Greater Greater Washington

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What's better: A $3 million direct trail or a $6 million detour?

Anne Arundel County wants to fill a gap in the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Trail with a circuitous $6 million path, instead of the better and cheaper direct option.


Photo by Richard Drdul on Flickr.

This week, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley will announce a new state program to help local governments fund trail construction. The first project on tap is path and bridge over the Patuxent River to connect the WB&A segments in Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

The two counties are a mile apart on where that bridge should be. Prince George prefers a $3 million bridge with a straight trail along an old railbed. But Anne Arundel prefers a $6 million bridge with a detour that goes up and down a hill, runs through a wetland flood plain, and adds a mile to the length of any trip. Recently, state officials have been moving forward with the more costly alignment.

The state would be picking up a large portion of the inflated tab. Will the Governor merely provide funds to enable local decision-making at its worst, or will he lead these counties to build the better, lower-cost trail that, for a variety of institutional reasons, they are unable to pursue on their own?

The Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Trail runs along the right of way of the old railroad of the same name from Lanham to the Patuxent River in Prince George's County, a distance of about 6 miles. One mile northeast of the Patuxent, the trail picks up again and continues for 4 miles to Odenton. From there, you can take mostly local streets to connect to the BWI Airport and Trail.

Anne Arundel County is preparing to build a trail along the South Shore Line of the old WB&A railroad from the eastern end of the WB&A trail to Annapolis. Meanwhile, Prince George's County plans to build a trail from the western end of the WB&A Trail to Bladensburg and the Anacostia River Trail. Building the connection over the Patuxent River to connect the two segments of the WB&A Trail is thus the highest priority in the Missing Links Program at the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT).


Anne Arundel's detour and the direct alignment.

The land between the two trail segments is undeveloped. A single developer owns the old railbed for about half the distance, and the land next to the railroad right of way for the other half. As part of the permit process for the planned Preserve at Two Rivers, Anne Arundel County could easily extend the trail in a straight line to the water's edge.

Instead, the County wants the developer to build a winding detour that would reach the Patuxent River on the Anne Arundel side about a mile north of where the trail currently reaches the river on the Prince George's side. Under the proposed site plan, the development will also place homes atop the old right of way, and thereby ensure that a straight trail is never built.

Railroads were always good at finding the route with the most favorable topography. Thus, the old railbed would provide a gradual slope down to the river. The detour would send the trail first up a small hill, then down a steep incline toward the river.

The route down to the river is so steep it requires several switchbacks. According to officials who attended a meeting on the subject in September, the turns are so sharp that the maximum safe speed is 7 mph, and the steep slopes do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Then, at the bottom of the hill, the detour trail would have to cross several hundred feet of floodplain wetlands before reaching the river.

Why does Anne Arundel County prefer a costly detour that seriously degrades the quality of the trail? I have been unable to find any official willing to offer a clear rationale.

According to Ken Alban, Chief of Capital Projects for the parks department, the county is pursuing the detour because a decision was made to pursue the detour years ago, before he took his position. "I have many projects and I cannot be continually revisiting the rationale behind each one, or nothing would ever get built," he says.

The detour alignment was originally proposed at the turn of the century by Buz Meyer, who owned the land along the Patuxent River immediately southeast of the railbed. Both the County and Meyer claimed ownership of the railbed itself.

Several officials who were with the county ten years ago told me that the decision to pursue the detour was made around 2001 by then-County Executive Janet Owens. Until then, the County had planned to run the trail on the right of way, but it eventually conceded that the right-of-way within about 1000 feet of the river was owned by Meyer.

Why didn't the county simply move the trail alignment by about 50 feet from the old roadbed to the adjacent parcel to the northwest? Three county officials told me that Meyer did not want the trail near his land because of the risk of stray bullets from his property, which was used for hunting and firearms training.

Apparently the detour was the only alternative in 2001. But circumstances have changed. A developer now owns the land northwest of the railbed. And Buz Meyer died recently. His son, Andrew Meyer, told me that he opposes the trail being on his property, but that he does not care if a trail is on the adjacent parcel, as long as people do not trespass on his land.

A fence could easily be built. In fact, a high wall was built to stop bullets and trespassing where the WB&A Trail runs along the grounds of the Berwyn Rod and Gun Club in Bowie.

Mr. Alban asked me why cyclists would want this more direct route. I told him it would allow people to arrive at their destination 10 minutes sooner. He told me he was surprised: "No one has ever suggested to me that this trail will be used for transportation," he said. "I doubt that people will use this trail for commuting."

