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« Input Sought on Possible ART 53 Changes | Main | Planning Your Bike Trip Around Nation’s Capital is About to Get Even Easier »

July 08, 2012


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Why cant the trail be built on the west side of Washington, but along the side of Washington, so that it does not cut down all those trees? Could this be built right along the road itself?

Trees dont get replaced that easy. They take a long time to grow, they dont always take, and in the mean time a lot is lost. I think it is really flip to keep saying "well, the trees that get cut down can be replanted." You dont replace a 50 yr old mature tree with a sapling.

Steve O

Thank you, Allen, for that comprehensive assessment.

This conversation may present a good example of looking for solutions that work for all parties--the point of the original post.

Given that no trail is likely to be constructed on the east side of Washington Blvd., perhaps that less wooded area could be planted and managed as part of Arlington's urban forestry efforts, helping to balance or even go beyond balancing the loss of canopy on the west. This effort could be integrated into the upcoming construction project.

This is not a perfect solution, since the loss of some trees on the west side will reduce the wooded barrier between neighborhoods and Washington Blvd., a loss that will not be recooped with trees on the other side. But from an overall urban forestry perspective, taking a comprehensive look at both sides of the road along with the footprint of the path itself, the final outcome could serve to actually enhance the urban canopy while also improving the bicycle network.

Allen Muchnick

Mr. Berne is mistaken that a trail along the east side of Washington Blvd would be superior overall to a trail along the west side of Washington Blvd. While a *second* trail along the east side of this highway is also desired--and has been repeatedly pursued over the past decade--its main advantage over the west side trail is that it *may* require removing fewer trees.

First, ONLY a trail along the west side would connect directly to Towers Park and would be much more accessible to local neighborhoods, with additional connections at 6th St S and just north of 2nd St S. The only nearby neighborhood on the east side of Washington Blvd is tiny Foxcroft Heights, whereas the nearby neighborhoods of Penrose, Arlington Heights, Arlington View, and Columbia Heights all lie on the west side of Washington Blvd. Residents of those neighborhoods would need to cross Washington Blvd TWICE (through the busy Columbia Pike interchange and at 2nd St S) to access a trail on the east side of the highway.

Second, the trail on the west side of Washington Blvd is planned to allow trail users to directly cross Columbia Pike with an upcoming traffic signal at S Rolfe St, where trail users can then travel through the Arlington View neighborhood to reach the planned Hoffman-Boston Connector under I-395 to Pentagon City. A trail along the east side of Washington Blvd would lack this direct crossing of Columbia Pike to Arlington View and its future Hoffman-Boston Connector.

Third, a trail along the east side of Washington Blvd would require trail users to cross a busy highway exit ramp at 2nd St S, whereas the trail along the west side of the highway would have no new dangerous and inconvenient highway ramp crossings.

Fourth, after the 3.5-year reconstruction of Washington Blvd around Columbia Pike--which is now underway--the available space for a trail along the east side of Washington Blvd will be reduced substantially, and any trail built there would be seriously substandard, if feasible at all. By contrast, after the Rte 27-244 interchange is reconstructed, a trail along the west side of Washington Blvd can be extended south beyond Towers Park to Columbia Pike for a direct crossing to the Arlington View neighborhood at a new traffic signal at S Queen St.

Fifth, as County staff have established, a trail along the east side of Washington Blvd would have greater adverse impacts on Long Branch stream, would not be substantially easier or cheaper to construct, and would require voluntary easements from the Henderson Hall Marine Corps base and from the Sheraton Hotel which may not granted.

For these reasons (and more), a trail along the west side of Washington Blvd is clearly superior overall, and the County does not need to redo its environmental assessment.

Steve O

@Allen I thought I heard the 350 at the recent BAC meeting, but it is not unlikely I am in error and am happy to defer to others who have more accurate information.

Bernie Berne

The reason for the controversy is that Arlignton's cycling advocates and County staff are relentlessly promoting a trail on the west side of Washington Boulevard, rather than one on the east side of the road.

The west side of the Boulevard contains a woodland with many trees. It provides habitat for many plant and animal species.

The trail would be only one-half of a mile long. It would not connect to any other trails at its south end. The trail would therefore not fill any "missing link" in the County's trail system.

It is therefore unreasonable to destroy more than one hundred trees and disrupt a wildlife habitat to permit the trail's construction.

Any replacement trees will not reach maturity for at least thirty years. By that time another construction project that some group or government entity desires may have destroyed them.

The east side of Washington Boulevard contains far fewer trees. There is a clearly feasible route for the trail that is adjacent to the east side of the Boulevard and its entrance/exit ramps. Some fill would be needed to increase the width of the northbound exit ramp near Second Street. The trail would not need to cross any ramps.

This trail would not travel near Towers Park or the nearby neighborhood. However, because the trail is so short, people could reach one of its ends by traveling only about one-quarter of a mile.

Further, a route on the east side of the Boulevard would be accessible to Second Street, which is a designated bike route. A trail on the west side of Washington Blvd. would pass under Second Street. The route could not directly connect to Second Street without the construction of a connecting trail, which would destroy even more trees.

Further, if the trail is constructed on the west side of Washington Boulevard, cyclists travelling between Route 50 to the Pentagon, Pentagon City and/or Crystal City wil need to cross Washington Blvd. on Columbia Pike, which often has fast and/or heavy traffic.

In contrast, cyclists traveling on a trail on the east side of Washington Boulevard would cross the Boulevard on Second Street, near the entrance to Fort Myer). Second Street has little traffic. That is why it is a designated bike route.

Despite all of the advantages of a trail route on the east side of the Washington Boulevard, the County's planners continue to advocate a trail on the west side of the road. The design of the project is more than 80% complete. The draft environmental assessment (EA) for the project, issued in March 2012, does not mention any alternative route for the trail on the east side of the Boulevard. The EA therefore does not compare the environmental impacts of potential routes on the east and west side of the trail. The EA does not state whether a trail on the east side of the boulevard is feasible, and does not give any reasons that it should not be constructed.

This is massive failure in Arlington County's bicycle trail planning process. It is clear that the planners and trail advocates care little about trees, despited their proclamations to the contrary.

The planning process has gone so far that it is unlikely that anyone can stop it. The County has accepted a federal grant build the trail on the west side of the Boulevard. If a trail on the east side of the Boulevard is more costly than one on the west side, the County won't have enough funds to complete it (especially because the County never developed any preliminary plans for such a trail).

This is how the Arlington County government works. Anything that might interfere with a planned project (such as tree loss) receives lip service and insignificant modifications to show that the County is trying to appease the public. The planning process goes forward according to schedule, regardless of opposition.

Allen Muchnick


On what basis do you claim that 350 trees are planned for removal? I've heard that only about 180 live trees are planned for removal of which only about 10% of those are large canopy trees.

John Flack

What a refreshing post - an acknowledgement that both sides of an issue are valid and a belief that a good solution can be found in the balance. I hope that this kind of common sense will prevail. I fear that it won't in today's all or nothing mentality.

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