The State Department has completed the update to the master plan for the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, and one thing they'd like to do is remove an existing 1,127-foot jogging/bike trail at the south end of the site to accommodate the expansion of the childcare facility (building L), and to meet federal security requirements.
This trail currently provides public access to the recreational fields on the west parcel. Off-site access to the west parcel across adjacent paved sidewalks adds 1,335 feet to the trip.
The trail links South Quincy Street with the Arlington County recreational fields on the NFATC west parcel. In addition to removing the South Quincy to 6th Street section, they want to close another 969-foot section (from 6th Street to the fields) to the public.
The trail was proposed as part of the original master plan for the site. Sidewalks were not constructed in the adjacent residential neighborhood at that time, so the trail provided the only option for residents to access the recreational facilities on the west parcel. Sidewalks have since been constructed in the neighborhood, and GSA analysis indicates that the route along the sidewalks would add 1,335 feet to the trip to the west parcel—or approximately five minutes to the walk. An unpaved, incomplete trail also sits on Arlington County land outside of the campus boundary, which could presumably be paved and completed to provide alternate access.
This is one of the National Capital Planning Commissions (NCPCs) top 3 concerns about the Master Plan.
The Transportation element of The Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital notes the importance of providing public trail access to and through federal facilities as feasible. NCPC staff recognizes that this may pose a security concern in this instance, but recommends that GSA and DOS work with Arlington County to identify potential solutions that preserve pedestrian connectivity. Staff notes that the local community has expressed strong interest in keeping the trail open for public use. Therefore, staff suggests the Commission recommends the applicant work with Arlington County to address community concerns related to the removal of the jogging/bike trail at the south end of the site, including the exploration of strategies to maintain access on federal property or provide access on adjacent county property.
If you're wondering how much the trail is used
NFATC staff and students and the surrounding community use the trail daily. In 2016, FSI conducted a trail use count from September 1st through September 18th . During that period, the total trail use count was 1,192 individuals with an average daily use of 66 persons.
Citizens commented the trail is an important and safe link in pedestrian connectivity between neighborhoods. Use of the pedestrian trail through the NFATC underpass allows for a safe, traffic-free crossing of S. George Mason Drive.
But according to State, the impact of removal is not significant.
Ironically, one of the other main concerns is that they don't have a good plan to reach their goal of 1 parking space for every 4 employees in 10 years. One of the State's planned tools for achieving that goal is increased usage of biking and walking. To that effect:
Capital Bikeshare has a station outside the North Gate entrance to the main campus. A second station is set to be built outside the South Gate entrance. For those students and staff who bike to work, FSI provides bicycle racks. There are 80 spaces for bicycle parking throughout the campus. Shower facilities and lockers are available for free in the gym for all students and staff.
As a component of the [Arlington's] Complete Streets Program, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) plans to work with Arlington and Fairfax Counties to complete the planning and development of a 22‐mile long bike path along the Route 50 corridor. Currently, the portion of Arlington Boulevard adjacent to NFATC is considered not “bike‐friendly,” and represents a focus area for future bicycle infrastructure development.