Prince George's County has consistently favored the direct trail and opposed the detour since 2001, when then-county executive Wayne Curry sent Owens a letter explaining the the County's position.

A few years ago, Prince George's added a ½-mile segment extending the trail to the water's edge, which would be superfluous if the detour trail was built. County park and planning staff continue to favor the direct connection. But after a decade, they have also become pessimistic about whether it will ever be completed. So they are building a short trail along another old rail spur that would facilitate the detour, should it become the only option.

State officials almost universally are skeptical about the detour, but feel that there is nothing they can do even though the prospect of state funds is driving the process. Steve Carr of the Department of Natural Resources told Maryland's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee that because the detour runs through wetlands in a floodplain, the permit process could take years.

I asked whether the state can do a complete alternatives analysis and pick the optimal route in a public process. "If and when the state conducts a design study, it can conduct an alternatives analysis," said Dustin Kuzan, the state's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

"But what if Anne Arundel County and the planned development make the direct route far more costly before that study begins," I asked. "We may not fund the best option, but the state can not make local land use decisions," he said.

Maryland is thinking of funding a wasteful detour bridge that makes no sense today, because the detour was the only practical alternative ten years ago. Middle management apparently lacks authority or incentive to pursue the more valuable and lower-cost alignment. MDOT needs leadership from Governor O'Malley to ensure the state doesn't waste money building an inferior trail.

Jim Titus lived aboard a 75-foot coast guard cutter at Buzzards Point boatyard in southwest Washington until he was 2. Since then he has lived in Prince George's County, going to school in Ft. Washington, Accokeek, and College Park before moving to Glenn Dale. He represents Prince George's on the state of Maryland's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and is on the board of directors of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Professionally, he works for a federal agency, which asks not to be identified. 

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thanks for highlighting this situation. Its really stupid. So the only route to changing AACo's dumb plan is 1) AACo rez's contacting their Co reps and 2)MD rez's contacting the Gov's office?

by Tina on Nov 1, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

It's funny that you write this because the WABA "regional summit" is on Thursday and I was looking at the program lineup and thinking that mostly it doesn't cover what I think of as the most important "regional" issues as they relate to biking. I think some of the questions are:

1. Coordination between jurisdictions

2. Especially in relation to the creation of a truly regional bikeway and trail network and elimination of gaps

[your post illustrates these two points...]

3. What truly best practices exist in the various jurisdictions, identifying them, "porting" the best practices across the region, raising the quality of outcomes for all

- including Rockville, which has a number of best practices, even if they don't always have the right spatial conditions
- cycletracks (DC?)
- counting (Arlington)
- bikesharing (good/bad, true evaluation)
- trail connections and the public realm framework (the part of the NW Branch Trail between West Hyattsville Station and Rhode Island Ave. in Prince George's County)
etc.
- better practices by highway departments (e.g., pocket lanes for on-street bike paths in Maryland, such as on New Hampshire Ave. in White Oak)

4. biking as transportation and the disconnect between parks department policies and transpo/planning department policies--this is a local issue as well as an NPS-local issue

5. State-local issues and highway planning/complete streets requirements/policies -- MD, MDOT, MTA, SHA, and the local jurisdictions and VA, VDOT, VRPT, and the local jurisdictions;

6. Including state level advocacy for change

7. Best practices in programming (education and encouragement) and how can we improve what we do with regard to biking in the various jurisdictions

by Richard Layman on Nov 1, 2011 2:55 pm • linkreport

The typical "the decision has already been made" dodge. The question is who made the decision, and by what process?

by Steve on Nov 1, 2011 3:56 pm • linkreport

"I doubt that people will use this trail for commuting."

Well, if you build a circuitous one they won't. Oddly, it's not that long a ride to Fort Meade from the river, and with BRAC you'd think you could capture a small percentage of employees on this trail.

by David C on Nov 1, 2011 4:36 pm • linkreport

Thanks for highlighting this issue. It's really frustrating to see the unrealized potential of this connection and then see why it's being held up.

by Pat on Nov 1, 2011 5:02 pm • linkreport

What are the legal consequences of failing to make the trail ADA-compliant? Would anyone have both standing and an obvious decision-making counterparty to make this happen by threatening litigation?

by Squalish on Nov 1, 2011 5:55 pm • linkreport

Talk about dysfunctional decision making

by TGEOA on Nov 2, 2011 8:12 am • linkreport

You know, since this is in Anne Arundel county, I'm thinking you'd get more mileage in the Baltimore media. Have you reached out to Michael.dresser@Baltsun.com ? and to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council (their MPO)?

by Richard Layman on Nov 2, 2011 8:47 am • linkreport

Have you considered setting up an online petition for this, GGW?

by Bill S on Nov 2, 2011 9:49 am • linkreport

Thanks to all for your comments. I'll address questions to me in reverse order.

