Meeting Tonight on Foundry Branch Trestle and Proposed Pedestrian Trail

Photo by Brett Young.

There is a meeting tonight being held by DDOT on the future of the Foundry Branch trolley trestle, just west of Georgetown University. The meeting is at St. John’s church on O St. at 6:30 pm.

The Foundry Branch trolley trestle is the spindly bridge you can see from Canal Rd. near the split with Foxhall:

It once carried streetcars from Georgetown out to Glen Echo. The 20 line, to be precise, used to travel all the way from Cabin John through Georgetown down to Union Station. The right-of-way that the street car used is still owned by the District. It winds its way from the western edge of the trestle bridge, through the Palisades and into Maryland. At some points it feels like a trail already; at other spots, residents have expanded their backyards to gobble up the public right-of-way.

(The trestle bridge itself is actually owned by WMATA. This ownership is the result of a complicated history, and WMATA wants nothing to do with it but to tear it down.)

The city is current studying whether it would make sense to restore that right-of-way into a proper pedestrian path. The great thing about these rail-to-trails conversions is that railroads (or trollies) need flat land. So the trails end up fairly level and perfect for non-motorized travel.

Part of the general idea that DDOT is studying would be to carry the trail across the trestle bridge and onto Prospect St. in Georgetown. This would be a boon to walkers and cyclists looking for a level way to get from the Palisades to the heart of Georgetown. As it is now, you need to either travel all the way up to Reservoir Rd., or down through some fairly awful sidewalks to M St.

This proposal is not without its controversies. Those Palisades residents that treat the public right-of-way like their own backyard aren’t too excited about giving it back. And the trestle bridge proposal has elicited some predictable groans as well. Mostly they boil down to people complaining that the trail will actually work and attract more people on foot or bike to travel this way. Apparently allowing fellow citizens to use public streets is abhorrent to some. (You can see why the whole “Georgetowners blocked Metro” from yesterday’s discussion has such currency.)

If after the 15-20 years it would take to build this, conflicts arose along Prospect St. between pedestrians, motorists and cyclists, we could address it then with bike lanes or other measures. Killing the project now, as some would like, reflects a far too common nimby attitude that improving the health and safety of our fellow citizens is secondary to the desire to keep people out of our neighborhood.

If you’d like to learn more, come on out tonight!

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