A look down Mississippi Ave SE where a protected bikeway will be built. Image by the author.

People bicycling east of the Anacostia River will soon have a safer and easier ride. The city is set to install a protected bikeway along Mississippi Avenue SE in Congress Heights, a first for Ward 8.

The street will receive other traffic calming features as well, like speed bumps and better sidewalks, to help keep people walking safe. These protections are especially important because there are a lot of children in this area. Mississippi Avenue runs past several schools and recreation centers. Some speed humps and raised crosswalks have already been installed.

The project is in the final design phase, Lauren Stephens, public information officer with the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT), told me by email. While a specific start date has not been set, she says the project is slated to begin in the fall of this year.

“This project will effectively extend the Oxon Run Trail to reach THEARC and surrounding neighborhoods, connecting more residents to a host of rec centers, community centers, schools, and parks,” Stephens said.

There are currently 14 significant protected bikeways in the District, according to Stephens. The Mississippi Avenue project has been in development since 2010, and the bikeway was added to DDOT’s annual work plan this past January.

Protected bikeways offer a safer journey for people on wheels because the route is physically protected from cars by a barrier such as curbing, rails, or timber. We’ve reached out to the agency to see what kind of barrier it plans on installing to protect people on the bikeway, and we’ll update the story when we find out.

Protected bikeway design. Image by DDOT.

Travel lanes on Mississippi Avenue SE will be narrowed from 18 feet to 10 feet wide, and a two-way, eight-foot-wide bikeway will be added. The lane will be separated by a one-foot buffer, according to the DDOT fact sheet.

Image from a 2018 traffic study by DDOT.

These Mississippi updates are part of a suite of projects coming to Ward 8 that the agency announced late last month. In 2018, DDOT conducted a traffic study that looked at the area between the 1700 and 1900 blocks of Mississippi Avenue SE.

It found a slew of safety violations, such as vehicles passing Metro buses and school buses over the center line when they picked up and dropped off school children and other passengers, cars not making complete stops, and potholes causing drivers to make evasive maneuvers in the roads near Mississippi Avenue and Stanton Road.

Mississippi Avenue SE, intersected by Stanton Road, where the protected bikeway will be installed. Image by the author.

The Mississippi Avenue bikeway project is something the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) has wanted for a while.

“We have had our eye on Mississippi Avenue for a while now and it has been on our 20x20 list from the start,” said Garrett Hennigan, community organizer with WABA, via email. “The Mississippi Avenue protected bike lane and traffic calming project is an extension of the Oxon Run Trail, which follows Oxon Run through the park to South Capitol Street. The trail was recently rebuilt and it is bustling throughout the day and especially on weekends.”

“With protected bike lanes on Mississippi Ave, anyone can ride a bike or scooter from the trail towards THEARC without the stress of riding in the street or conflicts with pedestrians on the sidewalk,” Hennigan added. “The project will also add speed bumps and new crosswalks to encourage drivers to keep to a safe speed, which makes the streets safer for everyone.”

If you’d like to find more information about the Mississippi Avenue bikeway, check out the project website here.

George Kevin Jordan is GGWash's Editor and Correspondent writing about urgency and equity in transportation in the Washington region and also the transformation of Tysons. He is a proud new-ish resident of Hillcrest in DC's Ward 7. He was born and raised in Milwaukee and has written for many publications, most recently the AFRO and about HIV/AIDS issues for TheBody.com.