Are We There Yet?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA How close are we to the completion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT)? When completed, the MBT will be a 8-mile multi use trail from Union Station in the District to Silver Spring, MD. The finished segment we have today is the result of over 25 years of  steadfast effort from committed residents, advocates, and planners through a lengthy public process. But we aren’t there quite yet. As many trail users know, the segments from Brookland to Silver Spring are not yet complete. Read on for an update on what remains to be done, and what it will take to get the MBT across the finish line. Trail Development: DC There are two segments that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is currently engaged in. The first is from Bates Road to Fort Totten Metro Station. The  30 percent engineering designs for that segment are completed. DDOT should be issuing a final design and building contract soon, with construction anticipated to begin in 2017. The second segment is from Fort Totten (specifically Riggs Road) to Takoma Park, MD. This will bring the MBT to the DC-Maryland border. DDOT is still working on the 30 percent design for this segment, but anticipates that that design process will be completed in June of 2016. On the completed sections of the trail, users have been vocal about the need for lighting improvements. DDOT is working to address those concerns.  To date, new lights have been installed and wired from the Franklin St. entrance almost to T St. We’ll keep you updated as the plan progresses. Trail Development: Maryland From the Maryland line to the Silver Spring Transit Center, the designs look good, with one exception: the B&O train station just off of Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Montgomery Preservation Inc (MPI), the nonprofit that controls this site, has spent years resisting proposed solutions, rejecting compromise design alternatives, and declining the County’s attempts to compensate them for the space the trail requires. MPI’s insistence on replacing a proposed bridge over Georgia Ave—a solution that will keep bike riders and pedestrians far away from that corridor’s heavy traffic—with an at-grade crossing shows that the safety of trail users is low on their list of priorities. It has become increasingly clear that MPI is not interested in being a good neighbor and is not interested in public safety. The Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee has the ability to put an end to MPI’s antics. Reassuringly, during a budget work session last month, members of the committee expressed frustration with MPI’s obstruction. The Committee understands the importance of the completion of the trail—not just for Silver Spring, but for the regional connections that the trail will provide, and for the many residents that will benefit from the closing of the gaps in the MBT. A formal review of the design, timeline and budget for the trail is on the agenda for the Montgomery County Planning Board meeting on May 19. The Planning Board will weigh in on the overall project and provide their recommendations.   Trail Ranger Program The season has officially kicked off for the Trail Ranger team! Trail Rangers are a consistent and helpful presence on four of DC’s paved trails, including the MBT. Their charge is to assist trail users with directions and minor bike maintenance issues, improve trail conditions, and work with city agencies to keep the trails properly maintained. The Trail Ranger program is funded through a grant from the Urban Forestry Administration of DDOT. Keep an eye out for them in green shirts, pulling trailers stocked with tools. (Usually they’re also grinning ear to ear.) The Trail Rangers have tons of knowledge about the Met Branch Trail and other DC trails, and are happy to answer questions, distribute maps or suggest route alternatives. They help make the city’s trail network welcoming and enjoyable; be sure to say hi when you see them on the trail. You can also join the Trail Rangers on the second Friday of every month for coffee in the morning at the pocket park at 4th and S St. NE. Want to know more about what’s happening on the Metropolitan Branch Trail? Sign up to receive updates from WABA about the Met Branch Trail.