Mount Vernon Trail Widening Is Looking Promising

Last week Virginia Transportation Board staff provided recommendations for projects to be funded by Virginia’s SMART SCALE program. Arlington County’s submission for a project to widen portions of the Mount Vernon Trail in Arlington and Alexandria was ranked 7 out of 11 projects, which means that it will likely be funded. Project funding decisions will not be finalized by the Virginia Transportation Board until June.

This project would provide funding to the National Park Service (NPS) to improve and reconstruct approximately 6.5 miles of the Mount Vernon Trail in Arlington and Alexandria, from Roosevelt Island to near Jones Point Park. There is a portion of the trail between these two points that lies on Columbia Island which is part of the District of Columbia. This portion of the trail will not be funded by SMART SCALE and additional funding would need to be secured. The National Park Service (NPS) will manage the project if funded. The project widens the trail’s paved surface from between seven and eight feet to 11 feet where feasible, and makes other associated improvements including striping center and edge lines, signage, improved bridges, and realigned trail intersections.

The application was submitted by Arlington County with Alexandria City Council adopting a resolution supporting the submissions.

Long Bridge Project Advances Through Legislative Milestone

The plan to build a new Long Bridge that will add two additional rails along with a separate pedestrian and bike bridge achieved an important milestone with the approval of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The Omnibus legislation grants the National Park Service authority to convey ownership of 4.4 acres of land that the bridge structures will occupy in the George Washington Memorial Parkway and East Potomac Park. The bike and pedestrian bridge will be accessible from the Mount Vernon Trail and also allow trail users access to Long Bridge Park and Crystal City.

January Volunteer Events

Make a New Year’s Resolution to improve the Mount Vernon Trail. In January, our main focus will removing silt, organic debris and overgrown grass that’s causing water to pool on the trail and create dangerous ice sheets. We will also start tackling the English ivy growing on many of the trees along the trail. English ivy is an invasive species that kills trees by smothering light, causing moisture rot and breaking limbs from excess weight. In addition to killing beautiful trees this increases the risk of injury to trail users from falling trees.

Saturday, January 9th – Trail edging for drainage improvement and English ivy removal – Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/133905598249

Saturday, January 16th – Trail edging for drainage improvement and English ivy removal – Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/135157460603

Monday, January 18th – MLK Day of Service – English Ivy removal near Marina Towers in Alexandria. – Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/133621847543

Saturday, January 23rd – Trail edging for drainage improvement and English ivy removal – Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/133911080647

Saturday, January 30th – Trail edging for drainage improvement and English ivy removal – Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/135157747461

Monday, February 15th – Presidents Day Event – English Ivy removal near Marina Towers in Alexandria. – Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/134283151521

Bridge 12 Replacement Engineering Begins December 14th

Engineering work for the replacement of Bridge 12 begins on December 14th. Bridge 12 currently sits at the bottom of a stream valley with steep grades and sharp turns. The Mount Vernon Trail Corridor Safety Study identified this bridge as a frequent crash site. The new bridge will have a straight alignment with the trail and will eliminate the steep bridge approaches.

Picture of current bridge with steep approaches and multiple curves that have contributed to crashes.

From Monday, December 14th to Friday, December 18th, there will be construction equipment and workers on the Mount Vernon Trail between Waynewood Boulevard and Fort Hunt Road. Workers will be drilling bore holes to test the ground from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. The trail will not close, but workers will occasionally direct trail traffic and move equipment on the trail. Signage will also be posted to alert trail user of the work.

Rendering of the new bridge and trail alignment.

Cranksgiving Returns on November 21st

The Friends of Mount Vernon Trail are proud partners of Cranksgiving 2020 which will occur on November 21st. Cranksgiving is a fun bike riding scavenger hunt where participants also gather items to donate to area food banks that are struggling to meet the overwhelming demand caused by Covid-19. Invite your friends to participate with you and sign up today at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cranksgiving-nova-2020-tickets-127805627071

Fixing Trollheim Volunteer Events and Our GoFundMe

The Friends of Mount Vernon Trail are seeking volunteers for multiple events in our ongoing effort to make Trollheim Bridge a little less trollish. Officially called Bridge 31, Trollheim is the wooden bridge next to Theodore Roosevelt Island that has been the site of multiple crashes due to slippery surfaces.