@Richard. I was thinking of calling the Sun and the Capitol. Hae reached out to Odenton Patch but AA seems not to have a countywide blog comparable to GGW. I hadn't thought about the Baltimore Metropolitan Council--do you think a letter from M-NCPPC is what they need or do I just call someone? I have also heard from several people that AA County Executive Leopold cares alot about efficient fiscal management and may be unaware of the mismanagement holding over from his predecessor.

@WSquakish: In this case, the AASHTO standards for multiuse trail are more stringent. The state will not fund the bridge until connecting trail meets AASHTO so the county is almost sure to come back with a design that solves that problem.

@Steve. The decision seems to have been made by Janet Ownes in 2001, in response to an outcry and a colorable claim that Mr. Meyer owned the right of way. Most likely, the County actually got good title from a predecessor owner who in turn had gotten the right of way through adverse possession from the Meyers, after the railroad close and the land reverted to the Meyers, because the Meyers failed to realize that the land had reverted during the 1930s and 1940s.

Whey they didn't simply move the trail over 50 feet remains unclear, though several theories are out there.

@Richard. I sometimes wonder whether we will need legislation to give the state some sort of planning authority for intercounty trails within a mile of the county line. Compared to taking homes, acquiring an old roadbed would be easy for SHA.

@Tina. Since a political decision seems to have caused this mess, I think it will take a politician to get us out of the mess. Any of three people could do it: The Governor, County Executive Leopold, or former Annapolis Mayor Callahan who is the chief staff in AA for the current and former County Executive, and is widely assumed to be a key defender of the 10-year old decision.

by Jim T on Nov 2, 2011 2:22 pm • linkreport

Mr Titus continues his single-use view of the trail. AA County has carefully considered all of the public and private needs of the land and made the best decision which is to move forward with a trail path which meets the needs of multiple groups, not just cyclists.

We applaud their decision and look forward to the current plan.

by Ed Farmer on Nov 2, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport

@Ed Farmer. Please send me an email off line or give me a call at 301-464-5423. I had wanted to track you down previously but was not sure how to find you.

by JimT on Nov 2, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

Dear Mr Titus,

I have a few points that I'd like to make towards you and this article.

1. The hiker biker trail is meant to be recreational. If it winds and twists, goes up and down hills, it makes it more of a workout and challenge for the people using it, hardly anyone uses it as a true means of commuting.

2. Your saying that the state should take land that is owned by a private family just to put in a trail that basically shuts the entire property down. There are several programs that go on at Meyer Station that benefit the public.

3. We just recently had a friend who died on the hiker biker trail from running off of it on his bike and hitting a tree, going into a coma and died on Monday. The state hasn't bothered to help the family in any way and has left it up to the LANDOWNERS to cover the issues that have arisen. Now apply this situation to Meyer Station where there are firearms being used almost daily. I don't think if YOU got shot, you'd just let your own insurance cover the hospital bills, and the state sure as hell won't.

All in all, I believe that your article on this entire thing is biased and one sided. There are plenty alternatives that wouldn't cost as much, and if PG County hadn't pushed their side up to the river, there wouldn't be such an issue of redirecting the trail, making it an error on their part.

by Matt M on Nov 2, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

Matt M,

1. Where is it said that the trail is meant to be purely recreational? Considering it has been built with transportation money and by the transportation department it at least makes sense that transportation is one concern. You concede that some people use the trail to commute, and I suspect that once the trails are connected, there will be even more commute and other transportation trips taken. By your logic, we could just make recreational trails that snake back and forth for miles like a maze and that would be OK.

2. Putting a trail on the ROW will not shut the land down. Those programs could still go on with some safety modifications to the trail as is done at the gun club. Also, it isn't clear that the Meyer's own the land. Looking at this and this it appears they do not.

