The George Washington Memorial Parkway is seeking feedback to establish the scope of an Environmental Assessment needed to allow reconstruction and widening of the Mount Vernon Trail. This is the opportunity to add new amenities to the trail and build a trail that meets modern design standards. This is likely a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you want to see something different on the trail, it’s probably not going to happen unless it makes it into the Environmental Assessment scope. Our suggestions are below and we encourage you to steal what you agree with and submit your feedback by the deadline of January 18th.
Trail Width – The EA Scope should include widening the trail to 14′ feet wide on the north end where practical to account for current use as well as future growth for the next 50 years of existence. The EA should consider widening the portion of the trail from Haul Road to Jones Point Park to 11′-14′ to account for heavy use in this section. The EA Scope should also include establishing unpaved trail on the trail edge with crushed gravel or a similar material which would allow a softer surface for runners and walkers and also protect the trail edge from becoming overgrown. The scope should also in widening of the narrow segment of sidewalk in Lady Bird Johnson Park connecting to the Memorial Bridge.
Trail Realignment – The EA Scope should include straightening of curves on the trail and bridge surfaces. Obscured sightlines at curves is a leading contributor to crashes and injuries on trails. The majority of crashes on bridges have also occurred where bridges curve such as Bridge 1, Bridge 3, Bridge 4, Bridge 27, Bridge 28 and Bridge 31. Further the EA Scope should include realigning the trail at spots that are prone to frequent flooding such as spots north of Memorial Bridge, Daingerfield Island and between Jones Point and Belle Haven Park. The EA Scope should also include realignment or mitigation of areas where water seeps have caused ice conditions on the trail such as between Memorial Bridge and Bridge 30A and in between Bridge 17 and the Old Stone Bridge. The EA Scope should also include building a connecting trail on the current desire path from the north side of Memorial Bridge to the Mount Vernon Trail.
Prioritize Trail Users at Crossings – The EA Scope should include prioritizing trail users at intersections by giving trail users right of way way, installing raised crossings, installing high visibility crosswalks and signage, narrowing crossings, realigning crossings to occur at 90 degree angles and installing paving markings indicating a trail crossing. The trail crossing at the airport exit ramp is particularly dangerous and the crossing at the Daingerfield Island Marina is also a high conflict area.
Crossing the Parkway – The EA Scope include installation of crosswalks at all places on the southern Parkway where there is an intersection with another road. The current scope indicates that some intersections will not have a crosswalk because the connecting street does not have sidewalks, however walkers, runners and cyclists still cross the Parkway at these locations and crosswalks will improve safety and access to the Mount Vernon Trail. The EA Scope should include crosswalks on both sides of the intersection for Parkway crossings to avoid placing people on bikes in a head on conflict with oncoming traffic. The EA Scope should also include construction of connector trails and curb cuts that will connect users to the crosswalks across the Parkway.
Underpass Choke Points – The EA Scope should include widening of the trail beneath Memorial Bridge and on the Crystal City Connector. Both are currently trail chokepoints that only allow traffic one way at a time. The narrow underpass requires trail users to be uncomfortably close to cars while navigating a narrow passage. The EA Scope should include reconfiguring car access from the Parkway at Fort Hunt to utilize only the northern access ramp. This reconfiguration would allow for dedicated and separated space for trail users who are currently routed on to the road through the underpass at Fort Hunt.
Bikeshare Stations – The EA Scope should include siting of future Capital Bikeshare stations colocated with rest areas at Columbia Island Marina, Daingerfield Island, Belle Haven Park, Peter F. Webster Memorial Area, Fort Hunt, Riverside Park and the Mount Vernon Estates. The Bikeshare stations at TR Island and Gravelly Point are among the most used in the system and allowing for future expansion increases access to the trail.
Parkway Barriers – The EA Scope should include addition of barriers at spots where cars have repeatedly left the Parkway and crossed the trail or where risk is high that a car leaving the Parkway would result in fatal injury. The north end of Bridge 30A experiences a car crashing off the Parkway and crossing the trail 1 to 2 times per year. The area north of Humpback bridge has experienced two cars leaving the Parkway, crossing the trail and crashing into the Potomac in the last 3 years. The section of trail from the Smith Boulevard underpass north to the trail access to National Airport has only 10 feet of grass buffer in multiple sections leaving no protection for trail users if a car leaves the Parkway.
Headlight Glare – The EA Scope should include solutions such as barriers, trail realignment and vegetative screens to prevent headlight glare from the Parkway that blinds trail users heading southbound between TR Island and the Merchant Marine Memorial and between Gravelly Point Four Mile Run Trail.
Rest Area Facilities – The EA Scope should include establishment and rebuilding of trailhead facilities at all current rest areas. Restrooms at Columbia Island Marina and Daingerfield Island Marina are in similar condition to the Belle Haven Restroom which is currently included in scope. The EA Scope should include reconstruction of rest areas with durable concrete and include installation of frostless water fountains that can operate year round, new benches, information kiosks, modern bike racks, bike fix it stations and historical and cultural interpretation. The EA should also include installation of additional concrete pads and benches particularly on the southern portion of the trail.
Gravelly Point Bypass – The EA Scope should include construction of a bypass at Gravelly Point to separate the conflict between trail through users and users of the park. This bypass has been included in multiple NPS planning documents. The Scope should include providing a solution for cars that are driving over the trail to park in the grassy area north of the Gravelly Point parking lot on most weekends in the Spring and Summer. The Scope should also include providing accommodations for the food trucks that currently obstruct sightlines where the trail crosses the parking lot access and create generator noise and exhaust. The Scope should also include establishing a paved area for individuals watching plane landings at the Park to safely step off the trail and view from.
Signage, Trail Markings and Counters – The EA Scope should include establishment of signage throughout the trail. Signage should include signs at all entrances to the trail indicating users are entering the Mount Vernon Trail. Signage should also include wayfinding at all intersections. Signage should also include on trail mile markers every tenth of a mile to aid emergency response on the trail. The EA Scope should include installation of reflective trail striping and use of reflective fogline striping at trail curves. The EA Scope should also include installation or repair of trail counters at all entrances and exits to the trail and at Gravelly Point and Belle Haven Park.
Lighting – The EA Scope should include installation of Dark Sky compliant lighting at locations with low levels of ambient light such as south of the 14th St Bridge and north of Old Town. Lack of lighting is frequently cited by female trail users as a barrier to accessing the trail after sunset.
Vegetation Restoration – The EA Scope should include tree planting to replace several mature trees lost along the trail. The EA Scope should also include establishment of native plant meadows that encourage wildlife and pollinators.
The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail needs your help to continue improving the trail. Sign up for a volunteer trail improvement event or Donate to Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail to help us purchase tools and supplies.