The Chesapeake Beach Railway was built in the 1890's as a connection between the population center of Washington, DC and the resort town of Chesapeake Beach, MD. In 1899 the railway started operation from south Deanwood, where Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue meets Minnesota Avenue running north of Watts Branch then through Seat Pleasant, Upper Marlboro and Owings on its way to Chesapeake Beach. Highways, fire and the Great Depression all led to the railway being replaced by a bus by 1935. The section within DC continued its operations as the East Washington Railway until 1978.
Ironically, much of the section within Maryland - the section abandoned 70 years ago - has survived, while the short piece in DC was quickly built upon. The DC ROW was just wide enough to place a house and yard on it. Since it parallels Watts Branch (the reason it and the WB&A* chose to utilize that valley to approach the city in the first place) and the soon-to-be-reopened Marvin Gaye Park Trail (MGPT), an alternative exists. In fact riding the MGPT, just west of Division Avenue, you can see an old abutment of the WB&A rail line.
Aside: The old WB&A line in DC was owned by Capitol Transit and thus, I'd figure, by Metro. The East Washington Railway ceased service in the 1970's. In my research I never find out why Metro twice decided not to build a line (or hold on to/acquire land for later expansion) in this area.
The problem is they don't own all of it as M-NCCPC points out.
It was abandoned before railbanking was an option. So instead they're forcing developers to build sections as they develop parcels the trail would sit on. Construction has been, at best, piecemeal.
- A 100-foot long portion was built in Maryland Park between Crown Street and the Addison Plaza shopping center. This is just east of the DC eastern corner.
- When the Walker Mill/Ritchie Marlboro Road intersection with the Beltway was rebuilt, sidewalks were added to serve as the trail in that section.
- In September 2004, the state of Maryland committed $1.6 million for construction of the first 1.4 miles of trail. Construction for the trail was scheduled to begin in the fall of 2005 but has been pushed back to 2008. In October, MD Senate President Thomas Miller said, " Construction is about to begin on the Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail."
During the wait for this last section, it appears it has been expanded.
When asked about the rail trail - and the closing of the Brown Station landfill that it would pass through - in 2007, M-NCCPC replied
Near the Beltway, the Chesapeake Beach Railroad Trail is accommodated with an existing eight-foot wide sidewalk parallel to the road. This wide sidewalk provides safe pedestrian access under the Beltway and can serve as a segment of the longer planned trail. As part of the master plan process, staff can evaluate the feasibility of a separate trail bridge (or tunnel) in this area to better accommodate the master plan trail.
So what Maryland (and to a much smaller extant DC) needs to do is come up with a PLAN to match their plans. The M-NCPPC and state DNR need to put together a formal plan of how the CBRT will be built, where it will run etc...Otherwise we're going to end up with a messy, disconnected trail.
In the short term, Maryland should build the section - now a social trail - from Crown Street in Seat Pleasant to the District Boundary and DC should build the last 20 feet to the corner of Southern and Eastern, as well as a sidepath on Southern and signs and markings to connect it to the MGPT (as mentioned in this UMd Studio Report). Maryland should also build the Chesapeake Beach section.
*I'm not doing anything on the WB&A trail this year, since it's been covered twice already.