings at Arlington Memorial Bridge
  • Add half-mile markers along the MVT
  • Conduct a feasibility study for the time and financial costs of plowing the northern half of the trail (north of Alexandria) during winter weather

Unfortunately, there's nothing about improving the very narrow part of the trail under Arlington Memorial Bridge, but that is an admittedly large ask. I think the best idea I've heard on that is to build a boardwalk that goes over the river and under the bridge's westernmost arch.

Only somewhat related, but if DC gets statehood maybe part of that whole map reworking should include the transfer of Columbia Island and TR Island to Virginia (at least jurisdictionally, as we've done with the Alexandria waterfront). It just makes more sense.  

Anyway, going back to the original article, another project Alexandria is seeking money for is 

to $40 million for what it calls the Upper King Street Multimodal Improvement project. The project “would fund design, right-of-way and construction of traffic/multimodal and streetscape improvements along King Street (VA 7) between Quaker Lane / Braddock Road and Menokin Drive,” adjacent to Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood.

Suitland Parkway Interchange work will create a new DC-295 crossing

The new Douglass Bridge, currently under construction, promises to significantly upgrade one of the Anacostia's few bicycle crossings. But what has been less celebrated is that it will result in a new place where cyclists and pedestrians can cross the DC-295/I-295 barrier.  Though not as much of a bottleneck as the river, there are only a little more than a dozen places where one can cross 295 by bike in DC over a 5.5 mile stretch. And fewer when the railroad tracks are taken into account.

image from washcycle.typepad.com

The crossing is part of the new I-295/Suitland parkway. The old interchange, built in the early 1960's had no sidewalks and there were none added in the 2011 South Capital Street FEIS.

But by 2013, the design included three alternatives, one with a 10' sidewalk, one with a 12' one and one with a 10' shared-use path separated by a small barrier, all on the west side.

Screenshot 2020-06-18 at 5.57.56 PM

The preferred alternative was a sidewalk. Later a shared-use path was added to the other side with an at-grade crossing of the ramp.

Screenshot 2020-06-19 at 8.47.18 PM

But in 2014, there was a Revised Preferred Alternative that changed the ramp and put the path through an underpass below "Ramp B". The path doesn't show up in this 2014 drawing.

image from washcycle.typepad.com

By 2018, the plans clearly showed where the sidewalks and paths would be. A network of sidewalks and paths will connect the bridge and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to new sidewalks along Suitland Parkway and Firth Sterling; and existing sidewalks along Howard and S. Capitol Street will be replaced and improved. 

Screenshot 2020-06-19 at 8.28.17 PM

Work on Ramp B and the tunnel is underway. Here's what it looked like in 2019.

Screenshot 2020-06-19 at 8.36.47 PM

And in 2020.

IMG_3490

Unfortunately, this won't create a direct connection to the Suitland Parkway Trail. After passing through the tunnel and under 295, trail users will need to go east on Firth Sterling along the sidewalk and then south on Howard and Sheridan for about a half mile to get to the trail head. DDOT is working on a redesign of the trail (which is in shameful shape anyway) and maybe that will include a better connection. 

 

Let's make the Fort Circle Trail better

The Fort Circle Trail located east of the river is one of DC's oldest bike trails. Though underused, and a fraction of what it was once promised to be, it's beloved. The trail provides a mountain biking opportunity within the district as well as a natural hiking path through wards 7 and 8, but there steps - some simple and some not - that we could take to make it better. 
 