The articles I could find about the dispute mention that it was resolved in response to a letter writing campaign which makes it a political decision by the County Executive and not a legal decision. Which isn't too surprising when you read this one-sided article by the Baltimore Sun's "Outdoors" writer.

3. I'm sorry to hear about your loss. Which trail did your friend crash on?

If there are plenty of alternative, perhaps you could mention one.

by David C on Nov 2, 2011 3:34 pm • linkreport

@Matt. Please see my comment to Ed Farmer above. I continue to try to learn, but this article had to be based on what I was able to learn, and none of the 5 current or former AA officials with whom I spoke for the article offerred any justification. You may know some things that I do not know, and perhaps putting those facts forth would be a better use of your time than complaining about my failure to explain things that I do not yet know. People tend to talk past one another in blog comments whereas a phone conversation tends to be an opportunity to learn, as does email, abeit to a lesser extent.

I think you are correct that the detour trail has been designed for recreation rather than transportation. I have no problem with developers or local government building trails for such a purpose. But the WB&A is a rail trail. The whole point of rail trails is for the grade to be straight and gradual.

If people really want a hill, why not just build a hilly spur off the trail, or a separate trail? For that matter, is there is a real need to cross the river if the trail is just for recreation? Again, no problem with a deadend trail for residents who wnat to go down to the water's edge.

But what is your defense for destroying the rail corridor? Why not just keep both rights of way available (I'm talking here about the part of right of way owned by Two Rivers east of the Meyer property.

Please do not confuse my suggestions to Richard for state policies with what I recommend in this casee.

What I want to see here, is a truly open alternatives selection process in which all of the options are carefully evaluated with respect to cost, benefits, environmental permits, etc. That's exactly what happens with intercounty roads such as the ICC, but the state has no program for doing so with intercounty trails. Imagine how silly it would look for a highway to mis-match by a mile at the county line--yet we do that with trails.

Ten years ago we were always hearing that Mr. Meyer wanted to hunt on both sides of the trail, but no one really verified that so it was hard to distinguish rumor from fact. If you can articulate a set of problems with having the trail follow the right of way, please do so.

by Jim TItus on Nov 2, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

1. Todd Lang is director of transpo planning for the BMC, Regina Aris is asst. director, and Heather Strassberger handles Bicycle, Pedestrian & Coordinated Mobility ("the bike planner").

2. It doesn't matter how trails are defined by planners so much as how they are used. Most trails get used by some commuters. Trails should be designed to maximize this kind of use where practicable.

3. Relatedly, Maryland law defines trails as transportational. So this matters.

4. Relatedly, the Maryland State Dept. of Planning reviews local plans, and they should have ideally have caught this and made recommendations for changes to be in concert with bikeway/planning objectives. Same for the BMC.

It's worth MNCPPC contacting them as well as the BMC if they have the gumption -- usually govt. agencies don't like to ruffle feathers between govts. and agencies. Send me an email (rlayman@yahoo.com) and I'll give you contact info for someone there that you can talk to about this although s/he doesn't work in this particular area.

by Richard Layman on Nov 2, 2011 4:39 pm • linkreport

The simple fact is that both sides of the railroad track are owned privately (as is the bed itself) and that there are hunters and several activities that go on in that property. If the hiker biker trail goes through, the property will be shut down because of the issue that someone *might* get shot. If they put any type of wall up, it will end up being at the expense of the property owners, not the state, and will once again cause both properties to be shut down.

by Matt M on Nov 2, 2011 5:34 pm • linkreport

I live in Odenton, grew up in Bowie, and now work in DC. I would be ecstatic if they'd simply connect the trails. Straight-through would be preferable. I commute by bike and MARC. I have family in Bowie I would love to visit without relying on a borrowed car.

I've biked this trail in AA county, and am curious about the rock quarry plant that is found past the end of the trail near Odenton. Is that still part of the right of way? Is that property another hurdle for completing the trail?

by Michael on Nov 2, 2011 6:31 pm • linkreport

@Michael

I can tell you, if you like to take the Marc train, then there is really no reason for you to take the hiker biker trail across as you can jump it in Odenton and get off at the next stop which is Bowie State. For that matter, you could just take the Marc train straight into DC.

by Matt M on Nov 2, 2011 6:36 pm • linkreport

Thank you for your quick reply. Again I would welcome direct communication, the lack of which has been part of the problem (not blaming you of course).

Can you explain what shooting occurs on the parcel to the northwest, owned by Two Rivers? We've been assuming that with the development, shooting will not be allowed. Is it even allolwed now?

