In an announcement that cyclists have long anticipated, the District of Columbia held a press conference this morning to proclaim the imminent construction of the MBT - the Metropolitan Branch Trail - an eight-mile bike/jogging trail that will run from Union Station to Silver Spring. In his announcement this morning, Mayor Fenty stated that the District had reached an agreement with PEPCO to donate property adjacent to the CSX railroad lines, land currently worth (they are telling the IRS) $3.3m. The new trail will connect the New York Avenue Metro to Franklin St., NE. The agreement represents a key parcel of real estate, stretching through NoMa and Eckington, and the city's resulting ability to add a crucial connector.
The MBT began as a concept in the early '90's, several segments have already been built. When completed, the MBT and its contributing paths are envisioned to run from the Mall to Silver Spring, northwest into Bethesda, where it will connect to the already completed Capitol Crescent Trail. The MBT portion will later add a spur from the Ft. Totten Metro to West Hyattsville. The section of the trail announced today will connect the recently completed New York Avenue Metro station on NoMa's north end, running over Florida Avenue, under New York Avenue, and over Rhode Island Avenue at the Metro station, where the trail will take the form of roadside bike lanes until it reaches the Brookland-Catholic University Metro.
Officials involved with the project project that design work will begin immediately, with construction to start hopefully by year end. With this latest acquisition, the MBT still has numerous issues to work through at the Ft. Totten Metro station, including a land acquisition from WMATA.
Eric Gilliland, Executive Director of Washington Area Bicyclists Association, which has worked with the District in support of the trail, extolled the virtues for both bikers and Metro riders, projecting that the newest leg will increase access to the New York Avenue Metro - a station that is currently cut off by Florida and New York Avenues, an interchange Gilliland called "really terrible for pedestrians." Gilliland predicted that connecting remaining pieces within the District would take and additional two and a half to three years, but that the Silver Spring to Bethesda section was waiting on plans for the Purple Line.
DDOT will be in charge of construction. To date most of the costs have been paid for with federal dollars, though the project will undoubtedly be a boon for a few neighborhoods that will be suddenly be connected along the the railroad tracks that once condemned them to relative isolation.