Residents Ask DC to Go Forward With Plan to Close Gap in Metropolitan Branch Trail

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More than 1,000 people have signed a letter asking D.C. to reverse its decision not to improve a busy, treacherous section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail that runs through the city’s Brookland and Edgewood neighborhoods.

The trail, used by an estimated 1,500 bicyclists a day before the pandemic, runs from Silver Spring, Maryland, to Union Station in Northeast D.C.

On 8th Street NE, bicyclists are forced off the protected two-way trail and into busy 8th Street, maneuvering between cars and industrial vehicles from a nearby business.

“Users are getting spit off the trail onto a busy street, a busy thoroughfare, unprotected – there’s just some … markings, until they can get to the Brookland Metro, which is about half a mile, three quarters of a mile up the road,” said Rachel Maisler of DC Bicycle Advisory Council.

In 2018, D.C. officials unveiled a plan to close that gap in the Metropolitan Branch Trail. It had an expected completion date of this fall. Eighth Street would have gone from two-way traffic to a one-way street with a protected two-way bike lane, but the project jerked to a halt like a bike with a slipped chain.

D.C. Department of Transportation officials said businesses complained about the potential loss of street parking spaces and worried how the one-way street would affect driveways and loading docks.

At a public meeting in Brookland last week, a DDOT representative also claimed the street has since been found to be too narrow for the changes.

“Our designer said, ‘Well, this is actually 35 feet wide, not 38,’” George Branyan said.

“The community and DDOT got to the finish line, and right when we were there, DDOT pulled out,” said Nick Sementelli, who helped organize a letter campaign to urge city officials to reconsider the choice to stop the project.

“We believe that we can work through and find new solutions for this street, but we can’t do that if DDOT’s not at the table,” he said.

A February survey by the National Capital Region Transportation Board found the pandemic made people more inclined to consider biking as a form of transportation. 

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