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Thread: Long Bridge Park: Technically not a bike trail, sort of

  1. #1
    PotomacCyclist is offline I spend all day thinking about bikes and talking to people on the internet about them.
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    Default Long Bridge Park: Technically not a bike trail, sort of

    Long Bridge Park is currently under construction between Crystal City and the Pentagon, and between Old Jefferson Davis Hwy and Roaches Run. The name derives from the former bridge located where the 14th St. Bridges are found today.

    There will be a raised esplanade adjacent to the train tracks. I believe it's intended for pedestrian and bike use. It's not really a bike trail because it doesn't lead anywhere. It will have nice views of the Washington Monument and some of the other famous memorials across the river. On the other side of the esplanade, the county is installing 3 or 4 soccer/multiuse fields. There are tentative plans for an aquatic center on the very NNE end of the park but that won't be available for several years at the earliest.

    The esplanade and the fields are due to be completed this summer or fall. Work crews have been building up the embankment for the esplanade. I saw that they have finally laid down a first layer of asphalt over the eventual esplanade. I would guess that it still won't be finished for a couple more months, maybe into late fall.

    The Arlington County site has pictures and updates of the park.

    The esplanade will connect to Crystal Drive at the south end, with just a short bike ride from there to the MVT connector. It could be a good spot for taking pictures of the monuments and taking in the view of downtown Washington.

    There has been ongoing discussion (wishful thinking?) that someday the north end of the esplanade can be connected to the nearby MVT and/or a direct bike route to the 14th St. Bridge, across the river and to East Potomac Park or L'Enfant Plaza. As far as I know, there have been no such formal plans for this, just items on local bike wish lists. But it wouldn't be that difficult to make those bike trail extensions. It would provide an alternate path from Pentagon City to the MVT or the 14th St. Bridge. It could help bike commuters avoid the congestion from pedestrians at Gravelly Point. (Cyclists would also be able to avoid that fine aroma wafting from the portajohns at Gravelly Point too.)

    First things first. They have to finish up the park and the esplanade, hopefully by early fall. Then WABA and other organizations and individuals can help to push for those trail extensions. In an ideal world, those would be built next year. In reality, maybe never. Maybe two years? Or maybe even next year? Maybe?

    This is probably not a major item for most, but it could be a nice addition to Arlington.

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    Last I heard was a -tentative- open date of October. But yes, it would be amazingly logical to create a connection to the MVT...and some of the admittedly hard to read drawings almost sort of part way depict such a connection....

    Talk it up with whoever will listen. Don't know who owns the land between the MVT and the new park (or do they connect) so finding that out would be job one.

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    TheWashCycle has included some of these trail connections in his end-of-year bike wish lists, so the ideas are out there. I think the NPS controls most of the area north of the park. They haven't always been so accommodating for cyclists. (They are the reason why there are no CaBi stations on the National Mall.)

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    The connection to the MVT at the north end of Long Bridge Park is listed on the recent Arlington County bike projects list. But I don't think it's currently funded. The north section of the park and the aquatic center won't be built for a couple years anyway. I doubt the connector could be built before the northern section of the park is finished. That probably won't be until 2013 or later.

    As for the southern section of the park, the official website has a new photo gallery, dated June 2011. Work crews are making steady progress. Hard to tell if they are still on track for an October opening date or not. I can't tell either way.

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    I found this picture of the old Long Bridge from the 19th century. The original bridge was so low that it barely cleared the river. On days like yesterday, the bridge probably would have been under water. The foot path was just feet away from the railroad tracks.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The official opening is on Sat., November 5, although people have already started running and riding on the esplanade this month. (The temporary fences and Caution tape have been removed.) The esplanade and most of the sidewalks are finished. The turf on the soccer fields is in place but some of the other areas still need to be covered with sod or other plants.

    The announcement lists the park's address as 475 Long Bridge Drive (formerly Jefferson Davis Highway), but neither part of that is correct. The road is not Jefferson Davis Highway. It's OLD Jefferson Davis Highway, which is a separate street from Jefferson Davis Highway (Rte. 1 and Rte. 110). The road is still called OJDH and will continue to be called that until next spring. Only then will it officially become Long Bridge Drive.

    In any case, you don't want to ride or drive on OJDH/Long Bridge Drive for the time being. The asphalt has been ripped up because of ongoing utility relocation work and lack of maintenance. That pavement will chew up road bike tires and wheels. Mountain bikes are fine but you'll feel the bumps in the road. If you're interested in biking to the new park, ride up to the north end of Crystal Drive where it turns into 12th St. The esplanade connects to Crystal Drive at the bend.

