Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Perenially dark lights on the Metropolitan Branch Trail have frustrated cyclists for quite some time, but DDOT says they will do better in the future, and some fixes are coming in the near term.

After I wrote about lighting problems on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, DDOT spokesman John Lisle shared some plans to upgrade and maintain lighting along the trail.

Lisle said:

Obviously they are not performing as well as we’d like and we are working with the contractor to get them all up and running again. Heather [Deutsch, in the bicycle planning group], has led this charge over the past year and the lighting team is working on it as well.

They inventoried the lights and here’s a summary of what they found:

  • 22 lights were out, 2 of which were missing the entire fixture
  • 4 lights with blown fuses were repaired on the spot
  • 36 batteries failed the test
  • 1 electronic controller failed test
  • 32 fixtures were loose at the arm mount and the contractor was able to tighten all of the fixtures.

We have contacted the vendor and they are preparing to ship the batteries by [December 11th] and will make preparations to have the two missing fixtures sent at a later time. They also will replace the broken electronic controller.

In addition we are providing temporary lights for the New York Avenue Bridge Project contractor to install under that bridge to light the trail.

Lisle also promised an update once most of the lights have been fixed.

One challenge that has impeded fixing lights is that no group was formally responsible for this. Deutsch and the other bicycle planners, part of DDOT’s Policy, Planning, and Sustainability Administration, are responsible for planning and designing new bicycle facilities, but not ongoing maintenance.

There’s a group that handles streetlights, and that’s part of the Traffic Operations Administration. It would be logical for them to maintain trail lights as well. Soumya Dey, acting head of TOA, said that DDOT has been operating under an emergency temporary contract for streetlights while they work out a permanent contract. The current contract doesn’t encompass trail lighting, but Dey said that the new one would.

If DDOT can fix some of the lighting now, including getting some under the dark New York Avenue bridge during construction, and then make trail lighting part of some division’s long-term maintenance responsibilities, we can hope trail users need not suffer for long.