By David Balick
The heat has been daunting but the call to the trails always wins, albeit mostly for evening rides once the sun has let off a bit. One trail that has long been on my list of CTC trails to explore is the Arlington Blvd Trail. Arlington county has long been my home and despite spending hours in a car on Arlington Blvd, I have spent very little time on the trail until now. The potential for this trail to be a major connector to surrounding trails and DC is abundantly clear but for now, too many sections of it still fall short of the standards we have come to expect in our area of a successful bike network.
The section I spent my time exploring was from Meade Street in Rosslyn up to Glebe road where any assemblance of a trail ceases to a sudden stop. Much of the ride however has vastly improved in recent years and acts as clear signs of what could and should be. After just a few blocks, the trail transforms into a beautiful stretch of wide, smooth path. This section is a wonderful way to Connect Courthouse and Rosslyn. It is also the section of trail that seemed to be the most heavily trafficked while I was on it.
Unfortunately, this piece of the trail becomes progressively worse as it approaches Washington Blvd. This is where one could connect to the beautiful Washington Blvd trail, another semi-recent addition to the CTC trail system in Arlington. But if you continue on the “Arlington Blvd trail” you are led onto a short service road before connecting to the trail on the north side of the road. This piece of trail is bumpy but well protected from the speeding cars going by on route 50. The North Side trail has not seen the same recent improvements that the south side has, but would be greatly improved with similar enhancements. Crossing over to the other side of the trail isn’t the easiest thing but can be done at the pedestrian bridge by N. Jackson St.
The north side trail continues as is until it reaches Glebe road where it comes to a quick halt. This is where an addition to the trail would greatly benefit users. As it currently stands, one might continue up to Cathedral lane via the sidewalk on Glebe Rd. which connects to another service road along Arlington Blvd.
Trail improvements here would be great for so many by connecting residents in the area as well as acting as an additional pedestrian corridor to further connect the county to both Washington, DC and Falls Church. A recent WABA concept plan for Arlington Blvd. called the trail in its current capacity a “bicyclist and runner dead zone.” But when you see the amount of cars that Arlington Blvd connects to the rest of the area, it is easy to imagine that completing this trail could lead to an incredibly successful thoroughfare that would connect communities and residents alike to so many more trails and resources. The concept plan writes of a possibility of a fully completed trail saying, “Arlington Boulevard is well-traveled by cars because it connects to so many places. The benefits of this connection will also extend to pedestrians and bicyclists on the Arlington Boulevard Trail. The trail will increase access to and usefulness of other transit options.”
A fully completed Arlington Blvd trail to the extent that WABA and the CTC are proposing could mean a 1,029,573 mile annual reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). That would be equivalent to more than 44 trips around the entire Capital Beltway every single day. The proposed plan would benefit more than 200,000 people who live within one mile of the trail and an additional 300,000 who work in that same radius.
As it stands today, the trail has many great qualities that give it a beautiful taste of what it could someday be. The sections that have been completed were done thoughtfully and with safety as a priority. But it is clear that the trail is unfinished.
If you too feel that completing the Arlington Blvd trail could do so much to benefit so many in our area, you can help ensure this project is completed by writing to your local elected officials or continuing your support of the Capital Trails Coalition. If you are unsure who to contact, you can find your area representatives by visiting https://www.commoncause.org/find-your-representative/addr/.
You can also sign up on our website to receive updates and action alerts related to the trail project. You can sign up by visiting https://www.capitaltrailscoalition.org/arlington-boulevard-trail/