Prior to last month's Performance Oversight Hearing for DDOT, DDOT was asked to provide written responses to council questions. Within these responses was a lot of news of interest to cyclists.
Capital Crescent Trail repaving
DDOT has identified funds for the resurfacing of the Capital Crescent Trail. They're awaiting some basic design information from the National Park Service in order to obligate the federal funding. The trail surface dates back to the 1990's, and resurfacing has been requested by the Rec Trails Committee for some time now.
There was also some infrastructure that DDOT reported completing that has not been talked about much. The bike facilities and traffic calming along Sheriff Road NE was finished and bicycle boulevards on Jenifer Street and 41st Street NW, first discussed in 2013, have been completed as well.
Pennsylvania Ave and 15th Street protected bike lanes may be expanded
As has been widely reported DDOT plans to install 6.85 miles of bike lanes, protected bike lanes (PBL), sharrows, climbing lanes and contraflow lanes. And they plan to study another 4.43 miles of facilities including PBL on the east side of downtown, on Pennsylvania Ave west of the White House and on 15th south of Pennsylvania Ave. In addition, DDOT notes that
Some facilities not listed here may be installed if planning, engagement, and design can be completed.
Though they don't list those projects in the response, at a recent BAC meeting they presented another 17+ miles of on-road bike facilities and 8.47 miles of off-street facilities that are somewhere between "awaiting final approval" and "a twinkle in Mike Goodno's eye."
Protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Louisiana Ave NW and Brentwood Parkway
The largest projects on this list include a bike lane on M and L NW connecting the east end of the existing M & L protected bike lanes to the Metropolitan Branch Trail; a protected bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue SE from the Capitol to Barney Circle; a bike lane on Ridge Road SE from East Capitol to Burns Street; a 4 mile long side path along 16th Street NW from Spring Road to the Maryland boundary and another 3.5 mile side path along Massachusetts Avenue NW from Sheridan Circle to the Maryland boundary. Other PBLs would be on Louisiana from Union Station to the Mall, and a continuation of the 6th Street NE PBL along Brentwood Parkway to 9th.
In addition, in 2015-2016 DDOT plans to improve 10 intersections and add bike signals along the existing PBLs on Pennsylvania Ave and 15th Street NW.
DDOT to conduct a Feasibility study for Gateway segment of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
While DDOT was not asked about, and did not report on, all trail projects, they did give an update on some. As previously reported, DDOT has begun preliminary engineering for the northern extension of the Metropolitan Branch Trail from Brookland to Maryland. Preliminary engineering should be completed by early 2016. DDOT has completed the 30% design of the Rock Creek Park Trail, and is currently procuring a consultant for the completion of the design. Final design is expected by the end of 2015 with construction in 2016 or 2017. The Gateway Segment of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which would connect the Fort Lincoln neighborhood to the Kenilworth Segment near New York Avenue, is not funded for planning, design, or construction at this time, but DDOT will explore this segment by conducting a feasibility study. Construction of the Kenilworth Segment of the trail is currently on track to be completed in the spring of 2016.
Bike parking and CaBi expansion
DDOT has been trying to keep up with bicycle parking and bikeshare demands. They learned of 4 damaged racks in 2014 while installing roughly 300 racks, for a net increase of 296 racks. This is in addition to several hundred racks installed by some of the Business Improvement Districts. They plan to add up to 40 additional CaBi stations, depending on the availability of equipment
Bicycle collisions up 32% in 2014 compared to prior years
DDOT also provided data on bicycle and pedestrian collisions.
The number of cyclists involved in collisions, as well as pedestrians and total collisions are all up substantially in 2014. It's hard to know how much of that is due to more exposure and how much is due to other factors like better reporting or the unintended consequences of Obamacare.
Also, I get how there can be more cyclists in collisions than cyclist collisions (driver hits three cyclists) as there were in 2014, but not how the opposite can be true, as there were in the two earlier years. Not unless a cyclists is crashing into multiple cars and people and those are each counted as a separate crash.
DC is a slaughterhouse for young trees
A mostly unrelated, but shocking-if-true fact included in this report was about tree plantings:
In FY13 the survival rate of newly planted trees was 2.03% and in FY 2014 it was 2.79%.
That's insanely low. I think you had a better chance of surviving the Hiroshima bombing. Did they accidentally report the mortality rate? According to a study in New York City
Prior analyses of street trees planted by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation between 1999 and 2003 (n=45,094) found 91.3% of those trees were alive after two years and 8.7% were either standing dead or missing completely. Using a site assessment tool, a randomly selected sample of 13,405 of these trees was surveyed throughout the City of New York during the summers of 2006 and 2007. Overall, 74.3% of the sample trees were alive when surveyed and the remainder were either standing dead or missing.
DDOT today hosted a presentation of the preliminary design plans for the Metropolitan Branch Trail's remaining DC sections. This includes the remainder of the trail from Catholic University to Maryland, as well as the Prince George's County Connector.