10/31 – Come help us remove the gunk between the board decks that prevents drainage and contributes to mold, mildew and other slippery stuff. – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/125567909999

11/7 – Come help finish removing the gunk between the deck boards that prevents drainage and contributes to mold, mildew and other slippery stuff. – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/trollheim-bridge-cleaning-tickets-127659301407

Saturday, November 14th – Bridge 31 Board Repair – You hear those deck boards flopping around when you ride on the bridge? Come help reattach them. – Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/125570848789

Tuesday, November 17th – Help remove kudzu from the bridge by the old power plant in Alexandria. Sign up: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kudzu-removal-on-the-power-plant-bridge-tickets-128867280505

Thursday, November 19th – Bridge 31 Board Replacement – Come help replace some deck boards that are rotting. – Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/125571390409

Friday, November 20th – 10 a.m to Noon – English Ivy Removal in Dyke Marsh. This is a Friends of Dyke Marsh event that we’re promoting. Full details are at fodm.org. To sign up, email info@fodm.org and put English ivy control in the subject box.

Ssaturday, November 28th – Help remove kudzu from the bridge by the old power plant in Alexandria. Sign up: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kudzu-removal-on-the-power-plant-bridge-tickets-128867280505

Sunday, November 29th – Help remove kudzu from the bridge by the old power plant in Alexandria. Sign up: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kudzu-removal-on-the-power-plant-bridge-tickets-128867280505

Saturday, December 5th – Bridge 31 Board Repair – There’s a lot of freaking loose boards. This is a second loose board fixing event. If we run out of boards, we’ll start flipping some of the boards to extend their life. – Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/125572507751

Sunday, December 6th – Help remove kudzu from the bridge by the old power plant in Alexandria. Sign up: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kudzu-removal-on-the-power-plant-bridge-tickets-128867280505

We’re also raising funds to apply an anti-skid treatment to Trollheim. The super good stuff that will both work and survive heavy use and bad weather is pricey. If you’d like to help, you can contribute at our GoFundMe:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-crash-free-trollheim

Memorial Circle Safety Improvements Begin September 28th

The National Park Service will begin modifications on Memorial Circle starting September 28th through the end of October. The project includes several safety improvements for trail users crossing Washington Boulevard and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Improvements include:

  • Higher visibility crosswalks.
  • Relocating trail crossings.
  • Lane reductions.
  • New signage and rapid flashing beacons.  
  • Clearer lane markings.
  • Repaved road surface. 
Highlights of changes planned north of Memorial Circle.
Highlights of planned changes south of Memorial Circle.

Trail users may experience temporary closures during road closures. Most of the work will not require road closures, but construction workers may temporarily narrow lanes overnight and during off-peak hours. During the day, construction workers will stripe and install new signs. Work is not scheduled during the morning or evening rush hours.  

Multiple lane reductions are planned including reducing Memorial Circle to one lane.

In addition, NPS will permanently close one of two ramps from South Arlington Boulevard to South Washington Boulevard to improve safety at a crosswalk. When this change happens, drivers should follow the signed route to the other ramp a few hundred yards beyond the closed ramp. 

The Memorial Avenue corridor is a major element of the system of public buildings, parks, memorials, bridges and drives that constitutes the monumental core of Washington, D.C. This construction work honors Memorial Circle’s original design and complements the work to rehabilitate Arlington Memorial Bridge.

