the District Department of Transportation is considering an extensive rehabilitation that could include adding a sidewalk and a bike lane. The department is expected to chose between one of four alternatives early next year, the most expensive of which would cost $37.1 million and take three years to complete.
The most ambitious of the plans, Alternative 4, would also add a bike lane and sidewalk for the entire length of the road.
But opponents of the proposed plans are worried about the loss of trees, which could range from 240 to 460, depending on which construction plan is approved.
The EA makes the note that not all of these trees will be lost, but this is the number that will be impacted or disturbed.
Casey Trees, an environmental advocacy group in the city, argued that Alternative 2, which would add a curb and gutter to the narrow street and extend the retaining wall, would be the best and least disruptive option because it improves the road without clearing too many trees.
“Broad Branch Road,” wrote Maisie Hughes, the group’s director of planning and design as part of the project’s public comments, “is a low speed, local road with scenic views of the park. Alternative Two best maintains the character of this road.”
I think this is a bit short sighted on their part. If Casey Trees really wants to support tree growth then they should support efforts that get people out of their cars and into their bikes. Cars and their exhaust are bad for trees. Still, it looks like support is there for the bike lanes.
At the most recent public hearing in November, about 20 people spoke from a crowd of 80. In the following 30 days, DDOT received 250 more comments, most from neighbors of the road rather than people who use the road simply as a throughway.
Program manager Paul Hoffman said support was divided but that most Advisory Neighborhood Commission and other community groups have come out in favor of building a sidewalk and a bike lane.
The city’s Bicycle Advisory Council came out in support of the bike lane plan, but according to Ellen Jones, the chairman and Ward 3 representative on the council, the issue of tree loss became a sticking point at the public hearing. “There were very strong differences of opinion,” she said.
“I’m not for tree removal,” said Jones, who lives in Chevy Chase, “but if the outcome that we’re looking for is to make this national park more accessible for people by bike and by foot, that’s a big thing in terms of both quality of life for people who live in the immediate area, as well as accessibility to natural space.”
Jones, who lives a 10-minute bike ride away from Rock Creek Park, rides the route roughly once a month. “There’s not good sight lines, there are pinch points,” she said. “The uphill experience is not a happy one coming out of the park, and yet you don’t really have a choice.”
Like Ellen Jones, I'm much more sympathetic to the pro-tree side of the trees-versus-bike lanes debate than I am to the pro-parking side of the parking-versus-bike lanes debate. The city has good reason to support trees and provide space for trees. But I don't agree that the place to make a stand is against active and clean transportation. Certainly there are places where we can replace these 220 additional "lost" trees that won't limit transportation options or decrease road safety for vulnerable users - and in fact, the EA says that DDOT will do just that:
All trees will be protected during construction or replaced according to DDOT’s Bluebook for Standard Specifications for Highways and Structures - Section 611 Trees, Shrubs, Vines, and Ground Covers.
I bet we could make more space for trees if we took out some curb-side parking elsewhere.