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I live along the Glen Echo Trolley right-of-way, and I don't see this as being much help at all. The area is served currently with at least five parallel bike-friendly routes -- MacArthur Boulevard, Sherier Place, Potomac Avenue, The C&O canal towpath, and the Capital Crescent trail.

Adding a sixth parallel route won't really deliver any utility for anyone, and it has myriad practical problems. The trolley path covers some pretty rugged terrain, and expensive bridges -- in flood-prone ravines -- would have to be built to accomodate bicycles. How would this path cross the busy intersection of Foxhall and MacArthur? What good would it do cyclists to be dumped out into a parking lot at the eastern terminus? The existing route from Foxhall and MacArthur -- down the sidewalk, through the tunnel, and the CCT to Georgetown -- would still be a better route. All this trouble for a trail that might provide ten minutes of cycling? The section Battery Kemble Park to Galena Place is currently cyclable in dry weather, but it's lightly used, because it doesn't go anywhere particularly useful.

The unaddressed problem with the existing routes is that they are separated from each other by barriers -- difficult geography or high-speed roads. I would make a much higher priority out of linking together the routes in the area -- and the trolley ROW would be useful in places for that purpose.

Three strategic links would dramatically improve access to the whole area. The first would be a pedestrian/cyclist overpass at Fletcher's boathouse, similar to the ones that exist further upstream in Brookmount. This could use the trolley ROW to connect to Sherier Place where it abuts the ROW at the intersection of Sherier and Nebraska Ave. This would provide access to the CCT and C&O to the entire southern Palisades neighborhood.

The second link would be to modify the trolley bridge that crosses Arizona Avenue to make it more useful to pedestrians and cyclists. Currently it has a ramp that goes to street level on the northwest side, but on the southeast side it connects only to the trolley ROW, which unlit at night and muddy in wet weather. If the bridge had ramps on both ends it would provide a crossing for Arizona Avenue, which is difficult for pedestrians and cyclists now as there are often long waits between breaks in traffic.

The third link is where the CCT crosses Arizona Avenue and Canal Road. There is an existing dirt trail between Arizona and the CCT, but this stretch of Arizona is one of the few roads in DC I won't bike, because of the combination of narrow lanes, heavy traffic and steep grade. A sidepath (i.e. a sidewalk with a stripe) along the western edge of Arizona Avenue, using NPS land, could avoid the steep grade and maintain the level of the CCT. It should continue up to Sherier, where cyclists could connect to the overpass. A matching ramp on the other side of the bridge would provide direct access to the C&O canal. This combination would open up the Chain Bridge, and thus Virginia, to everyone in the Palisades, plus everyone along the CCT or the C&O.

The first link – from the trolley ROW to Fletcher’s is mentioned in the Canal Road Scenic Byway plan so I considered that as something that would happen (and build 2 of the 5 needed bridges to complete the whole route). The other two links are good ideas as well – ones I had never considered.

As for the trolley ROW, I think it would serve more utility then you give it credit for. It’s not really a 6th parallel route since Potomac Avenue only parallels it for one block and Sherier Place dead-ends at Nebraska forcing a rider onto MacArthur. At worst, it’s a fourth parallel route (and the CCT and the C&O are basically the same thing in the District so I call it a third).

The trolley ROW’s utility comes from its subtle differences to those other routes. Unlike the CCT and the C&O it would connect to the city street system at numerous locations, connecting into Potomac Heights, the Palisades and the Georgetown Reservoir neighborhoods. Unlike MacArthur it would be free of automobile traffic, car doors and stop lights and stop signs. It would provide better views of the Potomac than any of the others. It would pass right by the Palisades Recreation Center. It would provide a different cultural, historical and educational experience. But most importantly, it wouldn’t force you to drop down the bluff.
All of the other routes you mentioned require users to eventually bike down to the canal and end up below the bluffs; either at Water Street, along the canal or on Canal Road. The ROW, by utilizing the trestle, ends above the bluffs. This eastern terminus, while a parking lot, is not a dead end. It’s the southwest corner of Georgetown University and the end of Prospect Street. You mention that the trail is unused because it doesn’t go anywhere. Now it would – namely Georgetown. This route would serve anyone who is headed to or from locations north of Canal Road/M Street. They would no longer have to go down the hill and then back up. The Foundry Branch Tunnel is great if you’re going to Water Street, but what if you’re not?

In addition the ROW would – in conjunction with the CCT - create a loop route that would reduce the usage on the CCT. The CCT gets a million users a year and gets so busy on weekends and rush hour that I’ve heard people say they won’t use it at those times. That success is a good thing, of course, but this trail would relieve some of that pressure, by providing an option to joggers, dog walkers and recreational cyclists.

As for crossing the Foxhall/MacArthur intersection, I just foresaw a lighted intersection such as you’d see on the W&OD.

To make one contiguous trail 4 bridges would be needed., including the bridge over Discovery Creek that you mentioned., the trestle that would at least need to be redecked (possible more), a small bridge over a washout just south of Reservoir road (it may be possible to fill this in) and the big one – a bridge over Clark street. But even without all of these bridges (or the one to Flecther’s) the trail has utility.

How do you propose we cross Clark Place, where it meets Canal Road? A bridge? An at-grade grossing with a 40% grade incline on either side (I don't think so.)? It will have to be a bridge, and that sounds expensive.
Is it feasible to seek stimulus funds for the project?

Don't get me wrong, I want to see this Palisades/MacArthur Blvd/Glen Echo Trolley Trail built. It's my neighborhood. I bicycle the trail every day with my dog, bumps and weeds and all. But the bridge at Clark Place and the crossing at Reservoir Road (which is preceded by a precipitiously dropping gorge with a river running through it) are two areas that need planning and money.

I agree, though, that the trail has utility even if its segments are divided in the short-term at Clark Place and Reservoir Road.

This piece doesn't include either of those crossings, so I'll respond to this on the Cabin John Trolley page.

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