The trail will include on-road and off-road sections, sometimes as trails through green space, sometimes as a sidepath and, in one stretch, jammed as elegantly as possible between an in-use trash transfer center and cement plant on one side and an active rail line on the other. Call that a drainage ditch-to-trail conversion. The width varies from 12 feet, where possible, to 10 feet in other sections.
Starting from the Brookland CUA-Metro and moving north, the plan is to redesign the Metro Plaza, but somehow I have no renderings of that. From there trail users would use the existing side-path - the section built in 1999 and shown in purple on the picture above - until reaching Fort Totten Park and the trash transfer center. At that point, the trail would squeeze between the industrial facilities mentioned above, separated by concrete retaining wall and a low fence.
Trail between the Cement Plant and RR Tracks
Then it would turn left to go over the Metro tunnel and sharply right to get back to 1st Place NE where it would connect to the PG County Connector; the existing trail west to Gallatin Street and to the continued trail north. To 1st Place there would be both stairs and a ramp.
Trail map near the Ft. Totten Metro
The Gallatin Street connection to the west will be improved with a better turn radius; a wider, better surface and a more trail like feel (sorry I failed to get a photo of this either).
The PG County Connector will be an on-street route on existing roads, with a small trail connection right at the boundary.
DC portion of the PG County Connector
Heading north, the trail will stay on a sidepath along the west side of 1st Place and then the south side of Riggs. There will be no bridge over Riggs or a trail east of 1st Street on NPS land because NPS ultimately refused it. Along 1st Place at Riggs, a sidewalk will also be added to the east side.
1st Place NE at Riggs Road
The trail will go on-road/sidewalk along 1st Street NE until crossing New Hampshire Avenue and then head west on McDonald Avenue to Blair Road. At Blair Road, the trail will again transition to a side path that will be 10-12 feet wide, depending on conditions. Just north of McDonald, the trail will double as access to the Oglethorpe Community Garden and will thus include a small bumpout for garden loading and unloading and allow limited vehicular access on a 12 foot wide section.
Oglethorpe Community Garden
North of Peabody, the trail will come with improved crosswalks, landscaping and some additional streetside parking, built by reducing Blair by a lane.
Along Blair Road, narrowed to add parking
Just north of Tuckerman the trail splits into two 6 foot sections for part of a block..
Trail map near Tuckerman
Update: Since publication, Toole Design has come up with a new alignment that does not split, which can be seen on the map below.
...before reconnecting into a protected trail - separated by a wall - along a lane-reduced Blair Road.
Blair Road with protected path
The trail will turn under the railroad tracks at Aspen, and then along the side of Sandy Spring before returning to an on-street route along Maple, Carroll, Ceder and Eastern.
The last piece of the trail is a block long section on the SE side of Eastern/Takoma Avenue from Piney Branch to the existing, ignoble terminus of the Maryland section of the trail along Takoma Avenue.
Connection to Montgomery County
It's unfortunate that the Riggs Road Bridge could not be included, just as it was disappointing that the Monroe Avenue underpass could not, but that was expected, and has been for a long time.
It's also unfortunate that the PG County Connector is almost all going to be on-road in DC, when there is a suitable green strip there (owned by NPS of course) for use.
But all things considered, it looks great and I'm ready for them to build it. Construction should begin in 2017.
Save the date for Saturday, May 2, 2015, to join the 5th Annual Metropolitan Branch Trail 5K Walk/Run. Race time is 9:00 a.m. The race course will remain along the off-road trail between NoMa and Brookland; however, the location of the start/finish has moved to the trail entrance at the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center and the new pedestrian bridge at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station. Join your Northeast DC neighbors and Metro area runners for this annual tradition near historic communities and new urban amenities. We welcome the support of sponsor, NoMa BID. The race is powered by the DC Road Runners Club and organized by local volunteers. Free registration for runners under 18. Register now at www.gometbranch.com to run, volunteer, or sponsor the event. See you on the trail!
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B will hold a joint meeting on the preliminary design of the Metropolitan Branch Trail from Brookland to Takoma Park on Saturday, March 21 from 1 pm to 4 pm at the 4th District Police Headquarters, 6001 Georgia Avenue, NW.
Representatives from DDOT will present the trail alignment and solicit feedback from the general public.
DDOT is planning to have a public meeting some time this spring at which they will present the preliminary design of the Metropolitan Branch Trail's Fort Totten Section. This is the section in the Takoma and Brookland neighborhoods, from Bates Road at the trash transfer station to the Maryland boundary at Eastern Avenue. They hope to have a draft 30% design completed by this summer and a final version of that completed by the end of the year. That would allow for a final design to be funded in FY 2016 and construction in 2017.
