The National Park Service's National Capitol Region (NCR) recently released a draft version of its "Paved Trails Study", which serves as a plan for how NCR sees the paved trail network, both within and outside of the parks, developing in the future and as an update to the 1990 plan. It's a long report filled with a lot of interesting, relevant, exciting and debatable plans and facts, so I'm probably going to take several days to report it all, but let's start with what most people have already heard about - the top recommendations.
The study makes 120 recommendations, 93 capital projects and 27 programmatic changes, but of those only 16 of the capitol projects scored a 5 or above on the 7 point scale; and only 7 programmatic changes scored that high. Some of these projects complement each other so I've regrouped them.
Top Priority Capitol Project
Connecting the Roosevelt Bridge's downstream path to the Mount Vernon Trail, Arlington Ridge and DC - The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge has a sidewalk on the upstream side that connects the MVT to the Kennedy Center that you may have used. But the downstream sidewalk connects on the Virginia side to an island surrounded by freeways from which one can only go back to DC. Three of the 16 projects aim to fix that. This is a long-needed improvement. Between the Wilson Bridge and Chain Bridge there are currently 5 connections across the Potomac River for those who wish to stay out of traffic. This would create a 6th. On the map below, I show the effective connection each of these bridges create with each line showing the last and first decision point for a trail user. The new TR Bridge connection is shown in red. While not filling a particularly large gap, you can see that it's a pretty unique connection.
One project would connect the TR Bridge to the Arlington Ridge Park (where the USMC Memorial and Netherlands Carillon are). DDOT has a project in the FY 2015 - 2021 Plan to rehabilitate the bridge and provide pedestrian and cyclist safety improvements which may improve connections to the downstream Virginia side but it will not remove the existing barriers.
The NPS, in coordination with VDOT, Arlington County and D.C., should pursue a full alternatives analysis to define a viable connection in this area. Alternatives may need to consider bridges or tunnels to adequately address safety concerns related to the crossings of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Jefferson Davis Highway, and Arlington Boulevard as well as the presence of nearby Metrorail in order to minimize surface crossings.
A second project would connect this same crossing to the MVT.
The third part of this is to improve the connection on the DC side.
Safety improvements are needed for all at-grade crossings in this area and should include traffic calming, enhanced directional signage, lane markings, pedestrian refuge islands, bulb outs, and evaluation of grade-separation needs. Clear and uninterrupted access between the Rock Creek Park Multi-use Trail across the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway NW and the 23rd Street NW / Constitution Avenue areas should be provided.
The trail/sidewalk there is in terrible shape - which is fine now since there is almost no reason to use it - and it will need to be rebuilt.
Conduct a feasibility study for extending the Suitland Parkway Trail from the D.C./Maryland line to Henson Creek Trail - This is long overdue frankly. This trail needs to be rehabilitated and extended - to the Henson Creek Trail and then Andrews AFB.
A feasibility study is needed to evaluate extension of the Suitland Parkway Trail from the District line through Prince George’s County to the Henson Creek Trail (and potentially further). This study should address the trail comprehensively including upgrades to the existing trail within the District, which is a dangerous, narrow asphalt trail directly adjacent to the roadway.
Rock Creek Park Trail Though there are other projects dealing with the "Rock Creek Park Trail" south of the National Mall, for the part that is within Rock Creek there are a few projects to improve the northern part of the park trail system
First is a study of a Rock Creek Park crossing on Military Drive.
According to NPS data, an off-road trail segment exists along the north side of Military Road between Oregon Avenue and Beach Drive. There is no off-road trail between Beach Drive and 16th Street NW. A feasibility study should be undertaken for the entire trail corridor to evaluate options for an improved on or off-road paved trail between Glover Road/Oregon Avenue and 16th Street NW.
Since it appears they've abandoned the idea of extending the trail north along Beach from Broad Branch (and they consider the section of Beach north of Broad Branch to be part of the trail network already) the option for connecting the DC and MD portions of the trail appears to be along Oregon Avenue. They write:
A feasibility study should be pursued for Oregon Avenue to evaluate options and impacts of an off-road connection from Military Road to the D.C./Maryland line (and connecting to Rock Creek Trail in Montgomery County). An off-road trail along this corridor could help alleviate trail-traffic on Beach Drive. However, for the benefits to be realized and for the trail to be utilized as a high-volume corridor as proposed, the off-road trail would need to connect via an on-street route to Beach Drive (potentially Daniel Lane).
I don't see how Daniel Lane can be used to create a connection to Beach Drive, since it looks to me like it only connects 31st to Oregon. Perhaps they mean Wise? (I've noticed other errors - it being a draft and all. For example the report misspells Virginia and it references the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail north of South Capitol Street, but it's all north of S. Cap, etc...)
