The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) thinks the region’s next major bike trail should run along Arlington Boulevard from the National Mall to the eastern border of Fairfax City. On Tuesday, it released a report on how make it happen.
Once a main artery into DC, Arlington Boulevard now alternates between being a high-speed highway and a suburban or urban boulevard that has various levels of development and density. This varied nature affect’s Arlington Boulevard’s pedestrian and bike facilities, making it relatively easy to travel some sections on foot or bike but also creating some where it’s rather difficult.
Connecting the infrastructure that’s already in place would give Arlington Boulevard a trail nearly 25 miles long in both east and west-bound directions, opening up several neighborhoods and commercial areas to non-drivers.
Part of WABA’s report documents just where these gaps are and how long each one is.
Almost half of the total route is already built to a point where even the most inexperienced of cyclist should feel comfortable riding on it, but the longest stretch of this type is, currently, only 1.2 miles long. About 40% of the route requires cyclists to ride in traffic or are narrow enough that only experienced cyclists would feel comfortable riding.
Finally, there are parts of the route that are simply too dangerous for anyone not in a car. The longest of this type is where Arlington Boulevard meets I-495 and Gallows Road, where anyone looking to get through on a bike or on foot has to make over a mile-long detour.
Specific parts of the route that need attention
The latter half of the report details how Arlington could improve specific sections of the route. In many cases, the county could use Arlington Boulevard’s wide right of way along with some of the access roads that run parallel, carving out space for pedestrians and bikes without cutting existing travel lanes. Other trails and paths along the route simple need to be better maintained.
There are parts of the route, though, that would need substantial work.
There’s currently a plan to widen Arlington Boulevard underneath the Seven Corners interchange, and that would need some sort of path if non-drivers are to avoid a lengthy detour. Another significant challenge lies between Annandale and Gallows Road, where WABA notes that a bridge would be needed to cross 495. That’d likely be the most expensive part of the project.
WABA estimates final costs to be around $40 million, but says a trail would pay long-term dividends
WABA estimates the full 23-mile route would cost around $40 million, but that’s just an estimate. WABA says it needs more information to fully understand what the project would cost, but does do believe bundling trail work with other road work along Arlington Boulevard could keep costs low.
To be clear, WABA isn’t just throwing these proposals up out of the blue; its suggestions are actually in line with a number of projects for which the Virginia Department of Transportation recently identified Arlington Boulevard as a potential recipient.
Continuous pedestrian and cycling facilities will help make Arlington Boulevard a road that connects neighborhoods rather than divides them. It can also help shape future land use and planning decisions in areas that might otherwise be fated to be stuck next to a high speed highway.