The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) are hosting another meeting on the Long Bridge replacement project, this one will be tomorrow, from 4-7pm at L'Enfant Plaza Club Room (Oh, there's a club for L'Enfant Plaza? How fun.) This will be an
informational meeting to review and comment on the preliminary concept screening results for the Long Bridge Project. Concept screening helps identify and develop project alternatives that will be evaluated in an Environment Impact Statement. This meeting is also a part of the concurrent consultation for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).
As a reminder, DDOT is considering replacing the Long Bridge (the railroad bridge across the Potomac). Some of the alternatives considered thus far would include a new bicycle crossing connecting Long Bridge Park and/or the MVT on the Virginia side with Ohio Drive on both sides of East Potomac Park, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and/or 12th Street in SW DC. They're currently in Phase II of the study which involves defining the purpose and need and identifying some preliminary concept alternatives. The last meeting on this was in September of 2016 and since then a few new documents have dropped.
- They've issued a Draft Purpose and Need which makes it clear that the purpose and need is all about the railroad, something WABA suggested they change (see below)
- Defined the study area as the rail corridor and land around it from the Crystal City VRE to CP Virginia, an area that includes both the Mt. Vernon and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trails.
- They've released a scoping report. "This Scoping Report summarizes the agency and public involvement efforts undertaken, comments received during the scoping period, and additional comments received before the report was finalized." Here are some of the comment notes:
- Four comments cited the importance of providing a safety barrier separating bikes and pedestrians from rail.
- Twenty comments supported providing bike and pedestrian access.
- The Friends of Long Bridge Park and Crystal City Civic Association noted their support for alternatives providing increased local access for the Crystal City community by including a pedestrian and bike lane from Long Bridge Park to the Mt. Vernon Trail and the District.
- The Southern Environmental Law Center recommended against further consideration of alternatives that would add general purpose automobile lanes at this crossing due to potential impacts to community and environmental resources. However, it was recommended that the EIS further consider a bicycle and pedestrian crossing to connect existing trail networks and reduce air pollution by promoting greater usage of these travel modes.
- The National Capital Planning Commission recommended the study consider "Maximizing pedestrian and bicycle use and connectivity in a manner that ensures pedestrian access between transit modes"
- WABA stated that the draft EIS Purpose and Need Statement is too narrowly focused on the needs of freight and passenger rail. WABA further suggested that expanding the capacity, redundancy, and regional connectivity of the bicycle trail network should be a core element of the draft EIS Purpose and Need Statement and selection criteria.
More specifically, WABA wrote
The Long Bridge may be the only blank canvas for a Potomac crossing that the region considers for the next fifty years in this location.
With the scale of the opportunity in mind, we believe that the draft Purpose and Need for the Long Bridge Study is too narrowly focussed on the needs of freight and passenger rail. Indeed, expanding rail capacity, reliability and redundancy are essential to meet the growing demands of a 22nd century rail system. Yet, the regional trail network faces similar challenges to realize long term connectivity plans. Alongside rail improvements, expanding the capacity, redundancy, and regional connectivity of the trail network should be a core element of the study’s purpose and need statement and selection criteria. A Long Bridge replacement without a high-quality trail is a wasted, once-in-a-century, opportunity.
Of the eight Potomac River bridges that connect Virginia into downtown DC,...not one fully satisfies today’s trail standards for width, sight distances or protection from traffic.