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
11/14 – You hear those deck boards flopping around when you ride on the bridge? Come help reattach them. – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/125570848789
11/19 – Come help replace some deck boards that are rotting. – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/125571390409
12/5 – 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. – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/125572507751

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/

Park Site Connections – The MVT’s Got Them

The 99 page Mount Vernon Trail Study was recently published by the National Park Service and chocked full of information about the trail along with recommendations for improvement. To make the study more digestible, we’ll be pulling out interesting tidbits over a series of posts.

At 7,300 acres the George Washington Memorial Parkway contains over two dozen Park sites, many of which are accessible from the Mount Vernon Trail. The list provided in the study is below. Can you identify the two we think are in error?

• Belle Haven Park and Marina
• Collingwood Picnic Area
• Daingerfield Island
• Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve
• Fort Hunt Park
• Fort Marcy
• Gravelly Point
• Jones Point Park and Lighthouse
• Lady Bird Johnson Park
• Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac
• Memorial Avenue/Arlington Memorial Bridge
• Navy and Marine Memorial
• Riverside Park
• Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary
• Theodore Roosevelt Island

It appears that Fort Marcy was included in error. Fort Marcy is located near Chain Bridge. We’d also argue that Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary should not be included on the list. Although it’s visible from the Mount Vernon Trail, there is no connection to the Sanctuary that doesn’t involve driving a car or darting across multiple lanes of a busy section of the Parkway.

We also think there’s a few sites that should be added that are not exactly on the trail but are easily reached by trail:

  • Abington Plantation – this house is located between parking garages at the airport and is easily reachable by the airport access trail.
  • Arlington House – Located in Arlington National Cemetery with direct trail access. Park at the visitor’s center though. Bikes are not allowed on the grounds of the cemetery.
  • Iwo Jima and Netherlands Carillon – Both are just a short connector trail away from Arlington National Cemetery.

Stay tuned for more tidbits or read the full study at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/showFile.cfm?projectID=95147&MIMEType=application%252Fpdf&filename=Final%20Mount%20Vernon%20Trail%20Corridor%20Study%2Epdf&sfid=424173

GWMP Release Mount Vernon Trail Study

The George Washington Memorial Parkway released a study focused on conditions and safety on the Mount Vernon Trail. The study is very lengthy and the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail will post an analysis in the near future. The press release from GWMP is below:

McLean, Va. — The National Park Service (NPS) is working on long-term plans to improve trails and opportunities for recreation near the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The park recently completed the Mount Vernon Trail Corridor Study and the Georgetown Pike Footpath Feasibility Study in collaboration with transportation partners and stakeholders. These studies are the first steps towards future trail improvements.   

The NPS will continue to review these recommendations and will work with park neighbors and transportation partners to decide whether or how to adopt them. Any actions could require additional public review and environmental and historic preservation compliance prior to implementation. 

“The trail network of the George Washington Memorial Parkway connects visitors to recreational areas, historic sites and communities across the national capital region,” Superintendent Charles Cuvelier said. “These studies set the stage for improvements to visitor experiences and increased trail connectivity along the parkway.”  

The Mount Vernon Trail Study address current trail use. maintenance conditions and future needs along the 18-mile paved trail. It identifies opportunities to make improvements including: 

  • Replacing bridges. 
  • Changing trail routes. 
  • Rehabilitating trails. 
  • Adding, replacing, or improving signs or pavement makings. 
  • Updating trail maintenance. 

Approximately 1 million people use the Mount Vernon Trail for recreation and transportation each year. The trail links attractions like George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Theodore Roosevelt Island and connects Fairfax County, the City of Alexandria, Arlington County and the District of Columbia. 

Through the Georgetown Pike Footpath Feasibility Study, the NPS found that it is possible to build a new trail near Georgetown Pike in McLean, Virginia. If constructed, this trail would connect the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail to Great Falls Park in Virginia as well as local neighborhoods. Construction of the trail is dependent on additional factors including stakeholder involvement, cost, visitor experience, safety, visual impacts and ease of construction. Implementation in Great Falls Park could occur over time as funds become available. 

NPS Rulemaking For E-Bike Use Framework

The National Park Service is currently undergoing a rule making process that would provide a framework for managing the use of e-bikes on NPS lands. The 60 day comment period ended on June 6th, 2020. Full information is located at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NPS-2020-0001

The proposed rule would:

  1. Define an e-bike using the Class 1, 2 and 3 system adopted by many states.
  2. Allow use of e-bikes in areas where non-electric bikes are currently allowed.
  3. Prohibit the use of throttle only operation of e-bikes except for areas where motorized vehicles are allow.
  4. Prevent use of e-bikes in established wilderness areas.
  5. Apply all state laws for use of e-bikes in the state where the park is located.
  6. Allow Park Superintendents flexibility to limit the use of e-bikes on NPS lands if necessary to ensure safety or protection of cultural, historical and environmental resources by providing public notification and updating the park unit’s Compendium.

