Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on July 21, 2020.
Some who oppose NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD Trail widening in Arlington, support widening the northern section of the Mt. Vernon Trail. Longtime bicycle activist Allen Muchnick says the proposed Mt. Vernon Trail widening is not really comparable to NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD widening for multiple reasons:
1) Due to past NPS policies and funding constraints, the Mt. Vernon Trail has generally been paved no wider than 9 feet. For busy shared-use paths, an 11-foot paved width is the minimum recommended. Consequently, much of the Mt. Vernon Trail is clearly substandard and needs work.
2) Unlike NoVA Parks’ proposal to build dual adjacent pedestrian and bicycle paths for the W&OD totaling 22 feet in width, the widened Mt. Vernon Trail would generally consist of only a single path just 11 feet wide. Thus, the Mt. Vernon Trail widening would generally only approximate the current width of the W&OD Trail and would be only about half as wide as NoVA Parks seeks to make the W&OD in Arlington.
3) The northern section of the Mt. Vernon Trail in Arlington carries a very high level of weekday trail traffic, about 300 trail users/peak hour. It’s much more heavily used than the W&OD Trail in Bluemont Park. Because it provides a) a vital route for several long-distance, interstate bikeways, b) foot and bike access to four existing Potomac River crossings, and c) sweeping views of our nation’s capital, the Mt Vernon Trail is one of our nation’s preeminent bikeways.
4) Unlike the W&OD Trail in Arlington, the Mt. Vernon Trail lacks any nearby parallel path, such as the existing Four Mile Run Trail, that could accommodate much of the trail user volumes.
5) Unlike the W&OD Trail that follows Four Mile Run in Arlington, the Mt. Vernon Trail is generally located much farther away from the Potomac riverbank, and the Potomac River is a navigable tidal river, not an eroded urban stream.
6) Although the Mt. Vernon Trail widening would be funded with VDOT money, it is subject to NEPA review because it’s on federal land and VDOT money includes federal transportation funds.
Nevertheless Muchnick endorses Arlington civic activist Bernie Berne’s recommendation that County Board approval for project construction be contingent on review of the environmental assessment by relevant County advisory bodies.