The FCT is a 7-mile long, mostly unpaved, trail through the east side of DC from Fort Stanton to Fort Mahon - though many maps and sites (such as this one) show it covering a shorter distance. It was supposed to be more.
 
image from washcycle.typepad.com
1974 Fort Circle Plan
From 1930 to 1965 NPS planned a Fort Circle Drive for people tour the forts by car, and they spent decades trying to acquire the necessary land, starting with the War Department handing over the forts themselves in 1933.  But in 1968 they produced a new management plan which replaced the drive with a continuous hiker-biker trail because the drive was deemed impractical and impossible to build due to residential expansion into the area.  Detailed plans for the full trail were created and the first sections of the trail, a section in Rock Creek Park along Military Road and the one in east DC, opened in 1971.  The plan was still to build a 23 mile long arcing trail from Fort Greble in far SW to Fort Marcy in Fairfax County as part of preparation for the bicentennial. But only one other section of the trail, a portion of the C&O Canal towpath that predated the plan, was ever completed. Funds earmarked for the Fort Circle trail were used to cover bicentennial cost overruns elsewhere, and no further money was ever allocated. 
 
In 1987, NPS developed a plan to improve the trail. It included extending the trail to Kenilworth Park, the Frederick Douglass home and the Suitland Parkway as well as repairs and smaller improvements. A year later, WABA submitted a report that advised against paving the trail at this time, as it was a unique and useful facility as it was, and NPS dropped it from consideration. Not that it mattered, as little from the '87 plan was ever done.
 
In 2004, NPS again updated the management plan and this time they dropped the idea of a continuous hiker/biker trail for environmental and aesthetic reasons. They deduced that it would have required bridges, switchbacks, tree removal, retaining walls and trail widening that would have lost the "sense of wildness" in the existing parks. Instead they would encourage development of a foot trail consisting of the sections from 1971 and existing sidewalks, as well as connection sidewalks and signs. It was to be designed in coordination with DDOT, but no such planning has occurred. 
 
It's unfortunate that NPS closed the door on a multi-use path, especially since there is space for one.  (They have mapped out an on-road bike route for part of the way). It would be similar, though not identical to what was mapped above. The bridge across the Anacostia would be in a different place, for example, and perhaps that would push the route west to the MBT trail instead of north to Eastern Avenue, but fundamentally the same and forming a sort of inner bicycle beltway.
 
But, let's assume the door on that is closed for a generation, there is still room for improvement with what we have. As it is, the FCT is the only mountain bike trail in DC. It is officially a hiker/biker trail, but ped volumes are low and generally the pedestrians using the trail are walking dogs or hiking. This makes it ideal for mountain biking, but still usable for transportation.
 
One problem is that how to get to the trail is not obvious.  DDOT/NPS could improve that by doing a better job connecting it to nearby trails, as it gets extremely close to several of them.  On the southern/western side of the FCT, it comes within a city block of the Suitland Parkway Trail, and it could be connected via a small extension behind the Anacostia Museum using the existing foot trail and a small connector.
Suitland connector
 
In the middle, the trail already connects to the Pennsylvania Ave SE sidepath, but a less stressful connection to the ART is possible by developing a short segment of trail along the existing gravel road in Anacostia Park and then pass underneath DC-295 by going over the derelict Shepherd Railroad Spur. On the east side, trail users could continue along the blue line below, along G Street SE to reach the southern side of Fort Dupont, where a nature trail takes cyclists over some charming footbridges, into the main valley of Fort Dupont, and riders can continue up to reach the main line of the trail system. 
 
Alternatively, once on the east side of 295 a trail could be built along the red line below along the Ft Dupont Tributary through the green space between F and G and then across Minnesota Avenue. Maybe the tributary could be daylighted on the west side too.
ART connection
NPS could also develop connections within the park to the Ice Arena and the Nationals Youth Baseball academy (light blue lines).
 
If some expansion was in the cards, carrying the trail across the Suitland Parkway at Stanton Road and then building another trail on the south side, up the valley on St. Elizabeths campus to the Entertainment Arena and the Capital Heights Metro station. 
Extension

The trail network in this area is developing into a truly world-class network, but DDOT needs to connect the different facilities, while continuing to expand the overall network and improve neighborhood access. A trail along the Shepherd Branch would aid with this too.
 
 

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