The bridge to Brookland. Image by kelly bell photography licensed under Creative Commons.

How far is it from 8th Street to 9th Street? In most places in DC the answer is one block, or about 400 feet. However, if you live in Edgewood or Brookland, the answer can be a lot longer.

To get from the 3100 block of 8th Street to the 3100 block of 9th Street, your trip is 0.6 miles, or 13 minutes walking. As our neighborhoods attract new residents and businesses, how can we bridge the gap between them?

Let's build more bridges between Brookland and Edgewood

The CSX tracks cut a wide gap between Edgewood and Brookland. There are two bridges that connect the neighborhoods, one at Franklin Street NE and one at Monroe Street NE. Both are unpleasant and at times unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. The Monroe Street Bridge is currently under construction and will have a more human-friendly design, but Franklin Street feels unsafe for pedestrians and has no protected areas for cyclists on a busy crosstown connection.

To encourage neighbors and visitors to walk and bike between the two growing neighborhoods, why not build a bike and pedestrian bridge over the tracks?

A lot of good ideas in our city are blindingly obvious. When I started looking into this, more experienced Brookland residents told me this had already been proposed years ago — and of course, they were right. Building pedestrian bridges across the CSX tracks was a recommendation of the 2009 Brookland Small Area Plan. The Plan recommended placing them at Kearny and Hamlin Streets, perhaps because there was existing public space at these intersections to allow access to the train tracks. The report suggested they would be built by 2015.

In 2015, as part of the Brookland-Edgewood Livability Study, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) recommended conducting a feasibility study and identifying funding sources for a bridge over the CSX and Metro tracks between 8th Street and 10th Street NE at Hamlin Street NE.

As the study itself notes, “currently there are only two primary east-west crossings are available for pedestrians and cyclists, Franklin and Monroe Streets.”

This could really help residents in both neighborhoods

A bridge at Hamlin Street will stitch together two growing neighborhoods separated by the Metro and CSX tracks that run between 8th and 10th streets. This change will create a safer route to school for Edgewood students who are in-boundary for Noyes Elementary school. It will also promote the vitality of the historic 12th Street retail corridor by providing new customers from Edgewood.

Similarly, this change would provide increased access to the arts and retail along 8th Street to the residents of Brookland, and would improve access to the community programming and Arts Park at Dance Place. Finally, a pedestrian and bicyclist bridge would improve access to the 8th Street extension of the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

This physical connection has the potential to create new interactions and new relationships. Maybe a parent at Hope Tolson School on 8th Street realizes they can walk to a class at Bluebird Sky Yoga, since this becomes a five minute walk instead of a 15-minute journey. Maybe the residents of 10th Street discover their kids love Dance Place, or the residents of 8th Street have a shorter walk to Right Proper. We can’t know the connections that are currently being missed because of the lack of infrastructure.

How do we make good ideas a reality?

In January of 2018, ANC5E unanimously passed a Comprehensive Transportation Resolution supporting the funding of this project. The next step would be for the DC Council to include funding for it in the FY2019 DDOT budget. While a feasibility study would be a good first step, we envision the full project looking (and costing) something like the Rhode Island Ave Metro pedestrian bridge, which cost $5 million and took four years to complete.

I’ve advocated to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, the original sponsor of the Rhode Island Avenue bridge, to include the project or at least the feasibility study in the current budget draft. He sits on the Council Transportation Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Mary Cheh. I’ve also presented testimony at their hearing on the DDOT budget.

If you think residents who live on 8th and 10th streets shouldn’t have a 20-minute walk to visit one another, please sign my petition. Building connections over the train tracks, highways, or other physical barriers that separate our city improve our joint quality of life are worth the investment.

This article has been updated to reflect that Franklin Street has a sidewalk on the south side, but still feels unsafe for pedestrians.

Ed Garnett lives in Edgewood and currently serves as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 5E01. An economist by day, as commissioner he has advocated for affordable housing, bike and bus lanes, and walkable schools and submitted an absurd number of 311 requests.