As far as the wall goes, you can be quite sure that there would be substantial public support for a publicly funded wall. We have sound walls all the time along highways, which mitigate the sound caused by the highway. The latecomer--in this case, the trail--has a moral responsibility to mitigate adverse impacts as much as possible.

Frankly, I think that it would be reasonable for the government to pay the Meyer family roughly $1 million for a trail easement along the part of their roadbed that runs along the wetlands. That might only be 1 acre of land, yet it is worth on the order of $1 million because a grandfathered road through wetlands is a very valuable asset. Andrew Meyer told me that he would not sell an easement for $1 or 2 million; hence my assumption that the trail may need to run near but not on the right of way.

You still have not answered my question: How do you justify destroying the right of way on the Two Rivers parcel? You surely realize that there is no guarantee that the Two Rivers community will continue to allow hunting once hundreds of homes are built, and there is no guarantee that the Meyers will always reject lucrative offers for a tiny slice amounting to less than 1% of the land.

by Jim Titus on Nov 2, 2011 6:41 pm • linkreport

I do not have the authority or the complete knowledge to answer that. I do know that if ANY is sold, the county will condemn to get the rest, as has been done to many other places, many times in history. Why screw up a nature preserve just because someone doesn't want to take an extra mile to get to work or ride the train instead? I suppose my issue is: Why do the people feel that an extra mile to go around is going to be such an inconvenience, that they must constantly harass the landowners until they finally give in?

by Matt M on Nov 2, 2011 6:52 pm • linkreport

@Michael,

About the quarry: Two Rivers owns the whole thing. Take a close look at the site plan map above, and compare to current satellite view. The two ponds in the site plan are close to where the quarry is now. What's amazing is that Two Rivers got all the land from the end of the existing trail down to the river.

I agree with what Matt M just said, but of course MARC does not help you on weekends and you can't take a bike on MARC. Definitely stay off MD-3 at night (then again, the WB&A is closed at night). Occasionally people talk about a trail along MD-197 from the BW-Pkwy into Old Bowie.

@Matt: In addition to my other questions, do you know how the parcel on the northwest side of the right of way came to be separated from the Meyers parcel? Or why all of these GIS data sets that Google and others use erroneously call it a county park?

by Jim Titus on Nov 2, 2011 6:55 pm • linkreport

I'm not exactly sure how the separation came to be personally, however, I do know that the Meyer property extends OVER the railroad bed for some distance and that the bed itself is not the property line.

by Matt M on Nov 2, 2011 7:06 pm • linkreport

@Matt M. Why screw up a nature preserve just because someone doesn't want to take an extra mile to get to work or ride the train instead? I suppose my issue is: Why do the people feel that an extra mile to go around is going to be such an inconvenience, that they must constantly harass the landowners until they finally give in?

Thanks for trying to answer. Perhaps my question is not clear. On harassing the landowner to preserve the right of way, the landowner we are talking about it the developer for Preserve at Two Rivers. They are already being--in some sense--harrassed by the request to build a circuitous trail to the water's edge; by comparison, a request to simply leave the right of way open until a final alignment is selected, would be a fairly minimal burden. Possibly they are being harrassed to build a trail to nowhere if it turns out that the state does not fund this trail.

Judging by your answer, are you sure that shooting will actually continue on the Two Rivers parcel?

Can you tell me why you think the trail screws a nature preserve more than the alternative alignment? One would normally expect that buuilding a trail along an existing roadbed is less upsetting than a bridge through relatively untouched wetlands. Bikes are pretty quiet.

But again, my point here is to preserve the options so that a complete weighing of all the merits can take place. The concerns you raise are certainly valid, and I can not rule out that when all of them are tallied and the costs are calculated, they might persuade me that the $6 million detour is better than the $3 million direct trail. But that would simply mean delay committing to one route until the bridge study is done.

Are you really 100% sure that all the benefits you see of the detour are worth the extra cost? Where is the resistance to a full analysis coming from?

by Jim Titus on Nov 2, 2011 7:13 pm • linkreport

Bikes may be quiet, but we've seen the damage done. You put a bridge there, and four wheelers, dirt bikes, and kids coming across and destroying things will happen. Perhaps if the trail was more secured instead of just being open way through non state property, there might be less resistance. You might not do these things yourself, but as it always is, it only takes one person to screw it up for everyone. We've seen what happens on the PG side with dirt bikes and ATV's and how torn up it is over there.

by Matt M on Nov 2, 2011 7:17 pm • linkreport

@Matt M: How can you possibly know who owns the roadbed?

