At it's January 17th meeting, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' (MWCOG) Transportation Planning Board (TPB) will vote on whether or not to include two bicycle and pedestrian initiatives into the Visualize 2045 plan, the long-range transportation plan for the Washington Region. One is completion of the National Capital Trail and the other is bike and pedestrian improvements to high-capacity transit stations. These would join 10 existing initiatives. The recommendation from the Bicycle and Pedestrian subcommittee and the Long Range Plan task force is to make these "unfunded aspirational elements". (See item 7 on the agenda)
Consistent with the Task Force’s discussions related to the ten initiatives currently being analyzed, the TPB’s endorsement of two additional initiatives which focus on pedestrian and bicycle improvements would mean that these concepts have the potential to improve the performance of the region's transportation system beyond what is anticipated by its current long-range transportation plan and deserve to be comprehensively examined for implementation. The TPB’s endorsement would make it possible to include the concepts represented by these initiatives in the aspirational element of the 2018 update of the TPB’s long-range plan, Visualize 2045. The meaning of such an endorsement would not be a mandate from the TPB for its member jurisdictions to alter their own plans, programs, or policies or to design, fund, and implement these initiatives without further study.
The National Capital Trail – Originally called the “Bicycle Beltway,” is a proposed network of circumferential trail connections circling the core of the Washington region. The full perimeter of the NCT is 45 miles, but it is also divisible into shorter loops. The NCT was originally defined by the National Park Service and the name, concept, and route for the NCT has been adopted by the TPB.
The above image of the National Capitol Trail is of what was once considered the inner loop.
In addition to the inner loop route, VDOT and MDOT representatives requested an outer loop that would cross the Potomac at the American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. However, work on an Outer Loop has not advanced, due in large part to the lack of a clear right of way or planned trails.
As finalized in the Paved Trails Plan, the National Capital Trail comprises four connected loops: a 30- mile northern loop, a 10-mile central loop around the monuments and the stadium, an 18-mile southern loop connecting to National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria, and a 45-mile perimeter loop.
There's a list of the projects needed, mostly in DC, to complete the NCT in the Subcommittee report appendix, some like the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail Kenilworth section, have already been completed. Others, like the South Capital Street Trail are still in the planning stage.
The Metrorail Station Access Project comes started with WMATA. WMATA staff in 2016 completed a study called the Metrorail Station Investment Strategy (MSIS), which highlighted priority projects that would improve non-motorized access to rail stations. Starting with 4,217 unbuilt pedestrian and bicycle projects that have been planned in proximity to the region’s 91 Metrorail stations (!!!), WMATA identified 394 projects, which are around 31 Metrorail stations, that represents the types of station access improvements that can have the greatest impact on walk and bike access to transit. The list was further trimmed to 200 projects that are unfunded and remain unbuilt and are still considered “active” by local jurisdictions.
These projects solve a litany of familiar problems. Sidewalks do not exist or they are in bad condition. Bike lanes are disconnected. Intersections are inhospitable and crossings do not exist. Signage and lighting are poor.
WMATA staff looked at the pedestrian projects, which were 62 in total, that were included in the priority list. These pedestrian projects were estimated to cost nearly $13 million and the monetized benefit of these projects (in increased ridership and reduced MetroAccess trips) was estimated at approximately $24 million.
There is a list of the 200 items they identified in the Subcommittee report, but the authors note that these items aren't being approved (as by now some have been completed or overcome by events) but rather the the concept of prioritizing and implementing station access improvements is being endorsed
Including these items in Visualize 2045 is not meant to be a mandate to regional members to change their plans.
The TPB’s endorsement would be a call for future concerted action by TPB members. Staff believe that at a minimum, it would involve a commitment by all TPB member jurisdictions and agencies to collaborate and undertake further examination of the concepts represented by the endorsed initiatives. Such next steps could include a study of the constructability of projects associated with the initiatives. Following such study could be efforts to secure funding to implement them. Funding sources could include future federal TIGER grants, the TPB’s TLC and TAP program, and other funding opportunities in the region.
Visualize 2045 is scheduled for approval in October 2018.