A better way to get from the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) to Union Market seems like a no brainer, especially as the neighborhoods on both sides of the railroad tracks grow. While various studies of what to do here continue, a similar connection used to exist at T Street NE.
The T Street Bridge in the 1950s. Image courtesy of Old Time DC.
The T Street Bridge connected Eckington and Brentwood across the railroad tracks from 1907 to around 1969. The bridge did just what we are studying today — connect Eckington and neighborhoods to the west of where the MBT is today to those east of the tracks, an Eckington Civic Association brochure shows.
Another shot of the T Street Bridge from this video of the former 82 streetcar line.
Eckington resident Lorenzo Milner, who has lived in the neighborhood on and off since the 1950s, says the two-lane railroad truss-style bridge connected Eckington to the commercial strip that existed in Brentwood before the construction of the postal center that exists today. There were pedestrian walkways on each side of the bridge, he says.
The Washington Terminal Company-owned T Street Bridge was closed to car traffic in the “interest of public safety” because it was “worn out” said then DC mayor Walter Washington in 1968, a report from the Washington Post that April shows.
However, a Post report from April 1969 says the bridge remained standing and was open to cyclists and pedestrians though not cars.
Milner says the bridge was torn down because it was poorly maintained. He cannot recall exactly when it came down.
“Nearly all things that have been done in the neighborhood have been done with good intentions,” he says, when pushed on why the bridge was torn down.
Should we build another bridge?
While the T Street Bridge would not have connected directly with Union Market, nor been much shorter than taking the MBT to Florida Avenue NE — both routes are about a mile — it undoubtedly aided people moving east-west between neighborhoods.
NoMa’s safety and access study focuses on four options to improve the current connection between the MBT and Union Market: a trail spur connecting the MBT to the northern base of the New York Avenue bridge, a stairway from the trail to the southern side of the bridge, a ramp to the southern side of the bridge or widening Florida Avenue NE under the railroad tracks for an improved pedestrian and bike connection.
Some of the first improvements could be along Florida Avenue. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is seeking preliminary engineering services for a redesign of the corridor between North Capital Street and Bladensburg Road NE with wider sidewalks, bike lanes and fewer through traffic lanes, the agency’s associate director of policy, planning and sustainability administration Sam Zimbabwe told Greater Greater Washington in February.
DDOT does not yet have a timeline for the Florida Avenue NE improvements, he said.