The WB&A Trail has long suffered from a gap between the 3.8 mile long section in Anne Arundel (AA) County and the 5.6 mile long section in Prince George's. While a gap still exists, it got significantly shorter last week when a 1.7 mile extension of the trail opened in AA County. In addition, the WB&A Trail Spur from the parking lot at Race Track to the bridge location has been completed. Now both trail sections extend to the Patuxent River shoreline directly across the river from one another. The design phase of the bridge to connect them is expected to start this year with construction scheduled for 2017.
Construction on this new section of 10 foot wide trail started sometime early last year.
This section of the trail, Phase III for AA County, was originally to run on the same abandoned railroad line that most of the rest of the trail runs on, but instead it runs on a detour several miles out of the way. I haven't ridden or seen this new section but Jim Titus summed it up thusly:
the old railbed would provide a gradual slope down to the river. The detour would send the trail first up a small hill, then down a steep incline toward the river.
The route down to the river is so steep it requires several switchbacks. According to officials who attended a meeting on the subject in September, the turns are so sharp that the maximum safe speed is 7 mph, and the steep slopes do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Then, at the bottom of the hill, the detour trail would have to cross several hundred feet of floodplain wetlands before reaching the river.
I'll note that the actual as-built trail route as seen from Google maps does seem to differ a little from the map shown back in 2011 and is more like this one from 2012. So I don't know to what extent it mitigates those concerns.
The reason for the detour was to avoid land owned by Buz Meyer who ran a hunting and firearms training facility there. (Jim Meyers' post at GGW goes into much greater detail on this). The detour adds 10 minutes of travel time (at least) for trail users.
So, with the PG County Spur either complete or soon-to-be, the bridge is the only thing missing from the original plan.
The state awarded Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties a $560,000 grant to commission a feasibility assessment and preliminary design for the bridge in fiscal 2013 through its Maryland Bikeways Program, and county officials said the design phase is slated to begin this year.
To fully realize this trail’s potential as a recreation and commuter route, it needs a direct connection to the regional trail network. It must be extended west, and the first big hurdles are crossing US 50 and the Capital Beltway.
The north end of the trail in AA County connects to the east-west Odenton Bike path, which uses another abandoned section of the same railroad. A bike trail is planned to continue along this ROW all the way to Annapolis. At last report, work was to begin on Phase I of that this past spring, but I don't see any signs that it did. [There's also plans to add a trail parking lot at Patuxent Road].
This recently-opened section of trail was paid for by the developers who will be building along, and on top of, the old railroad bed.
The final stretch was paid for by the Classic Group, Two Rivers Associates and Koch Homes, developers who are involved in the Two Rivers project adjacent to the bike path. The 2,000-unit community, which is still under construction, will have a mix of age-restricted and unrestricted housing when it's built out.