The NoMa Park Foundation, a group supported by the NoMa BID with the goal of creating parks in NoMa, recently released a map of proposed park space in the area. Since the area is bisected by the Metropolitan Branch Trail, it's no surprise that many of the trails are adjacent to the trail. These parks have the potential to make the trail even better. The underpass art parks have been written about before, but some of the others are new.
The Plaza will have traffic calming measures installed to allow for a curbless pedestrian experience and will have a special area for bicyclists and other Metropolitan Branch Trail users to gather and refresh before the next leg of their journey.
But most interesting is the "PEPCO Park" located just south of R Street where the MBT has its Z-shaped curve.
The largest open space currently existing in NoMa is a roughly 4-acre parcel of vacant land owned by Pepco. As envisioned in the Public Realm Design Plan, “Pepco Park” would provide for outdoor recreation and community gatherings and serve as the “backyard” for the neighborhood. The NoMa Parks Foundation is seeking to acquire two acres of this site. Two acres is large enough for active recreation.
This would, of course, be right next to the trail and make for a nice addition to the trail experience. But there is another possibility.
The cover of the old WABA concept plan for the trail, shows this area as a wide green space with the trail running down the center. When DDOT originally started to design the trail, they had it making a pair of 45 degree turns for a more fluid path from the tracks to the back of the buildings. You can see this on the original image below (unfortunately, I can't find the draft plan online anymore). But, DDOT wasn't able to acquire the land, currently fenced off for earth moving equipment storage, necessary. Staff had to work hard to get the current easement for the trail, and it was a source of some concern at the time.* (as I recall.)
The draft trail angled from the current first turn of the Z on the line with R Street to Randolph Place. The trail as built makes a sharp 90+ degree turn, follows the line with R Street and then makes another 90+ degree turn to run behind the buildings along the right-of-way.
I know that the NoMa Park Foundation want this to be an active recreation space, but if they did acquire it, it could also be a chance to rebuild the trail more in line with the original vision by having the trail bisect it and an angle. This would move the diagonal south a bit from the original design, but still get rid of the Z turn, making for a better trail. On the one hand, it would create two smaller spaces separated by a bike/ped trail - which may not be desirable, but on the other, it would make a little more space available for the park (hypotenuse needs less space than the sides). It's worth considering.
*I heard that the reason they didn't get the land was that they couldn't get any property acquisition staff to work on it. They were all busy on the baseball stadium land. File that under opportunity cost.
Some hike and bike trails also face delays. One is a $12.1 million project to extend the Metropolitan Branch Trail from the Silver Spring Transit Center to near Montgomery College’s Takoma Park campus.
That faces a delay of about three years to coordinate with the redevelopment of Ripley Street and other projects. The trail is proposed to run from Union Station in Washington, D.C., to Silver Spring, but has several large gaps.
Land acquisition of the trail extension is expected to be completed by this summer and the design done by the summer of 2016. Construction is not expected to begin until at least 2017 and be completed by mid-2021.
An estimate a year ago set the completion date at by mid-2018.
I first heard of the Met Branch Trail back back in 1998 when I was young and single, and now my kid will be able to ride the whole thing...when he's 11.
Last month, the Maryland Transit Administration began allowing full-sized bikes on select weekend MARC trains. At the time the Sun reported
The agency's new "bike car" — capable of accommodating 16 full-sized bikes — will only be available on certain weekend Penn Line trains. Riders will notice a "bike symbol" next to those trains on MARC schedules moving forward, the MTA is expected to announce Friday.
The new bike car is a refurbished single-level car that was taken out of regular service as the system has introduced newer multi-level commuter cars.
Foldable or collapsible bikes are allowed already on weekday MARC trains on the Penn, Camden and Brunswick lines. Riders will not have to pay any additional fees to bring their bikes aboard the new car.
Depending on customer demand for the new bike car, the MTA said a second car may be added next year, also to weekend Penn Line trains.
The addition of the bike car falls short of the service expansion for bicyclists that some advocates have called on the MTA to provide for years, including on weekday trains to facilitate easier commutes between stations and riders' places of work and residences.
The addition of the bike car comes about a year after the MARC weekend service was first introduced. The MTA said ridership on weekends has grown steadily, from about 4,000 riders its first weekend in December 2013 to about 6,000 riders last weekend.
This means people in DC can take their bikes to Baltimore (or places in between) on the weekends - and vice-versa making for a great way to spend the day in either city.
It also means that the BWI/B&A Trail (both reachable from BWI station), WB&A Trail (Seabrook, Bowie State or Odenton stations), the Gwynn Falls Trail (West Baltimore station) and the Jones Falls Trail (Penn Station) can now be easily accessed without a car, which opens up a variety of options for weekend rides. [And the Metr Branch trail at DC Union Station for those from outside DC] Though it looks like some last mile work for many of these stations could better integrate the bike trail system and the Penn line.
Until gaps are closed on the East Coast Greenway, the Penn line could even work as a workable alternative.