After the property reverted to the Meyers in the 1930s, didn't the successor of the railroad continue to use it for all sorts of things as if they owned it. Who gave BG&E permission to run the power lines? The Meyers? Or did they pay the successor to the WB&A? Who operated the toll road? As far as I know, no court has evaluated what legal interest the later railroads, BG&E, etc., may have aquired through adverse possession. Operating a toll road, in particular, sounds like a road easement. Or did the Meyers run that road?

I can't blame the county for not wanting to push the claim in the midst of a controversy. But that does not mean that the county does not have good title.

by Jim Titus on Nov 2, 2011 7:19 pm • linkreport

The simple fact is that both sides of the railroad track are owned privately (as is the bed itself)

But Matt M, AA County doesn't see it that way. They think they own the bed. It's in dispute and some day the courts will likely settle it, but until then I would say it is not yet a fact.

if you like to take the Marc train, then there is really no reason for you to take the hiker biker trail across

Except that riding a bike is cheaper and better for your health than riding MARC.

Why do the people feel that an extra mile to go around is going to be such an inconvenience, that they must constantly harass the landowners until they finally give in?

Most people are willing to ride 3 miles tops to commute or run errands. So with such a short range, 1 mile is a pretty large detour. It would be like a 5 mile detour in a car.

by David C on Nov 2, 2011 7:29 pm • linkreport

I understand landowners can be justifiably suspicious of change. But this is ridiculous. If this dispute gets into the national press, it will make us Marylanders look like morons. It's almost like the bridge to nowhere in Alaska that got so much ridicule.

Build the straight trail. Built a shield wall if necessary if you think hunters will shoot unsafely near the trail. Set up a volunteers to police the trail and report any motor vehicle use.

For the record, I live on the PG county side, and would love to open up safe bike commuting access to the BWI employment centers and even downtown Baltimore. With good, straight trails, it wouldn't take me much longer to ride from PG county to work in Baltimore than it currently does to ride to work in DC. Bike access to employment centers is the suburban amenity of the future, which will increase the value of land and property.

by Jeff on Nov 2, 2011 8:57 pm • linkreport

Does anyone actually *like* to take the MARC train? Matt, I think you're missing the point. Some commuters rely on the trains out of necessity, and it is not at all unreasonable to plan a trail in the national capital region with an eye toward helping commuters get to where they're going.

by Carrie on Nov 3, 2011 8:14 am • linkreport

@Ed Farmer - If AA county has considered all of its stakeholders and did a good job of satisfying the majority's needs, then let's see documentation of it. The County can't claim they did something and not show proof of it. They loss all credibility in trying to do so. It's the county's own fault that people have suspicions, not Jim's.

@Matt M - I've commuted this route (up Rte 3 though) twice in the past year to the airport so I didn't have to leave my car overnight. I would definitely use it to commute. If you put a hill and a 1 mile detour along the trail though, I might just continue to use Rte 3 and get in your way while your in your car. So, would you rather have me use the WB&A to commute or Rte 3? If I do it, I am sure there are others. So it is definitely a commuter route.

Also, I am sorry to hear of your loss as well. However, I have never heard of a person going off a trail and hitting a tree on a rail-trail, which is the alignment Jim and I would like to see. The County's proposed alignment with the hill and the switchbacks turns is much more likely to cause someone to fly off the path and hit a tree as well. You should be in favor of the straight alignment on the principle alone. There is a state law that relinquishes owners of recreational facilities from any fault for injury done to a person. Hence the reason that state did not reach out to his family for help. As long as trails are continued to be viewed as recreational facilities, then you could never hold the owner responsible without changing that law. Also, there are laws on gun clubs to keep bullets from straying. There is a gun club just down the trail on the PG side that is right next to the trail and they have no problem with keeping the bullets inside. Doesn't safety always come first with guns anyway?

Also, your comment to Michael about taking the train across the river into Bowie. That would be nice to do but the MARC doesn't allow bikes on the train, so what is Michael suppose to do, go to Bowie State and walk it from there? That's not an alternative. If you do take that MARC then there is even more reason to want to use the trail, especially if your going to live in the Two Rivers development. Your closer to the Bowie State MARC than the Odenton MARC. Although the detour alignment would actually be a more direct alignment for them.

