By Ken Katz
Last night DDOT hosted the second Public Meeting for the Broad Branch Road Environmental Assessment, part of the NEPA process. Essentially a show and tell without formal presentation, the various alternatives were displayed with engineers and others present (e.g., a National Park Service representative, Jim Sebastian from DDOT) to answer questions as we the public walked around from alternative to alternative. The underlying motivation is the complete rehabilitation of the 1.7 mile segment of Broad Branch Road between Beach Drive and Linnean Avenue. No one familiar with this stretch of Broad Branch would deny (I hope) that changes are badly needed in order to "create a safe facility for all travel modes - auto, bicycle and pedestrian": a stated objective of the Broad Branch Road redesign.
The alternatives start with minimal restoration and improvement (Alternative 1), then escalate infrastructure for pedestrians (Alternatives 2 and 3) and finally bicyclists (Alternative 4). The latter three alternatives each also include improved storm water management, road side retaining walls, a cleaner T-intersection with Brandywine Street, and a long desired connection from Soapstone Creek to the parking lot; all maintain two travel lanes.
Alternative 2 adds a one thousand foot length, five foot wide pedestrian sidewalk, an improvement since currently no sidewalk exists at all along this section of Broad Branch Road. The sidewalk is limited to one thousand feet because Alternative 2 limits itself to the current right of way and that is all that is possible within that constraint. Extending the sidewalk along the full 1.7 mile length of Broad Branch in Alternative 3 requires additional right of way (compared to current) in the areas beyond the thousand foot Alternative 2. Alternative 4 adds a single one way bike lane heading north, and requires a bit more right of way beyond Alternative 3, although not much more.
The renderings lack contours so it isn't obvious that the single northbound dedicated bike lane is in the uphill direction - making it a "climbing lane", analogous to the extra lane in the climbing direction of roads going up mountains. The idea is that southbound downhill cyclists will be able to travel at close to automotive pace, assuming of course the cars aren't speeding. Nevertheless, cyclists uncomfortable sharing the road (and in this section of road I will admit even I might fall into that category, at least under less than ideal conditions) would end up using the sidewalk. Thus my suggestion to Jim Sebastian that an alternative accommodation might be to remove the one way bike lane and instead add to the width of the sidewalk to make it a true multi use path.
For more information, to see the displays & handouts, and to download (and then print, fill out and send in) Comment Sheets: