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Broad Branch Road Rehab: What Do You Think?

by Marlene Berlin

Broad Branch Road (DDOT photo)

[Update: Click here to see the results of the survey.]

Should Broad Branch Road be more welcoming to pedestrians and cyclists? Or should it be left pretty much as it is now?

Representatives from DDOT (DC Department of Transportation) and consultants Parsons Transportation Group held a public meeting on November 8th at the Methodist Home. At this meeting, they laid out their design objectives (see this survey for details) and four possible plans for the rehabilitation of a 1.7 mile stretch of Broad Branch, between Linnean Avenue and Beach Drive. The alternatives, as DDOT describes them, are below. Click on the accompanying images to see a larger version.

No Action Alternative 1
Under the No Action Alternative, the improvements to Broad Branch Road would include minor restoration activities (safety and routine maintenance) that maintain the continuing operation of the existing roadway.

Candidate Build Alternative 2
Alternative 2 represents the minimum width alternative that meets the project’s purpose and need. Along the entire length of Broad Branch Road, this alternative consists of two 10-foot wide travel lanes with standard curb and gutter on both sides of the roadway. A new T-intersection is proposed at Brandywine Street. New 5-foot wide sidewalk will be provided on west side of the roadway extending from Linnean Avenue for approximately 1,000 feet along the open green space. Retaining walls will be provided on both the sides to keep proposed improvements within existing right-of-way. The existing storm drain outfall locations will be maintained and stormwater management will be improved by providing bio-swales/rain gardens where space is available along with water quality catch basins. An optional 5-foot wide sidewalk can be provided on west side from Soapstone Creek to the parking lot entrance just north of Beach Drive.

Candidate Build Alternative 3
Alternative 3 consists of two 10-foot wide travel lanes with standard curb and gutter on both sides of the entire roadway. A new T-intersection is proposed at Brandywine Street. This alternative will also have a 6-foot wide sidewalk on the west side of the roadway for the entire length. A 4-foot wide planting strip will separate the sidewalk and roadway in several sections. Additional right-of-way will be required to accommodate the proposed sidewalk and planting strip. Retaining walls will be provided on both sides of the roadway to minimize steep side slopes. The existing storm drain outfall locations will be maintained and stormwater management will be improved by providing bio-swales/rain gardens where space is available along with water quality catch basins.

Candidate Build Alternative 4
Alternative 4 is the widest of the project alternatives and consists of two 10-foot wide travel lanes, a 4-foot wide bike lane on east side, and standard curb and gutter on both sides of the roadway. A new T-intersection is proposed at Brandywine Street. A 4-foot wide planting strip will separate the sidewalk and roadway in several sections. Additional right-of-way will be required to accommodate proposed sidewalk and planting strip. Retaining walls will be provided on both sides of the roadway to minimize steep side slopes. The existing storm drain outfall locations will be maintained and stormwater management will be improved by providing bio-swales/rain gardens where space is available along with water quality catch basins.

The meeting was well-attended. Folks wandered through the displays and DDOT folks and consultants answered questions. There was no formal presentation or time for questions.

Newly-elected ANC 3F commissioners Sally Gresham, David Lowell, Manolis Priniotakis and Mary Beth Ray were there. ANC 3F07′s Bob Summersgill stopped by. A few members of the Methodist Home also popped in to see what was going on.

A couple of attendees from Chevy Chase were concerned about the retaining walls and disturbing the nature of Rock Creek Park. Bob Summersgill thought the proposed bike trail did not go far enough in promoting bike access along this stretch. Steve Dryden, a member of the Rock Creek Conservancy, brought up the possibility of making that stretch one way during rush hour and allow cyclists and pedestrians use the other lane. I talked to Bob about lowering the speed limit to 15 miles an hour, enforced by speed cameras, so bikes and cars could more safely share the road.

More detailed descriptions of the objectives and the four designs can be found at www.broadbranchrdea.com. You may also click here to download a brochure they were handing out at the meeting.

We would like to know your thoughts on this project. Please take our survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/5Z6RVFS, and tell us what you think in the comments section below.

 

Author Description

Tracy Johnke

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Comments (18)

  1. Allison Leader Wednesday - 14 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    Broad Branch needs to be made accessible for bikers, walkers and joggers. I have tried to use it as a biker and a jogger, and I have been yelled at by drivers simply for using it. Even respectful drivers have a hard time because there is little room to pass anyone using the road not in a car. This road is a primary access into Rock Creek and to downtown -- it needs to be safely accessible for all modes of transportation and should not privilege cars at the expense of other modes of transportatation.
  2. Allen Beach Friday - 16 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    This looks like the same battle we fought some years ago. I prefer #1. Both my ANC (ANC 3/4G) and ANC 3F fought against making this a highway! I am an ANC Commissioner - ANC 3G -04.
  3. Dallas Salisbury Saturday - 17 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    My work and my extended family and my shopping require daily crossing of the park. I go both to the north and the south every day, thus using Tilden and Broad Branch. The most important thing for me is that the roads be open and in good enough repair to not damage the car. Since moving to Crestwood in 1978 I have found that one can adjust to walkers, runners and bikers by slowing down, and the minutes "lost" are nothing compared to the time required to access Park Road and Tilden via 16th Street or Conn Ave via Military Road. Given that there is little money available for infrastructure, do what is essential to keep the road open and in repair, but no more than that is essential. Thank you for doing the survey. DLS
  4. Luke Sunday - 18 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    Commissioner Beach, are you suggesting that you, ANC 3G and ANC 3F are against better pedestrian and bike facilities for the residents you purport to represent? I would very much like to see this discussed in open ANC forums. No one is suggesting a highway.
  5. Gale Black Monday - 19 / 11 / 2012 Reply

    This message is for our Forest Hills neighbors. This is from Gale Black, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 4A08 (Crestwood). We may be risking the loss of Broad Branch if the city does not fix the infrastructure and control the water run-off. Yet, instead of effectively maintaining this road, it is wasting time and money studying alternative uses. The public needs to understand that the "do nothing" alternative is just that. Do nothing. Not fix the road. Not adequately manage the storm water overflow. We could lose the road by neglect.

    Right now, the city is under an obligation to maintain and preserve its current inventory of roads. Why is that not being done? Where is the accountability? The other "alternative" options are likely not feasible, because the city only has 30 feet within which to work. There is not enough room for adding on-road amenities. And, if you change this alignment of this historic road, it is likely to have the same fate as Klingle Road - which was a "back-door" closure - without going through the Street and Alley Closing Act. The current use (two-way public vehicular use) should be on the list of reasonable alternatives. Is the public being given the option to keep Broad Branch? "Doing nothing" does not do that.

  6. Josh Cloves Tuesday - 20 / 11 / 2012 Reply

    I am a daily cyclist of Broad Branch Road so I read this post with some interest (I unfortunately missed the meeting). Although it only makes up about a tenth of my total commute, my time spent every morning and evening on Broad Branch is very nerve-wracking. There's no room for cars to pass me within the lane and with the plethora of blind corners there are really no chances to safely move into the opposite lane. Despite this unsafe situation it's very rare that a car coming up behind me will elect not to pass me, despite the fact that I travel on average at 20 mph. Usually it goes off without a hitch, yet it is almost a daily occurrence that a driver decides to either carelessly or out of anger gun their engine and pass me within 2 feet or, even worse, begin to pass around a blind corner and then have to cut me off (or run me off the road) as a car appears coming from the other direction. I don't suspect many drivers care about the stress this adds to my day (they show no outward signs of it) so I have to advocate for either separated bike and pedestrian facilities or for strict enforcement of unsafe passing and speeding.

    I am confused by the person who said they are trying to stop Broad Branch from becoming a highway - the lack of shoulders have made it in practice a limited access road (despite the faded "Bikes in Roadway" signs along it) and it's a road that drivers overwhelmingly speed on. I don't see any of the alternatives proposing to add lanes or increase the speed limit and all but the No Action alternative will make it a bit more feasible to use as a pedestrian or cyclist, which is a hallmark of non-highways. We at least need pedestrian access between the Peirce Mill and the Soapstone Valley Trail, so alternative one is not acceptable. I was happy to read that some of the attendees at the meeting advocated for pedestrian and cyclist access.

  7. Sam Simmens Friday - 23 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    I'm a regular car commuter on Broad Branch Road and have noticed a steady increase in bicycle riders and pedestrians there over the past few years. The increase in bicycle riders is happening all over the city and I think this is a great trend. I suspect that the number of bicycles and pedestrians on Broad Branch would increase much more if it were safe. Right now the only pedestrian/cycle users on that road are those few who are either very brave or those who are trying it for the first time and didn't realize in advance the danger. So I have to agree with one of the previous comments that currently BB Road is essentially a limited access highway--and for all practical purposes is off-limits to hundreds of potential hiker/bikers who live in Forrest Hills, Barnaby Woods, Chevy Chase and other areas. In other words, these people have no relatively safe way of accessing the park's great hiker/biker path network (without driving or using a car rack) because of the existing poor design of BB Road. I personally prefer alternative 4, even though I know it may be costly (as was no doubt true for constructing the existing heavily used hiker/biker paths along Beach Drive and Rock Creek Parkway). Perhaps the DC DOT should consider conducting a survey in our neighborhoods with some simple questions such as, "Do you think that anyone in your household would ever walk or ride on a bicycle into Rock Creek Park by Broad Branch Road if there was a pathway safely separated from traffic next to that road?" If few say yes, then it might be hard justify Alternative 4; otherwise it should be given very serious consideration.
  8. Pete Sunday - 25 / 11 / 2012 Reply

    The part of Broad Branch Road that needs an upgrade the most is the the section from Beach Drive to Brandywine Street. This is because in this stretch there are no reasonable alternatives to connect the park with the neighborhoods to the (north) west. Once a pedestrian or bicyclist has reached Brandywine Street from the park, they can safely find alternative routes to their destination. 