And lastly, the whole land situation has changed from 10 years ago. Mr. Meyers was claiming that his programs would be destroyed if you put a trail in there. I'm not sure how a trail would ruin the programs but even if it did, that has all changed now. The latest word from the family member that now owns that land was that he didn't care if the trail went adjacent to the property, he just doesn't want it on the property. That should be easy enough to accomplish without taking anything from him.

@Jim - Speaking of laws, there use to be a law to allow MDOT to acquire old railroad beds. It was appealed in the 1980s or 90s. You can see the old section in the code still.

@Richard Layman - while MDP and BMC look at local plans, they don't look at local development plans. In the local master plans, the trail is shown as a straight alignment over the railbed. So as far as they know, its the correct alignment. It was the developer plan that changed that though but MDP and BMC never seen that.

by Bowie Bike Commuter on Nov 3, 2011 8:51 am • linkreport

Of course county residents use this trail for commuting to Fort Meade! The trail provides an off-road, safe biking route for half of the distance from Piney Orchard to the Fort. Mr. Alban's statement, "I doubt that people will use this trail for commuting," completely lacks credulity.

by Odenton Bike Commuter on Nov 3, 2011 12:27 pm • linkreport

Andrew Meyer called me up today to clarify our previous conversation. First, he told me that he is not really the family spokesman on these matters, and he referred me to a family member to call for the official family position.

Mr. Meyer did say, however, that the Meyers oppose the trail being near their land for a variety of reasons. In addition to trespassing, he is concerned about the risk of bullets and is skeptical that the government would pay for the wall. He is also skeptical about whether a wall would really stop all trespassing. Moreover, he is concerned that on the PG side, M-NCPPC has done a poor job of keeping motorized vehicles off the trail, similar to what Matt pointed out above. He is extremely skeptical that even a fence or wall would be able to stop determined trespassers.

He also said that he did not think that my previous commentary on his father was fair, but he did not say why.

He said several other interesting things but I agreed that I would not report them unless authenticated by the family member.

by Jim T on Nov 3, 2011 1:54 pm • linkreport

I live in Bowie and use the WB&A to commute to Greenbelt. I would love to be able to get to BWI and Baltimore. Been waiting a decade.

This is an important connection due to the limited number of river crossings in general (none of which are really bike-able or near other bike connections). In some ways this missing connection is like not having the bay bridge for cars. So it should be done right and follow the rail-bed as close as possible.

Since money is tight, some circumstances have changed, and some basic facts obscured, I support a re-evaluation of the plan.

by twk on Nov 3, 2011 2:04 pm • linkreport

"Moreover, he is concerned that on the PG side, M-NCPPC has done a poor job of keeping motorized vehicles off the trail, "

why is this? i never see motorized vehicles on trails in NoVa.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 3, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

"Moreover, he is concerned that on the PG side, M-NCPPC has done a poor job of keeping motorized vehicles off the trail, "

why is this?

i don't understand that either. M-NCPPC with the help of PGPD does a heck of job keeping communting bicyclers off the trail after dark, which right now cuts into morning commute times and soon will make the trail off-limits for both am and pm commutes through mid-Feb. Seriously. They park a car over the trail and turn away bikers coming to/from the metro at twilight.

Maybe the motorized vehicles A.M. refers to are police cars.

by Tina on Nov 3, 2011 2:24 pm • linkreport

^ this happens on trails in the City of Hyattsville. I don't know this trail.

by Tina on Nov 3, 2011 2:27 pm • linkreport

The problem that Mr. Meyer meant is something that is often seen in rural and exurban trails through parks. Motorized dirt bikes and 4-wheel ATV's can harm a natural landscape. Deer trails near parallel to rivers become unofficial mountain bike or motor bike trails, and then even the ATV's come by. So the problem he menans is not that the motor vehicles are on the trails, but rather that they leave the rail and despoil the landscape.

One can have police ticketing cyclists at night and still have ATV's using the trails. Enforcement is sporadic.

This strikes me as a completely valid concern. What remains unclear to me is why this would be more of a problem for one route than the other.

by Jim T on Nov 3, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

If you go to the north end of the PG County trail you'll find a lot of dirtbikes and ATV's. There are some old rail spurs and deer trails where this seems accepted. In fact I think I read somewhere that it was a designated area for such things. So that is where that comes from. It is not a problem on the entire trail but on the 100 feet north of the parking lot.

by David C on Nov 3, 2011 5:07 pm • linkreport

"M-NCPPC with the help of PGPD does a heck of job keeping communting bicyclers off the trail after dark, which right now cuts into morning commute times and soon will make the trail off-limits for both am and pm commutes through mid-Feb."

