Capital Crescent Surface Trail and Tunnel will be reviewed by the Planning Board on October 14

Tunnel1

The Montgomery County Planning Board will review and provide advisory comments to MCDOT on the Capital Crescent Surface Trail Phase 2 and Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) Under MD 355 projects on Thursday, October 14.

The interim CCT (or the Georgetown Branch Trail) used to go under Wisconsin Avenue in the old rail tunnel, but that has been closed since work on the Purple Line began and when it all reopens the light rail will use the tunnel. So the plan is build a new tunnel just south of the rail tunnel and an improved surface route.

47th

The tunnel story is much longer than that, if you must know, and if you started digging the trail tunnel's grave every time it was in trouble you'd be in China by now but last year MoCo voted to build their part of the tunnel despite a higher than expected price tag. The tunnel west of Wisconsin was built as part of the Carr section and the part under Wisconsin Ave and to the east built by the County. 

The Capital Crescent Surface Trail Phase 2 project would construct a 10-foot-wide shared-use path along the east side of 47th Street from Willow Lane to Elm Street.

Phase 1 of the trail tunnel would construct the part of the trail west of the Wilson and Elm, a bicycle storage facility inside of it, an interim trail connection between the Capital Crescent Surface Trail Phase 2 and the Capital Crescent Trail Mainline project under construction as part of the Purple Line project and reconstruct the northern portion of Elm Street Park and the east/west promenade through the park.

Phase 2 will finish the tunnel, reconfigure the surface route and redevelop parts of Elm Park

The Staff report includes some comments including  making sure utility poles are far enough away from the trail and...

Bicycle Parking Station
3. Provide stacked bicycle racks with lift assist.
4. Provide changing rooms and showers.
5. Provide secure access to the long-term bicycle parking area with CCTV security cameras, blue light phones in the bicycle parking area and access by key fob or other means.

Capital Crescent Surface Trail
10. Design the Capital Crescent Surface Trail north of the Promenade with a maximum running slope of 4.5% and a maximum cross slope of 1.5% to allow for construction tolerance in asphalt construction.
11. Reconcile the differences in the design of the Capital Crescent Surface Trail Phase 2 with the Capital Crescent Trail Under MD 355 Phase 1 where they merge at the intersection of 47th Street and Elm Street: 1) extend the curb along 47th Street at the Promenade to the corner of the Air Rights Building loading dock area, 2) coordinate the alignment and grading of the trail. Relocate the manhole for the sewer out of the pedestrian plaza area.

Capital Crescent Trail Civic Green Connector
12. Match the Capital Crescent Trail paving pattern of the Capital Crescent Civic Green Connector to the pattern in front of 4735 Bethesda Avenue.

Routes

A possible future for the Elm Street Park

Elm

Indoor bicycle parking near the west end of the tunnel.
Elm

The east end of the tunnel.
Elm

Mount Vernon Highway Trail Project is underway, to be completed this winter

MVH

In May, Fairfax County started working on the Mount Vernon Highway Trail Project. The project will build a 10-foot wide sidepath along parts of Mount Vernon Highway between Grist Mill and Washington Mill Park. 

This $6.5 million, two-mile stretch is part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail between Richmond Highway (Route 1) and Southwood Drive and in accordance to the Countywide Trails Plan.

It will also build a 14' trail bridge over Dogue Creek. There are some existing, and shoddy, trail segments and these will not be rebuilt as part of this project. 

Relocations of utilities began in June 2021 and are expected to be completed by September 2021. Utility relocations including gas, electric, and communication lines are necessary to accommodate the proposed trail. The Washington Gas line relocation is in process. The construction of the trail project is expected to start Fall 2021.

The project is to be completed in Winter 2022.

DC allocates $2.2 million to study Connecticut Avenue PBL

CTArender

After being left out of Mayor Bowser's budget, the DC Council recently allocated $2.2 million to continue the work to redesign Connecticut Ave that might include a PBL. This project, the Connecticut Avenue NW Reversible Lane Safety and Operations Study, is one of the possible permanent traffic changes to come out of temporary changes made during the Covid Pandemic. 

The District is considering adding bike lanes and making other changes to a 2.7-mile segment of Connecticut Avenue NW, where city leaders envision a corridor with less vehicle traffic and better access for pedestrians, transit users and bicycles. The $4.6-million makeover would add a northbound and southbound bike lane and remove reversible rush-hour lanes — a source of confusion among drivers— resulting in fewer car lanes.

The concept, which has broad support among bicycle users and road-safety advocates, is worrisome to drivers and some businesses over fears that a bike lane would reduce already-scarce parking. 

