District of Columbia Bicycle Advisory Council

Jack Van Dop, Project Manager Federal Highway AdministrationEastern Federal Lands Highway Division 21400 Ridgetop Circle Sterling, VA 20166 The District of Columbia Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) is a legislatively appointed body that advises the Mayor and Council of the District of Columbia concerning bicycling issues. We welcome the three bicycling-specific alternatives presented at the Federal Highway Administration’s public meeting on 14th Street Bridge DEIS held on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I Street SW. The BAC has reviewed the material presented and would like to offer recommendations and comments in response to the meeting, presentation and proposals. Our specific recommendations are found at the conclusion of this letter. Analysis Having reviewed the proposed alternatives, we believe that while each of the alternatives has aspects which improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians, each one leaves critical gaps either in the expansion of bicycle/pedestrian access along the bridge or in making the access to the bridge from the streets on either side safer and easier to navigate for users. Specifically: • Alternative AA-3: This alternative provides much needed signage and the potential for minor improvements; it doesn't appear to address basic accessibly concerns or the divided option of the separated bicycle/pedestrian crossings and improvement listed in Alternative AA-1. Alternative AA-2: This alternative, the construction of a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge between the Metro and CSX freight railway bridge would be a welcomed improvement. Unfortunately, this option alone does not adequately connect to the trail network within the 14th Street Bridge corridor. Additionally, the cost associated for Alternative AA-2 may be prohibitive. 1

Alternative AA-1 is similar to alternative AA-2, but would rebuild the highway bridge and provide a new pedestrian/bicycle path. Unfortunately, it too, would suffer the same problems of providing clear and safe egress to the bridge.

Observations of the Bicycle Advisory Council The BAC reviewed alternative AA-3, which might initially allow for greater utilization of the current bridge for recreational bicyclists and pedestrians; specifically those who are not necessarily as familiar with the area. A lack of wayfinding signage, or maps dedicated to pedestrians and bicyclists for help with find trails and/or destinations, is a concern expressed by District residents. However, if alternative AA-3 is chosen, the potential outcome could be an increase in the total number of bicyclists and pedestrians within the corridor. If no improvements were made on the 14th Street bridge path, certain areas, most notably at the District shoreline are hazardous. The following pictures highlight the problems we observed at the trail/bridge junction. Figure 1 shows the trail leading from East Basin Drive SW to the 14th Street (Mason) Bridge. The trail is usable but is rapidly deteriorating. It is also relatively narrow at less than 5 feet.

Figure 1

Figure 2 shows the trail about 500 feet closer to the bridge where a worn wooden retaining wall is erected to limit erosion of the trail. The trail appears to tilt or slope slightly toward the downhill direction. This slope ‘guides’ bicyclists in that direction. At this point, the trail is approximately 4 feet wide. While not particularly steep, there is very little room to pass, a problem for cyclists going disparate speeds.

Figure 2


In figure 3, a highway street light and HOV / directional signage further narrows the trail. The trail now slopes in the downhill direction. To ensure their own safety, many bicyclists and pedestrians stand in the area between the highway light and sign in order to avoid being hit by oncoming trail traffic. Doing so places them dangerously close to southbound I-395 traffic. As the picture illustrates, bicyclists coming from Virginia do so at speed. Trail users must be vigilant at this point to avoid a collision.
Figure 3

In figure 4, trail users arrive at the bridge but must quickly move to the left, avoiding oncoming users and the staircase that leads to the Potomac River. Bicyclists have little warning to avoid the staircase and have little room to avoid the slope to the right of the roadway.

Figure 4

Recommendations of the Bicycle Advisory Council The BAC recommends that combining Alternative AA1, construction of a separated bicycle / pedestrian crossing on the George Mason Bridge, and Alternative AA3. This combination of two alternative proposals will result in the creation of an integrated (DCVA-NPS) and connected bicycle and pedestrian system within the project corridor that includes wayfinding signage for commuters, other destination bicyclists, and pedestrians. Additionally, we recommend the following alternatives which would provide additional benefits to bicyclists and pedestrians.


Alternatives District of Columbia: ● The installation of a cycletrack along Ohio Drive SW similar to the cycletrack north of Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 15th Street. The cycletrack would extend south of Independence Avenue SW along 15th Street, Ohio Drive to East Basin Drive SW in the western most lane, until it reaches the bridge. ● Changing the roadway design from a directed median to a T-intersection at the East Basin Drive and Ohio Drive SW intersection at the entrance to East Potomac Park as figure 5 shows. The way the intersection is currently constructed makes crossing from the bridge to go into East Potomac Park complicated, especially with vehicles moving at higher speeds to merge on to I-395.

Figure 5 (Photo by Google)

Virginia: ● To allow for direct access to the Pentagon, Pentagon City and the Pentagon Metro Station, planners need to approach the Department of Defense regarding allowing bicycle traffic to cross the North Jefferson street highway ramp from Boundary Channel Drive to the south lot of the Pentagon just west of South Eads Street. We look forward to working with you. Please contact the BAC facilities chair, Jeanie Osburn, at Ward5@dcbac.org. DCBAC WEB: http://dcbac.blogspot.com/ TWITTER: @DCBAC


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