Better connecting DC to the Wilson Bridge - A couple of projects are aimed at improving the connection between DC and the Wilson Bridge that was so badly screwed up in the 1990's. The first connects Oxon Hill Farm to the planned South Capitol Street Trail.
The proposed route extends through Oxon Run Farm to the Blue Planes industrial area and D.C. Village Lane SW where it connects to Blue Plains Drive SW, Shepherd Parkway, and connects to the proposed South Capitol Street trail. The NPS is currently evaluating access improvements to Oxon Hill Farm including potentially constructing a Hiker-Biker trail system and improved riverfront access.
A second project connects Oxon Hill Farm to National Harbor, but it's unclear what is being suggested beyond wider sidewalks, signage and improved road crossings.
Improve the connections between the 14th Street Bridge, the Rock Creek Park Trail and the 15th Street PBL - I would have never thought of the Rock Creek Park Trail as going this far south (and based on the Rock Creek Park Trail EA, neither does NPS), but NPS has identified a series of changes that could improve these connection.
These include the extension of the 15th Street protected bike lane down 15th, Maine and East Basin Drive to the 14th Street Bridge, the addition of bike lanes along East Basin Drive SW from the Inlet Bridge to the extended PBL and the removal of the stairs on SE corner of the Inlet Bridge that connect sections of what is, it seems, the Rock Creek Park Trail on West and East Potomac Parks.
Mount Vernon Trail improvements - There are several projects, in addition to the Roosevelt Bridge connection, that aim to improve connections to the MVT.
One would create a better connection between Crystal City and the MVT via the Airport Access Road (or the Route 233 Bridge as identified in this post that called for such a connection "It's odd to me that they aren't constructing connections between the Route 233 bridge's sidewalks and the MVT." I guess it's odd to them too.)
Opportunities to expand sidewalks on the bridge should be explored, as well as options to provide a formal bicycle friendly connection from the bridge to the Mount Vernon Trail from the airport.
Another project would extend the dead-ending trail spur from the Humpback Bridge project to Boundary Channel Drive and then create an on-street connection between that point and Long Bridge Drive under I-395.
And there is a project to improve the intersection of Doom.
The County and the NPS should work together so that safety improvements and signage for the Mount Vernon Trail at this intersection are considered as part of any open space design (or boathouse concept) being considered by the County. Early dialogue and coordinated planning can ensure trail access improvements span both local and federal land in this area and result in improved regional connectivity. A future boathouse in this location should not impede trail access but instead should be used to improve and expand trail access.
A fourth project would change the intersection of the MVT and the Four Mile Run Trail - at the south end of the airport - into a roundabout.
A number of accidents have been documented at the location, with contributing factors such as blind spots, sharp curves, and unclear signage. In addition, this area is sometimes utilized by airport personnel as an emergency vehicle egress route.
Lincoln Memorial Circle - This is just one project, calling for an alternatives study, with many different pieces. These include
• A signed route that connects the Lincoln Memorial Circle NW to the Rock Creek Park Trail. Both on and off-road options should be considered, including a dedicated bicycle lane from the Arlington Memorial Bridge to 23rd Street SW across Ohio Drive SW to the trail. This would encourage trail traffic to utilize the western sidewalk of Ohio Drive under the Arlington Memorial Bridge which is wider than the sidewalk on the eastern side.
• Reduction in travel lanes or lane width to allow for dedicated bicycle lanes
• Provision of bulb-outs and refuge islands to narrow pedestrian crossing lengths
• Addition of a bike lane on the Arlington Memorial Bridge
• Enhancement of safety and informational signage in the area that includes trail information and access points
• Improved routing, trail conditions, signage, and at-grade crossings through the sand volleyball area northwest of the circle
Closing the "gap" in the Capitol Crescent Trail between 30th and 31st Street - For cyclists this isn't much of an addition. The connection being discussed is between the trail along the edge of Georgetown Waterfront Park and the spur to the Rock Creek Park Trail, but since cycling is technically prohibited on the Waterfront trail, and of low utility anyway, most cyclists stay on K street and will probably continue to do so.
The gap between 30th Street and 31st Street forces users to travel on K Street NW or the adjacent service road to continue eastbound, creating conflicts with vehicles or pedestrians on Water Street. The gap prevents a seamless connection with the Rock Creek Park Multi-use Trail and the core of Washington D.C. to the east. Alternatives should reduce the potential for conflicts in this area, calm traffic, improve visibility of trail users, improve directional signage to trail resources, and enhance safety overall. This project is currently underway in coordination with NPS, the Georgetown Business Improvement District, and the D.C. Department of Transportation.