Parking you say? I guess there's a first time for everything.

Cyclists have been advocating for bike lanes on CTA for as long as I can remember, and protected bike lanes on CTA, albeit farther north, were in the original "Bikeways Plan" that the DC proposed to meet EPA mandates back in 1974 - so this has been a long time coming. More recently Connecticut Avenue was identified as a Bike Priority Corridor in moveDC 2014 and the 2021 Update.

CTA

At the center of the plan is a push to remove rush-hour lanes from Woodley Park to the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Washington, a stretch of six-lane road that carried an average of 32,000 vehicles daily before the coronavirus pandemic. The two reversible lanes allow four of the road’s lanes to carry southbound traffic during the morning rush, then reverse in the evening to carry northbound traffic out of the city.

As the road is reduced to four lanes, a protected bike lane would be added in each direction, with parking and loading zones removed on one side of Connecticut Avenue. More than 300 parking spaces would be eliminated, according to a DDOT analysis. The new configuration would cut parking availability outside of rush-hour and car-lane capacity in half for peak direction travel during rush hour.

The proposal would remove rush-hour parking restrictions, enabling all-day parking on one side of the road. 

But they're also considering a non-bike option even though they admit that it's out of sync with their current plans and Vision Zero.

The city is also considering removing the reversible lanes without building bike lanes. In that plan, which would lower the project’s cost to $1.9 million, there would be three lanes in each direction during peak hours and two in each direction during nonpeak hours. Parking would be preserved on both sides of the road with rush-hour restrictions remaining.

DDOT says of the project

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is studying the feasibility of removing the reversible lane system as part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. Per the findings of the previous 2003 DDOT study, there is renewed community interest in reviewing the reversible lane system and exploring concepts for other mobility options such as bike lanes. 

Regardless of what happens with the bike lanes, removing the reversible lanes is popular and seems to have more momentum

Removing the lanes would bring a 36 percent reduction in crashes during peak hours, according to DDOT.

While about 300 bicyclists use the corridor daily, more than 3,000 bike trips would be made on the route after a bike lane opens, according to city estimates.

I don't know if it's the pandemic or years of education/advocacy, but this time things feel different.

“The commuters who are going down there at 50 miles per hour, they don’t even see my business because they are moving too fast to get through it,” said Krigman, who also is a member of Woodley Park Main Street. “So I’m very pleased with the prospect of slowing down Connecticut Avenue.”

In fact, when DDOT tried to restore the reversible lanes in June, neighborhood opposition caused them to reverse direction. 

There are a couple of designs with PBLs on each side, and then a few designs with a two-way protected cycle track on the west side, but both WABA and all four impacted ANCs support the one pictured above (Concept C) if you can't decide. 

DDOT was to make their management recommendation by the end of last month and then there's another public meeting tentatively scheduled for the fall.  But don't get too excited construction may not occur until 2025.

Capital Trails Coalition impact report highlights benefits of a full trail network

MWCOGNCT2

Back in April, the Capital Trails Coalition released the National Capital Trail Network (seen above) impact report which showed that a billion dollar investment in trails would pay off with over $2.4 Billion in savings PER YEAR.

Impact

This report was completed AFTER the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments officially endorsed the Capital Trails Coalition's (CTC) National Capital Trail (NCT) Network (seen above* or in an interactive version here), but the benefits highlighted absolutely informed that decision. Interested parties should read the whole report because I'm not going to repeat it all here, but even if you think they're way overstating the benefits (and I don't), it's still got to be a net gain

The NCT represents the product of a multi-year effort led by WABA and Rails-to-Trails; and including dozen's of other organizations and advocates. The CTC has been slowing building to wide acceptance of the NCT as the key response to their goal to connect the region by trails. It doesn't lack for ambition. It envisions trails stretching across the greater Washington region, from Frederick, Md., to Prince William County, Va., that would expand the amount of off-road bicycle and pedestrian pathways to 1,400 miles.

The extensive trail system would more than double the size of the existing network by adding 755 miles to the current 645 miles of trails

And they're not stopping with the plan. Since completing it, the CTC has been working to identify the trails that could most benefit from an advocacy push and then working to get them across the finish line. One of those was the long-stalled South Capitol Street Trail which recently got funding in Mayor Bowser's new budget

The NCT network, if built out, would finally get bike facilities to the place advocates have been trying to get them to for over 100 years and the CTC should be proud of the way that they've moved a plan that would have been laughed at 20 years ago into something serious policy makers can support. 

*An alternative version of this map, excluding Frederick and Charles Counties in Maryland; and Loudoun and Prince William Counties in Virginia shows up in the impact report. 