This rulemaking comes as a result of the memorandum issued by the Secretary of the Interior on August 29, 2019 directing the establishment of a policy to allow the use of e-bikes. Based on this order, the George Washington Memorial Parkway began allowing use of Class 1, 2 and 3 e-bikes on the Mount Vernon Trail and areas of the Parkway where use of traditional bicycles is permitted.

The use of bicycles on the George Washington Memorial Parkway is still prohibited.

The definition of each class of e-bike is below. It should be noted that the proposed rule would not prohibit e-bikes with a throttle from the Mount Vernon Trail, but would require that they be pedaled.

  • Class 1 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
  • Class 2 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
  • Class 3 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.

Boundary Channel Drive Mount Vernon Trail Connection Comments Needed

Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation are undertaking a redesign of the Boundary Channel Drive interchange with 395 that will provide a new trail connection to the Mount Vernon Trail. The project would provide a safer and more direct link between Long Bridge Drive and the MVT and improve access to LBJ Memorial Grove.

Materials from the presentation are available at: https://projects.arlingtonva.us/projects/boundary-channel-drive-interchange/

Public comment is open at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5K29BJC until December 27th. The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail encourage trail users to provide comments on this fantastic new trail connection. Our thoughts as VDOT enters the design phase, which you are welcome to borrow for your comments:

1. This project is great and will provide a new trail connection to the Mount Vernon Trail and LBJ Memorial Grove.

2. The turn radii of the interchanges should be tighter to slow vehicle traffic. This will help prevent vehicle crashes as well as pedestrian and cyclist crashes.

3. The trail and interchanges should include lighting.

4. The crosswalks should be raised to slow vehicle traffic to reduce the risk of crashes.

5. The crosswalks should have Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) activated automatically when pedestrians and cyclists approach to reduce the risk of crashes with motor vehicles.

6. The exit ramps from 395 currently present a long runway that encourages fast motor vehicle travel. Engineering should done to ensure vehicles slow as they exit including curved lanes, rumble strips and lane narrowing.

7. The project should include trail signage to help direct trail users to and from the Mount Vernon Trail as well nearby facilities such as bathrooms, recreation areas and businesses.

Cranksgiving – Saturday November 23rd

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail are cosponsoring Cranksgiving on Saturday, November 23rd. Cranksgiving is a food and clothing drive on two wheels. Part bike ride, part food/clothing drive to benefit A-SPAN, and part scavenger hunt. All you need is a bike, a bag, and a lock! (and a few bucks) Event registration is located at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cranksgiving-a-bike-scavenger-hunt-in-support-of-a-span-registration-77662916875

How it Works

Cranksgiving is a choose-your-own-adventure-style bike ride that benefits those in our community in need during the winter season. Participants are given a manifest of suggested items to purchase or locate and tasks to complete in three hours. Participants will provide receipts and photographs when turning in their items to score points.

All items collected will be donated to the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN).

Teams

It’s suggested that participants work in teams of 4-5. We’ll have an area designated on the day of the event to help match solo participants and teams looking for additional members.

Donation Only Participation

If you’re not able to make the event, but would still like to support, please register as a donation only participant. All donations will be used by the organizers to bulk purchase items for participants to pick up when completing challenges. All items will be donated to A-SPAN.

Starting Location

The event will begin and end at Ireland’s Four Courts, 2051 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA. Participants will be given a list of tasks at 10 a.m. and must return by 1 p.m. to begin scoring. The after party runs from 1 to 3.

Timeline

9 a.m. – Ireland’s Four Courts is open for brunch or coffee before the event

9:30 a.m. – Check In Opens

10 a.m. – Participants will be given manifest with locations

1 p.m. – Participants return to Ireland’s Four Courts with items for scoring

2 p.m. – Winners announced

3 p.m. – Official After Party Ends

What to Bring

1. Bike Lock

2. Something to carry stuff with: A basket, pannier or backpack should do

3. About $10 to $20 to purchase scavenger items with

4. A cellphone (you’ll need to show us pictures for some of the challenges)

Prizes

We’ll be awarding fabulous prizes at the after party at Ireland’s Four Courts.

About A-SPAN

This event will collect items for Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. A-SPAN’s mission is to secure permanent housing and provide life-sustaining services for Arlington’s most vulnerable individuals through outreach and relationships built on trust and respect. Find out more at a-span.org.