    (If you head over there before the official opening, be careful. Work crews leave stacks of building materials, flower pots and uninstalled light poles on the esplanade and sidewalks at night. These can be hazardous if you're not looking in front of you. The views are nice so it's tempting to look at Roaches Run waterfowl sanctuary, the Potomac River, National Airport, the Washington Monument, the Air Force Memorial and National Cathedral while you're there. Yes, you can see all that from the park.)

    http://www.arlingtonva.us/department...tOverview.aspx
    Last edited by PotomacCyclist; 10-26-2011 at 06:54 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PotomacCyclist View Post
    I think the NPS controls most of the area north of the park.
    Oh! Then someone should talk to the NPS fellow who came to the last Arlington BAC meeting! He seemed very helpful and is focusing on bikes and the MVT until January. Maybe he could get the ball rolling...

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    I've read a couple articles about that north plot recently. It seems that Monument Realty, the developer of the new Boeing regional HQ project to the south of the park, owns the north plot (formerly the site of the Marriott Twin Bridges hotel). The Arlington board approved the Boeing project and the change in the site plan. (The buildings will be 100% office instead of a residential/retail/office mix.) Arlington currently controls the Boeing site. The county will transfer the planned Boeing site to Monument in exchange for the north plot. Until that happens, the County can't build on that north plot. The deal was only just approved last week (?). I don't know how long the land swap will take.

    Once that's done, then the County would have the authority to develop that north plot. Whether they will is beyond my knowledge. The County website indicates that the north section and aquatic center are in the planning stage. Construction won't start for a couple years at the earliest. But that's for the aquatic center. Maybe the County could be convinced to move forward on the extension of the esplanade on a quicker schedule.

    I'm noticing that all of the relevant parties seem to be coordinating activity so that there is only one major construction project at a time in that area. Phase I of the park is finishing up in early November. Then demolition and prep work is scheduled to start on the Boeing site soon after. (Supposedly before the end of the year.) If that takes two years or less, then that project would finish up before Phase II of the park got started. Or maybe this is just my imagination.

    Anyway, the County would need to do some heavy lifting to extend the esplanade. They will have to clear out a lot of trees. (Maybe they can be replanted elsewhere.) Then bulldozers will have to move a lot of earth to build up the base of the esplanade. Then they would add the finishing structure. It took the crews more than a year to finish the first part of the esplanade (while working on the rest of the park at the same time).

    After the park opens next month and the Boeing project gets underway, we might get more info about any possible acceleration of the trail extension. The remaining section of the trail is only about a third of the entire length of the esplanade, but they'll have to build an overpass to cross the GW Parkway. I'm not an engineer but I was thinking that maybe they could "piggyback" off to the side of the train bridge. Maybe it doesn't work that way. But I can speculate about this since I'm not getting paid to design anything. It's fun to draw up grand plans on Google Maps. Too bad it's not nearly as easy to build bridges and trails in real life.
    Last edited by PotomacCyclist; 10-27-2011 at 07:44 AM.

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    There's a group, Friends of Long Bridge Park, that is working to speed up the construction of the bike connection between the park and the Mt. Vernon Trail. They are also trying to support the ongoing planning and construction of the next phase of the park, which will feature the aquatic and indoor athletic center. While the building won't have a velodrome, it will have many other features that can be useful for cyclists who do cross-training and/or triathlons. In addition to the main 50m Olympic and diving pool, there will be other pools available for fitness swimming, aquatic rehabilitation and "splash time" for young kids. The center will have strength training and aerobic equipment, a climbing wall, racquetball courts and an indoor track. (Assuming that the budget allows for this.)

    If the building were actually built in the near future, this would be incredible for area residents. I've read that planning won't be finished until 2013, and construction might not be finished until 2015. Anyone out there want to make a big donation and get the project moving faster? Boeing, maybe? They'll be in the neighborhood and they have plenty of money. I think they are already making small contributions to community programs. But I suggest that they be even better neighbors and jump start the funding for the aquatic/fitness center. (It's always nice to spend other people's money. )

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    Default Show your support for connecting Long Bridge Park!

    While the first phase of the park is done, there is a drive to "Complete & Connect" the park. Complete refers to adding more facilities (the sports center and another field), and connect refers to connecting the park to the existing MVT via paths and a bridge.

    A make-or-break decision by the Arlington County Board regarding funding to "Complete and connect" Long Bridge Park is imminent. The "Friends of Long Bridge Park" group has been urging the Board to develop a plan to finish all the planned elements of the park, including connecting the Esplanade to the Mt. Vernon bike trail via a bridge across the GW parkway.

    Broad public support is the most important key to convincing the Board to include the needed funding this year You can help. Please join the other park constituencies in a mass showing at the next Arlington County Board meeting this Saturday, Feb 11, starting promptly at 8:30 am in the County Board room (third floor of the County office building - 2100 Clarendon Blvd. - free parking - for both cars *and* bikes - in the basement).

    Please show up just before 8:30 wearing your biking gear and/or carrying your helmet. This agenda item should be completed in about 30 minutes, so afterwards you can go enjoy the Farmers' Market in the building's parking lot outside.

    Please show up and help support the continued progress at Long Bridge!

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