The Wheels Keep Turning on the Long Bridge

Long Bridge Project Scope
Image: DDOT
At the most recent public meeting for the Long Bridge Study, the bazillion alternatives for the replacement of the two track span were reduced to seven. Of those seven options, a bicycle connection is included in three.

The Long Bridge project replaces, well, you guessed it, an aging long bridge. This bridge serves as primarily as a freight rail connector but also as a growing transportation corridor for Amtrak's intercity passengers rail system and, the Maryland Area Regional Commuter Rail (MARC) and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter rail services.

According to the Long Bridge Project site, District Department of Transportation (DDOT), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are working cooperatively to complete a comprehensive study for the rehabilitation or replacement of the Long Bridge over the Potomac River, owned by CSX Transportation. The 3.2-mile study area begins in Arlington, Virginia and extends northeast, along the existing rail alignment in the District of Columbia, east of L’Enfant.

The Long Bridge
Image: Author

Specifically, the project corridor begins just past the I-395/Center-Leg Freeway, along the Virginia Avenue, SW viaduct past L'Enfant Plaza, and across the Potomac River at Long Bridge Park near Roaches Run. The project seeks to build rail capacity for 2040, when freight and passenger rail traffic would likely doubled from the current average of 76 weekday trains. This is the only Potomac River rail bridge that connects the District with Virginia, with the next closest crossing of the Potomac between Maryland and Harper's Ferry, WV.

Long Bridge 'Level 1 Concept Screening'
Image: Author

The objective of the May 16th "Level 1 Concept Screening" meeting was to receive public comment on the resulting concepts based on three screening criteria. The three criteria are Railroad Capacity, Network Connectivity, and resiliency and redundancy and contain several steps, conditions, and requirements. The criteria excluded tunnel options as they would be too costly or technical infeasible, options that included roads or street cars as those options do not appear on jurisdictional plans, or the selection of another crossing location as that would be impractical and wouldn't serve the needs of passenger rail users and lacks connections for other modes.

The project considered 19 alternatives,
those highlighted in Green are the "Retained Concepts"
Image: Author

After the implementation of the criteria recommendations, the twelve alternatives were reduced to seven, with one being the required 'no build' alternative. The remaining six alternatives contain 3, 4 or 5 track-only options. Of those options, 3 included bike facilities. While there were no renderings at this presentation, crossing options for bikes could include spans that are connected or directly adjacent to the rail bridges or is an unconnected span several feet away. Bike infrastructure may exists beyond just the span over the Potomac. Planners state that bike connections and facilities could be included as part of the rebuilding of the viaduct and the L'Enfant VRE (potentially MARC) station; connections near the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park; and direct bike connections to Crystal City or the Mount Vernon Trail.

Now in phase 3, the next steps include a Detailed Alternatives Screening from now until Winter 2018; a Draft EIS – Spring 2018 – Fall 2018; a Draft EIS Public Hearing – Fall 2018 – Winter 2019 (Public Comment) followed by a Record of Decision in the Spring of 2019. If you have comments on the alternatives use the comment form or email