    For that reason, highest priority should be given to upgrade this stretch (between Brandywine and Beach Drive) to allow pedestrians and bicyclists safe passage to the park. The rejuvenation of other parts could be delayed if there are important resource constraints (though it would be nice to proceed with the entire section to Linnean Avenue as proposed).

    To remove some of the current dangers to pedestrians and bicyclists Alternative 4 must be chosen. It is the only alternative that allows the very users of the park to get there safely. Indeed, further enhancements to separate cars from the bicycle lane could be considered (small curb, vertical posts, etc.). It would be far better to implement Alternative 4 along this short stretch of the road than Alternatives 1 or 2 along the entire stretch of the road.

  9. Bob Summersgill Wednesday - 28 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    Luke-

    ANC 3F will only take action, for or against any plan, after a public meeting. ANC 3F has a record of supporting better bicycle and pedestrian facilities. I do not speak for the ANC, and neither does Commissioner Beach. The only positions held by the ANC are those voted on at public meetings.

    As noted in the article, I strongly favor having bicycle lanes--or separate trails in the park--so that we can keep cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians separated. Mixing these transportation modes in the same space leads to accidents as the three tend to move at different speeds. --Commissioner Bob Summersgill, ANC 3F07

  10. Dorn McGrath Wednesday - 28 / 11 / 2012 Reply

    This is my comment; I have sent this also to Stephen Walter, Project Engineer with Parsons Transportation Group:

    Candidate Build Alternative 4 is much to be preferred. It represents the most appropriate 6-foot wide sidewalk on the high side of the roadway (land-side as opposed to water-side), and dimly shows, in the sections only, a field stone-clad wall atop the concrete structure that will be visible to most commuters and tourists. Notably, it is the most expensive of the 4 alternatives presented, but is the most forward-looking.

    The proposed new T-intersection at Brandywine Street might be eliminated from the cost of the project if there only were enforcement of the Stop Sign now located on the downhill side of Brandywine Street, at which almost no one stops. This is an invitation to head-on collisions by downhill traffic avoiding stopping altogether, despite the Stop Sign.

    It is impossible, unless one reads the sections carefully, to note that the long yellow lines indicating the project termini represent "retaining walls" intended for both sides of the roadway improvement.

    It will be necessary to acquire land for the widening of the road -- urgently needed -- from Linnean Avenue to Beach Drive; part of the property immediately south of Brandywine Street belongs to the Malaysian Embassy, and another part, just north of the new Soapstone Culvert/Bridge, belongs to the Italian Embassy.

    Whichever Candidate Build alternative is chosen, the landscaping should be considered and should reflect field-stone walls along both sides, in deference to the design style specified by Frederick Law Olmsted, deceased, but important, landscape architect for the National Park Service.

    It is not clear that "[t]he existing storm drain outfall locations will be maintained and that stormwater management will be improved by providing bio-swales/rain gardens where space is available along with water-quality catch basins."

    It is noted that the catch basin in the middle of the driveway from Broad Branch Road leading up to the several single-family homes above the frontage properties on Brandywine Street is defective. Hence, all of the water flowing down the driveway floods the intersection just south of Brandywine Street regularly. Proper size pipes are needed both above and below this catch basin, but no mention is made of this issue in the description of the proposed project. This matter was discussed knowledgeably with the engineer in charge of the Soapstone-to-Beach Drive segment of the proposed project.

    Please include these comments in the Environmental Assessment scheduled for winter 2013.

    The District Department of Transportation is to be complimented for its forthright response to these issues as presented in the public meeting on November 8.

    Cordially,
    Dorn McGrath, Jr.

  11. Neal Gross Monday - 03 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    I prefer option #1. None of these options will lead to a perfect solution, but frankly could we avoid turning parkland and park-bordered small lanes into major thoroughfares? I hope so. Development is both necessary and valuable but some micro-environments are not suitable and this certainly is one of those. Keep Broad Branch Road safe and quiet. We do not need to turn every DC street into a mini-version of I-495 [and then seek humps or other ad hoc speed control devices to rectify the unintended consequence of dangerous and increased traffic flows].
  12. Julian Berengaut Monday - 03 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    Roads, especially near parks, are a public space and a public resource and all should be encouraged to use them--that includes pedestrians and bicycles. This would be the opposite of making it into a mini I-495. Option 4 would work the best for all of us.
  13. Jane Solomon Monday - 03 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    I agree with the comments that Broad Branch is far more conducive to speeding now than it would be in any of the alternative scenarios. I believe it's a red herring from people who are simply resistant to change. But this is a change that would not only improve safety, it would be a significant boost to the quality of life in our neighborhood. We have a beautiful park a heartbeat away but can't get to it without driving or taking our lives in our hands. I think we should push hard for Option 4. Let's cross our fingers that these alternative scenarios are "real". Dare I dream of the day I can say to my kids, "Go ride your bikes in the park."?
  14. James Tuesday - 04 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    It's a very dangerous road for walkers and cyclists and needs sidewalks.
  15. Jaynie Simmons-Taylor Tuesday - 04 / 12 / 2012 Reply