Scaling back of Beltway expansion spares Rock Creek, Bethesda Trolley, Sligo Creek trails

In mid-May Maryland scaled back their proposed expansion of DC-area highways, a decision that will prevent changes (and likely upgrades) to the many bike trails that cross it. Instead of adding lanes to the whole of the MD Beltway and I-270, the reduced proposal is to add lanes from the Virginia side of the American Legion Bridge (ALB) to north of Rockville. The major impacts for cyclists will be limited to any impact to the C&O Canal Towpath, a possible crossing on the new bridge and any improvements to or new connections crossing along the expanded highway (as is happening along I-66).

image from dcist.com

[For the record, I think any expansion is a bad idea, but if they do they should take the opportunity to make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the barrier. And advocates should push to make them do so.]

Last year, Montgomery County Planning weighed in on the project, to advise the state of the walking and bicycling recommendations in the Bicycle Master Plan and other area master plans to reconnect the neighborhoods that were severed with the original construction of I-495 and I-270. They brought their attention to individual bikeway recommendations that cross the interstates are shown at mcatlas.org/bikeplan. They also brought their attention to new guidance related to freeway ramps and grade-separated crossings. All of that is still valid, even with the reduced scope.

The 2020 DEIS discusses how the state is working with local planners to preserve current bike/ped facilities and add the facilities required by the county.

DEIS

A shared-use facility on the bridge is something the state says it's committed to. Regardless of feelings about the HOT lanes, that would be a great addition to the local bike network as it would be the only crossing between Chain Bridge and White's Ferry (which may or may not come back). The bridge runs almost exactly north-south, so it's odd that they described the share-use path as being on the "south side", but I'll assume they mean the downstream side which matches up with where they put it in the 2002 Mount Vernon Trail Extension Study. (The MVT is the light blue line).

MVTALB

It'd be a mistake to build it as shown, but not include a connection under the bridge to Live Oak Drive. 

Crystal City, and its Bicycle Network, would change with Amazon HQ arrival

image from projects.arlingtonva.us

Crystal City, a part of the future National Landing, is going through plenty of change right now, with more on the horizon. In order to help Crystal City develop in a 21st Century sort of way, the county is working on a new Crystal City Bike Plan with the goal of delivering a “network of enhanced bicycling facilities” that can be implemented no later than December 31, 2024. A 2nd Crystal City Bike Network community meeting is scheduled for sometime this month (TBD)

Advocates are supportive of the initiative but have some criticism for the plan nonetheless. One criticism has been that what they need are two plans - a short term plan, based on existing resources and items already in the pipeline, and a long-term plan, based on goals that only can be achieved as larger projects get underway.  The plan doesn't do enough to consider how people will really get around or that Crystal Drive is the most important road in the network. The plan also ignores Potomac Yard, a critical connection to the Four Mile Run Trail and Alexandria. 

They call for the plan to 

  • Require a Complete Street cross section for all future realignments and rebuilds of Clark/Bell by Developers
  • Expand the sidewalk along 12th St east of Long Bridge Drive and south along Crystal Drive to 15th Street to Trail width (at least 15').  
  • Rebuild the Metroway bus stops to support a 2-way protected bike lane on Crystal Drive from 15th to 26th St. T
  • Extend the Potomac Yard Trail from the Arlington/Alexandria border to Long Bridge Park.  

A study of Pentagon City is also underway that also proposes to transform that area into a more urban and bike/ped/transit oriented area. 

PentagonCity

The Commonwealth is getting in on the act too, as they're more than half a year into a Route 1 Multimodal Improvements Study

Meanwhile some things are happening outside of that planning process. As of earlier this year, construction has started on two residential towers at 1900 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, the project will include new 5' bike lanes on a block of 18th Street S. and, while it doesn't create a protected bike lane on Crystal Drive as advocates wanted, the bike lane will now be next to a transit lane instead of a travel lane. 

18th St S
18th St S

Still, a pair of protected bike lanes on Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street are something the County aspires to. Staff recently released recommendations on how to improve the area's bike lane Network and PBLs on Crystal Drive made the list along with improved cross-street east-west connections, and additional protected or buffered bike lanes on 15th, 18th, 23rd, and 26th streets.

In March 2020, the Arlington County Board directed staff to develop a plan to improve the bicycle network “east of Richmond Highway, from the Alexandria border extending north to Long Bridge Park.” The requirement for the proposal is that it needed to be completed within four years — by Dec. 31, 2024 — and require minimal changes to the curb line.