Once implemented, the NPS will monitor the effectiveness of these changes. You can read more about the plan and see diagrams at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/mctpea

Bridge 12 Replacement and Realignment

The George Washington Memorial Parkway is planning on replacing and realigning Bridge 12 on the Mount Vernon Trail. Bridge 12 is on the southern end of the trail. Readers will know this as the bridge crossing that has steep inclines and sharp turns before reaching the bridge.

Bridge 12 features sharp turns and steep grades upon the approaches. Note the sign indicates both the steep grade and that the bridge may be slippery.

Bridge 12 will be realigned to remove both the curves as well as provide a more gentle grade. This should make this portion of the trail both safer and more accessible particularly for younger bike riders. In the image below the hashed trail shows the current trail alignment. The solid black line indicates the planned realignment. The existing trail in the area below will also be repaved.

Image of the project boundaries. The solid line indicates the future trail and bridge alignment.

Construction is expected to occur in 2021 but NPS has not yet set an exact construction date. The work is funded through VDOT’s Six Year Improvement Plan. Given the geography of the bridge location, trail users can expect a significant detour once construction begins.

Long Bridge Final Environmental Impact Statement Released

The final Environmental Impact Statement for the Long Bridge project was released last month with very few changes from the draft assessment. The project will build a new bridge north of the existing Long Bridge to carry an additional two tracks across the Potomac. A separate bike and pedestrian bridge will be built north of both rail bridges with connections to Long Bridge Park, the Mount Vernon Trail and East Potomac Park.The EIS is available at: http://longbridgeproject.com/feisrod/

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia would provide funding for the $3.7 billion project last December with Amtrak expected contribute $944 million and VRE providing some additional funding. The new bridge would allow twice as many Amtrak trains to run and allow additional VRE capacity. It’s uncertain if Amtrak and VRE funding will be impacted by COVID. Details of Northam’s announcement are at: https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2019/12/19/virginia-csx-strike-3-7b-deal-to-massively-expand.html

The 14′ wide pedestrian and bike bridge is being built as a mitigation to the National Park Service for impacts of the new bridge on park lands, including permanent loss of park land for bridge supports, increased noise and impacts on viewshed. During construction, approximately 600 linear feet of the MVT will be closed for 2 years. The detour would begin at a point east of the existing Long Bridge underpass and travel west towards the GWMP. The trail could continue alongside the GWMP and travel underneath the railroad bridge and the Metrorail Yellow Line before reconnecting to the existing trail between the Metrorail Yellow Line and the 14th Street Bridge. Where the detoured trail would travel adjacent to the GWMP, temporary barriers between the trail and the roadway would protect trail users. During construction, the movement of vehicles and materials would sometimes require temporary, short-duration full closures of the trail to safeguard users. A map of the impacted trail segment is below.

The next step will be for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to advance the project to design and engineering. For full history on the project, check out the WashCycle: https://www.thewashcycle.com/long-bridge/

MWCOG Endorses National Capital Trail Network

On August 12, 2020, The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ (COG) Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the National Capital Trail Network—a concept for a 1,400-mile, continuous network of off-street trails. COG is an independent, nonprofit association, with a membership of 300 elected officials from 24 local governments; the Maryland and Virginia state legislatures; and U.S. Congress. COG staff, in partnership with area officials, are “working to advance the ‘Region Forward Vision,’ which maps out ambitious goals and targets for a more prosperous, accessible, livable and sustainable future.”

The 18.5 mile Mount Vernon Trail is part of the Capital Trail Network. The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail are a member of the Capital Trails Coalition, a collaboration of public and private organizations, agencies and citizen volunteers working to advance completion of an interconnected network of multi-use trails for metropolitan Washington, D.C. Adoption of the Capital Trail Network by COG is a major step in ensuring support for planning and funding for the network.

Additional information is available in the press release from Rails to Trails Conservancy which is a founding member of the CTC along with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association https://www.railstotrails.org/resource-library/resources/washington-council-of-governments-formally-endorses-national-capital-trail-network-another-major-step-forward-for-regional-trails-walking-and-biking/