Lost opportunity to build cycletrack on Military Road
The GGW entry "It's nearly impossible to get into one of DC's national parks by foot or bike," reminds me that I have been meaning to lament about the lost opportunity to correct a significant gap in the bikeways network, by building a cycletrack on Military Road NW, while the road was being rehabilitated and resurfaced from about 16th Street NW to Connecticut Avenue NW.
Outside of the L'Enfant City portion of Washington, there are very few east-west streets that span Upper Northwest, only three:
-- Michigan Avenue/Harvard Street/Irving Street
-- Taylor Street/Harewood/Upshur (not fully contiguous)
-- Riggs Road/Missouri Avenue/Military Road
None are particularly great for in-street biking. But the section of Military Road, from about 14th Street NW to about 27th Street, on the south side, with a "minimum" of reconstruction, could accommodate a bi-directional cycletrack.
This would have been a complex endeavor because while the roadway is maintained by DC's Department of Transportation, this section is within Rock Creek Park, a national park run by the National Park Service. The proposed cycletrack would be placed entirely on land/right of way controlled by the Park Service, and the process to get approvals, plan, and undertake construction of a cycletrack ends up taking many many years because the federal environmental review process is complex and takes a very long time.
The road reconstruction process would likely have been delayed by 3-5 years for such a review.
I argue the delay would have been worth it, or the project could have proceeded in two phases, because a cycletrack here would significantly improve east-west bikeway connections in Upper Northwest.
No end-to-end east-west bikeways exist in Upper Northwest, as evidenced by the DC Bike Map, although this would have only been a partial connection.
Still, this section of Military Road is bad for biking because of the limited width of the road, high speed of traffic, and volume of traffic during rush periods (because the road is the only east-west connection north of Michigan Avenue).
To accommodate a cycletrack, some significant regrading would have to occur in parts, and a couple bridges would need to be outfitted with a width extension to accommodate two-way bike traffic.
But with this change, there would be a significant improvement for east-west travel by bike, in an area with only one end-to-end east-west roadway.
The road was reconstructed, but no special accommodations for biking were constructed .. although it is now less dangerous for bicycling because the pavement has been resurfaced. Before this section of roadway probably had some of the lowest scores of the roads as measured by the DC Pavement Condition Index.
Likely the opportunity to put in a cycletrack as part of a regular road resurfacing project won't come up again for 15-25 years.
From the standpoint of creating an integrated bikeways network, I do not understand why there isn't focus on identifying and addressing major gaps in the network.
Note that the Complete Streets policy developed out of the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan that I produced sets up a system where road improvement projects are always evaluated for the opportunity to include bikeways infrastructure.
I did attempt to contact DDOT personnel in charge of the reconstruction project, but they never responded to my email queries.