View Full Version : Tunnel in to Crystal City

08-19-2011, 06:25 AM
First, I'll apologize if this has been addressed already. I've been searching for the past hour and haven't found what I'm looking for in regards to this topic. Off the MVT, going in to Crystal City, there is a very narrow tunnel that goes, I believe, under GW Pkway (please correct me if I'm wrong). Does anyone know if there are plans to widen this? It's very narrow and dangerous.


08-19-2011, 09:31 AM
I took my trike through it last year. That was interesting. Kinda like riding the Trike across Roosevelt bridge. I need flashing lights and a big "Wide Load" sign.

Not aware of any plans to widen it.

08-19-2011, 10:38 PM
I doubt it. There's no space on the road to widen the trail so the only alternative would be to cut into the bridge structure. Unless engineers determined that cutting out a section wouldn't weaken the bridge, the only alternative would be to rebuild that bridge. I don't think that's going to happen in the near future.

I just treat it as a single lane. If someone is already coming through in the other direction, I wait until that person has come through completely before heading onto that trail section. It's not wide enough for two bikes at the same time so best not to even try that.

Most of the regular users understand how narrow it is. So most people will let someone through before heading under the bridge in the other direction. If someone tries to squeeze by, I'll give them a frustrated glare. If there are walkers or runners on the trail, I won't try to pass them. If they are coming in the opposing direction, I'll slow down to a crawl as I pass them.

As long as you keep the speed down and use common sense, it's not too bad. It's not an ideal trail/tunnel, but it's manageable.

08-21-2011, 05:51 PM
I try to wait too. More often than not, I'm the one already in the tunnel when someone else comes through. I don't pass pedestrians either. However, I did have an accident because I had slowed down, checked, saw that no one was coming through, so I started to proceed. Shortly after that, someone came "barreling" through without regard to oncoming traffic. I was already clipped in and couldn't get out in time and down I went. Frustrating.

08-22-2011, 10:47 AM
I do the one at a time thing too. If I'm already in the tunnel and someone comes through in the other direction, I stop and glare, which of course has no affect on the other person's behavior. The shorter tunnel into Crystal city is wider, but for some reason, people can't seem to stay on their side.

08-22-2011, 04:24 PM
I will say that there is a hidden danger spot on the south end of the underpass. There's an informal dirt track shortcut at the south end of the MVT bridge, cutting down to the underpass. It's very steep and unsafe. No sane road cyclist would ride down that shortcut. But I've seen a few runners take the shortcut. Even they can't slow up, so when they exit at the bottom, they rush out at a quick speed, directly into the path of people exiting from the underpass.

Fortunately this has only happened to me once. I was almost through the underpass when some young woman came darting out from the side after running down that shortcut. It's not like she was saving that much time by taking the dirt path, less than 500 ft. difference by going around the paved uphill loop. She was as startled as I was by the near-miss. Hopefully that was the last time she ever did that.

Even though I've never seen anyone do that again, I always keep an eye out on that shortcut, just in case someone else is running down that dirt path. I can't see around the edge of the bridge wall. Instead, I slow up a bit so that I can react quickly if someone jumps out from that path.

The pathway is well-worn so I think a lot of people are still using it. It's pretty crazy to me, given the fact that you can't see if someone is coming up through the underpass.

You can see the dirt path on Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/maps?q=22202&ll=38.856958,-77.046486&spn=0.000602,0.001373&gl=us&t=h&z=20&vpsrc=6).

08-22-2011, 06:20 PM
As we've been regularly counseled by our more senior, and esteemed, colleagues, a little common sense goes a long way. The stretch from the MVT turnoff until you get safely on Crystal Drive in Crystal City is rich with opportunities for problems. Once you come through the tunnel, the path leading to the railroad tunnel has blind turns and great conflict potential. I ride the route daily and have been surprised at just about every turn. A great place to take it easy.

Be safe!

08-22-2011, 07:41 PM
Thanks for that advice. I haven't encountered that problem yet, and hope I don't, but now I will be on the lookout for that spot as I come through the tunnel.

08-23-2011, 08:05 AM
That darn short cut is a danger at both the bottom for people coming through the tunnel and at the top for folks on the MVT. People will traipse right onto the trail without looking either way. People have had words there.

The whole system in CC isn't terribly well-designed. The ridiculous angle of the MVT cutoff (which people pretty much never take. I don't know why they don't just pave over the shortcut.) The narrow underpass. The scrum of peds and cars they send you into when you emerge - drivers coming out of the driveway to the left as you enter CC notoriously do not look where they're going as they turn right. Just ride through there without feeling the need to rush and do it proudly:D

08-23-2011, 10:10 AM
Bells come in handy at places like that. I've started using mine whenever approaching a blind turn or a narrow tunnel. It doesn't solve the problem, but at least it provides a little warning.

08-23-2011, 10:19 AM
We've been here before. When I began riding that route a couple of years ago, it was more of a straight shot onto the MVT heading north. Then they created the cutoff. While it is probably safer for the fast movers riding north, it does force one to pay attention.

If you look on Google Earth, you can see the changes from 2006 (left) to 2010. 339 340

While I can live with the turn onto the MVT, I would be in favor of some sticker bushes to close the shortcut for pedestrians as I have been suprised at their sudden appearance at the start of the tunnel.