Staff considered several other options, but those rejected either didn’t fully address safety issues, could not be completed in the four-year timeline, or substantial capital improvements would be needed.

image from s26551.pcdn.co

Not everyone thinks the recommendations go far enough. Darren Buck, who serves on Arlington’s Transportation Commission and lives in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, said the recommendations reflect a “short-term view” that will not age well given that Crystal City in the midst of so much development.

“Let’s create a road map with a long-term vision, especially on Crystal Drive,” Buck says. “Let’s plan ahead with a 10 or 20 year goal for how that street should look.”

Right now, he says, gaps remain in the plan that doesn’t fully protect and provide safety to cyclists on all Crystal City streets, particularly from 18th Street to Clark and 27th streets.

Farther north of the area in that plan, the County approved the Crystal Gateway development which has some community benefits of interest to cyclists. They will be conveying 54,500 sq. ft. of land for Gateway Park (one of 5 parks being developed in the area), which will "connect Long Bridge Park to Crystal City" and contributing $300,000 for the County to plan the park. Long Bridge Park currently has a multi-use path (or esplanade) that is intendeded to connect to both the Mt. Vernon Trail and a new bridge ("Louvestre Bridge"?) across the Potomac.  That path already passes through the Crystal Gateway site. So the new park won't really connect Long Bridge Park to Crystal City, as they're already connected, but it preserve some of the green space next to the existing trail. There will also be a new road connecting 12th and 10th and some path's and sidewalks that should help pedestrians. 

Gateway Park

The existing trail is on the right side of this site plan.

In other Crystal City park/trail news the county approved upgrades to the Crystal City Water Park and the Crystal City MVT connector trail through it. 

Under the plan, the Crystal City Connector path would become two paths — one an ADA accessible pedestrian path and the other bicyclist-focused — accessing the Mount Vernon Trail and proposed VRE north tunnel. The developer proposes dedicating a public access easement over the privately-owned Water Park and trail improvements.

Connector

While this would separate pedestrians and cyclists in the park, they would still share the tunnel. The project would also better landscape the are past the tunnel exit.  Originally the project included a long staircase just to the left of the tunnel exit in the above site plan that led to the park, but on the advice of the PAC it was removed. 

Veiwfromtunnel
 

But wait, there's more. They're also considering 

approving a $4.23 million contract, awarded through a competitive bidding process, for the conceptual design and environmental review for a Crystal City-National Airport Multimodal Connector. The connector would link Crystal City’s core and the airport, meeting the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and micro-mobility users of all ages and abilities. Currently, pedestrians and bicyclists must navigate a circuitous network of trails and crossings to traverse the 2,000 feet from Crystal Drive to the airport terminals. Funding will be provided entirely through federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funds.

In addition to all of that, the Virginia Department of Transportation has initiated a feasibility study for proposed improvements on Route 1 on the west side of Crystal City between 12th Street S and 23rd Street S as part of the Route 1 Multimodal Improvement Study.  More information about the project is available on the project website and there's a virtual public meeting scheduled for June 16th. The project is exploring an at-grade urban boulevard, but also reviewing and comparing potential improvements to the current elevated condition, and the elevated urban boulevard described in the Crystal City Sector Plan. There's no consideration of bike facilites through the corridor, but there are places  - like 15th and 18th - where bike lanes cut across it and there the future design is important. 

The rendering below considers a Route 1 that crosses 15th at-grade (instead of going over it as it does now) and so the bike lanes on 15th would change as a result.

Route1

The National Landing org, however, is promoting a vision of Route 1 that does include protected bike lanes, as well as bigger sidewalks, more trees and more parking through a road diet. 

Route1diet

Changes underway, planned along Pershing in Arlington

 

DES-Pershing-Drive-Pilot-IMG_0121-e1571775473150-1024x768
There are more than a half-dozen bike-relevant projects underway, or in various stages of planning, in the Arlington Boulevard corridor.

Arlington County has been working on the Pershing Drive Complete Street project for over 5 years, and while the actual work has begun, a manufacturing issue put it on hold. This project goes beyond the 2018 pilot that

was implemented on Pershing Drive between Washington Boulevard and North Barton Street in October 2018. The pilot installation includes the addition of pedestrian/streetscape enhancements, protected bike lanes, and bus service efficiencies to improve safety for all roadway users. The pilot is expected to remain in place for several years.

However the needed supplies arrived last month and work resumed and will continue for a little longer. There's no specific bike facilities here, but it does include general traffic calming like bulbouts and realignments. 

