Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Picture of the day: Visions of DDOT's Rhode Island Ave. Pedestrian Bridge

November 4, 2011 - 09:35 AM
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Design of the future pedestrian bridge. (Photo: DDOT)

Good news, D.C. pedestrians, bicyclists, and Metro commuters. This week, the District Department of Transportation began seeking bids to construct the Rhode Island Avenue Pedestrian Bridge. We've heard bits and pieces of news about this development for months, and its eventual construction will be a boon of accessibility and safety for D.C. transit — especially for those who use the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

As it stands now, the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station links quite poorly with the three-mile Met Branch Trail. I've walked through the area myself, and there's little clear indication that a trail even exists as you're leaving the station. It's hidden beyond a nearby parking lot, despite trees visible everywhere. I even asked several local individuals about the trail only to encounter confusion that there even was a trail there. In other words, it's inaccessible. But a pedestrian bridge, a truss "in the style of an old railroad bridge," may well change that.

"The bridge links to the Metropolitan Branch Trail and will be a safe passageway for community members who currently use the Rhode Island Avenue underpass, which is narrow and dark, or who cross the active railroad tracks illegally," DDOT notes in their solicitation for bids.

Earlier this fall, DDOT spokesman John Lisle had told me that the pedestrian bridge's design was complete and that he imagined its installation would prevent people from breaking through the nearby fences quite so casually as they've been known to do. The development will not only make the blocks more transit-accessible but safer — as summer began, the Met Branch Trail experienced various stories alluding to its danger after multiple high-profile robberies. The Guardian Angels even began patrolling a stretch. DDOT also plans to add more lighting around the New York Avenue Metro station portion of the trail next year, which will also create an even more secure atmosphere.

Bids are due by December 5, DDOT says, and work may potentially start next year. DDOT calls the pedestrian bridge a sign of "unprecedented cooperation" among its department, WMATA, and CMX, among other groups. During the next few weeks, WMATA will also be constructing a staircase connecting the street and Metro station as part of "an overall joint development program that features the construction of 274 residential units, 65,000 square feet of retail space and a multi-level parking facility." I can't wait to see how everything will look a year from now.

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