    I have lived at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue & Tilden Street in (what is now) 3F07 for over 35 years. (Before that, I lived near Connecticut & Nebraska.) During my many years here I have traveled via Broad Branch Road as an almost daily route to relatives who lived on Broad Branch and as a route to and from friends, activities and errands at Chevy Chase Circle and beyond.

    I appreciate the desires of pedestrians and bicyclists to also walk or bike along Broad Branch Road and the Broad Branch Tributary to Rock Creek Park and hope that an amenable compromise can be reached.

    But right now my biggest concerns include the roadway's narrow lanes, the winding nature of the road, the many large trees which have fallen along the hillside and seem precariously ready to slide into the roadway or into the path of an approaching car, the excessive rate of speed that many vehicles travel, (often traveling at such high rates of speed that their cars cannot maintain their own lanes and end up temporarily crossing the center line into the path of other oncoming vehicular traffic) and the unsafe speeding, tailgating, and other reckless behaviors that many other drivers using the road currently seem to employ on a daily basis.

    Last night alone, my husband and I were driving home from Chevy Chase Circle via Broad Branch at 8:00 p.m.; it was already pitch-dark. A large SUV behind us was tailgating behind us at an uncomfortable rate of speed and proximity. We put on our hazard lights to gently indicate, "Hey - you're a little close there, fella..." Usually that temporary measure is enough to ensure the driver behind us slows down enough to give us some reasonable breathing room. Instead, the other driver's solution was to angrily speed up (wish I could use all caps here) and pass us by crossing the double yellow line. At high speed. In the dark.

    While I am not usually a proponent of speed cameras, I will say that there needs to be an increased MPD or Park Police presence along stretches of this road and that tickets with high fines should be delivered to drivers who practice unsafe behavior.

    The road will never be safe for walkers and bicyclists until it is first safe for existing automobile traffic.

    Jaynie Simmons-Taylor
    Here since '74 and hoping to stay for a while longer...

  16. Ann La Porta Thursday - 06 / 12 / 2012 Reply

    We have lived in Chevy Chase DC since 1970 and hope to live here a few more years. We use Broad Branch, via 27th St., as our main route downtown via Rock Creek Parkway. My husband commutes on it. We use it via 36th St. to get to Conn. Ave. and via Fessenden to get to upper Wisconsin Ave and to avoid the traffic jams on Nebraska and Military Rd.

    We have walked that way to the zoo and to Murch. Our children have biked it and hunted for tadpoles in the creek. They did not do this after dark and during that time we were cautious of traffic but never felt in danger. I see very little evidence of speeding because the road is so winding.

    I see no reason to tear up parkland and a very convenient neighborhood by-way. It would require acquiring rights of way from private homes as well as Embassies and the Park. On that winding road the hills come down to the road and there is very little space between the road and the creek on the other side.

    After the city built the very nice bike/pedestrian path on Beach Drive bikers still insist on using the road sometimes two abreast. I see no reason these bikers would not continue to do so along Broad Branch.

    Therefore I see no reason to tear up Broad Branch and inconvenience the many for the benefit of the few. I vote for Option #1.

  17. Pete Saturday - 15 / 12 / 2012 Reply

    Ann, Neal,

    You may wish to take another look at the proposals. This is about providing safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists to the park along a busy road--not about making it more attractive to cars.

    The road is far from safe and quite--it already is extremely busy with cars, particularly during rush hour. Let it also be busy with pedestrians and bicyclists (and as a result perhaps even take away some of the traffic).

    Speed bumps and speed cameras will only result in slow traffic near those 'obstacles'--they will not provide physical safety for the more vulnerable forms of transport along the entire stretch.

    I value parkland and trees, too. But I value human lives even more! I'd rather lose a tree than a person.

    The occasional bikers slowing traffic on Beach Drive don't even come close to the hoards of cyclists and pedestrians using the path in the park. These users need safe access to and from the path. Let them share it with those who rather drive.

  18. MaryAnn Friday - 17 / 05 / 2013 Reply
    Pete has the right idea...I vote for option 4. The T intersection at Brandywine could be eliminated to reduce cost.

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