Meanwhile in the same area, they've completed the redesign of the Washington Boulevard intersection and awarded a contract for that project, which is an expansion of the same project. Work should begin this summer.  Again, no specific bike component, but general traffic calming should make it safer for all. 

DES-Pershing-Dr-Washington_Blvd_intersection

On the east end of Pershing, the General Land Use Plan (GLUP) Study for the Day's Inn site south of Pershing Drive at Arlington Boulevard was reviewed by the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) completing a necessary step for rezoning. The Day's Inn site redevelopment would likely result in a new section of the Arlington Blvd Trail where the trail meets Pershing and currently is routed through a parking lot.

White's Ferry may be saved, what this means for cyclists

image from www.buckyandhisbike.net

Back in December, White's Ferry was closed in part because a cable was destroyed during a Christmas Day flood and in part because of a dispute over landing rights on the Virginia side. After negotiations to reopen it failed, the owners of the ferry sold it to a Virginia businessman and preservation, who will now try to negotiate a deal. I won't bore you with the details, but you can follow the links if you want to know who said what and who offered whom how much money and why a deal is needed and why no one can agree.

The reason this all matters, of course, is that the ferry serves as a connection between the W&OD Trail and the C&O Canal Towpath and many cyclists use it to make a loop (although I've never used the towpath for that loop). It's the only crossing for cyclists between Chain Bridge and the Point of Rocks Bridge - a distance of 40 miles. I've never biked across that latter bridge, which is beautiful, but as it only has 3 foot wide sidewalks, seems less than ideal anyway (not that that is really an alternative to the ferry).

It wasn't cheap and the pricing always bothered me. It cost $3 to take a bike across, but only $5 for a car. And if a driver bought one of their blue books with multiple tickets the price was less than $3 per trip (and less than taking a bike). But whatever - monopoly's gonna monopoly. 

A non-operating ferry is bad for cyclists. Opening it would be better. But perhaps the ideal situation would be for some government entity to take it over. They'd be more interested in cutting prices for cyclists and pedestrians - though the argument for that might be weak since I doubt there are many (any?) people who commute over the ferry by bike or on foot.

Another option is a small human-powered ferry, but I can't see why anyone would intervene to build one when the main constituency for the ferry is drivers. 

And while I'm reluctant to support new car infrastructure, a one-lane, alternating traffic bridge with a bike/ped lane - like the Union Arch Bridge over Cabin John -  might even be better. Toll it for drivers and make it free for cyclists, pedestrians, transit and emergency vehicles. We could try to set the toll so that car traffic remains the same or at some other sustainable level. 

We should start attaching points to speed camera tickets

Right now if someone gets a speeding ticket in DC they incur 3-5 points on their license. Unless that ticket is camera-enforced, then they don't get any points assessed. [Surprisingly, there are no points for running lights or stop signs] When I've asked about it, I've been told we can't because of the Constitution or the presumption of innocence. The problem with that is that other places do it.

WSJ2

And if Arizona, if someone amasses many tickets, the police will go to their home.

Identifying the driver takes some work - they use the driver's license photo for the registered owner, and if that doesn't work they send out the ticket and give the owner a chance to identify the driver. Which they sometimes do. It's not just AZ either. Both California and Oregon do this. 

Attaching the tickets to drivers instead of cars, would also result in the insurance rates of bad drivers going up. Which is how the system should work - although some states (MD and VA included) forbid this.

If we started giving points for camera tickets then we might need to lower the penalty (as enforcement goes up, the penalty should go down), but the incentive to slow down and drive safer would remain. 

DDOT plans to add protected bike lanes to West Virginia Avenue this year.

Image2020-4-14_14-44-7 (1)

At a recent ANC meeting, DDOT announced plans to speed up the West Virginia Avenue (WVA) road diet completing the 2-phase project about a year earlier than originally announced. Work will start in the spring of 2021 and finish up by summer.  Phase 2 was to complete in 2022, but now will also be built this year

The project will remove a travel lane from WVA in order to add the two 8' wide PBLs. Phase I will build the northern section from Mt. Olivet to New York Avenue (NYA) and Phase II will build south of there to Florida Avenue where it will connect to the new bike lanes on that road. In the middle, DDOT plans to add bike lanes heading west on Mt. Olivet. And someday they plan to build a bike trail along NYA, though maybe not as far east as WVA. 

WVAPBLs

Very exciting stuff. As a former rail road corridor, WVA is a nice flat route making it perfect for biking and bike lanes have been something DC aspired to have there since at least the 2005 plan. They're calling these protected bike lanes, but it's unclear what the protection will be (barriers? flexposts? flexposts and curb stops?). Regardless it will be a step up from what's there now. 

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