What is the actual practice of the M-NCPPC police these days? I was stopped last week on the NE Branch once after 9 PM, but do the police actually stop cyclists before 7PM, say?

by PS on Nov 3, 2011 5:21 pm • linkreport

@PS my understanding is the rule is "no trail use after dark" even if it gets dark at 5:15pm/ still dark at 7am. Last winter I was thrown off a trail within 1 mi of the metro before 7pm. It wasn't even dark yet, just twilight.

This rule for commuter trails and needs to be changed. The trails don't need to be lighted. No biker w/o a headlight is going to get on a dark trail.

by Tina on Nov 3, 2011 5:49 pm • linkreport

I live in the community of Piney Orchard, less than a half mile the WB&A trail. I regularly use it for commuting between my house and the Odenton MARC train station. The 3 mile walk is quite pleasant and is great exercise - it is one of the main reasons I enjoy living where I do.

I strongly support the construction of the direct link between Odenton and Bowie (and on to Washington DC). Since Anne Arundel owns the railroad right-of-way, deviating from the direct route has the fingerprints of corrupt influence over the public purse.

The developer of the Two Rivers clearly stands to gain by moving the trail out of the prime level land and into the flood plain. What is the relationship between that developer and the Meyers family? Who has contributed to local political figures? How are they related?

Does Governor O'Malley know that his top trail priority is based on a plan which will cost more money and destroy more wetlands?

by Dave on Nov 3, 2011 9:38 pm • linkreport

First off, I want to send my condolences to the Meyer's family for their loss. From what I understand Mr. Buz Meyer was a man that cared about his community and provided community services using his land. It if unfortunate that the family is immediately battered with questions by the public and not left alone to grieve, but I guess its the unfortunate side of owning something that is so valuable to so many. Most public figures family's are faced with similar situations when they loss their loved ones.

Also, I don't think corruption is at play here. Its more of a situation that someone coined the term "The Road to Abilene". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abilene_paradox. Essentially someone suggests a course of action but doesn't fully explain the reasons behind why they suggested it; no one questions them because of valid reasons and the journey continues from there, in the wrong direction. I think Mr. Meyer's may have suggested keeping the trail away from his property at the very beginning because he was concerned with trespassers. This could have been resolved in some other way than completely realigning the trail but the county took his request to keep the trail completely away for exactly that, not understanding the exact reason behind the request. They never question the request because Meyer's was not a figure for government officials to question at the time. Things went on from there. The State didn't question because they were afraid to get involved with local land use and PG county didn't question because counties have a mutual respect with each other to not dabble in each other's business. Everyone was on a trip to Abilene. Hopefully we can still turn the car around and held in the right direction. If anyone can turn the car back around perhaps its the Governor and the County Exec Leopold.

by Bowie Bike Commuter on Nov 4, 2011 12:36 am • linkreport

Oh, and you can't blame Meyer's for wanting to keep trespassers away from their property. The majority of people in this state fight for the same thing when a trail comes near their property. He has a right to property and to be fair, the Meyer family had property here well before any of us even existed and well before there was development for many many miles.

by Bowie Bike Commuter on Nov 4, 2011 12:40 am • linkreport

Do the Meyers actually have a problem with trespassers currently? Do they have a problem with "determined trespassers?"

Sure, tons of people fight trails when they come near their property, but is there any evidence that the trails and their users actually pose any sort of problem for property owners?

I can understand the concern over gunfire, that's why the state should pay for a wall around a section of the trail.

by MLD on Nov 4, 2011 9:32 am • linkreport

I was involved in the trail issue about 10 years ago. We had a meeting in Annapolis to discuss some of the issues. I organized a letter-writing campaign to the county over the delay of the trail construction. The county exec at the time didn't want to upset this one guy (Myers). Same at Parks and Rec at the time. There was no desire to build the trail back then. The county has access to the rail bed, same as they did in Severna Park when that trail was built. I'll spare you my criticisms as I have other projects with the county.

If you are still interested, I can probably dig up my notes from back in the day.

by MJK on Nov 4, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

@MJK: I would certainly be interested. Feel free to send an email to jtitus at risingsea dot net.

@MLD: I'll have to ask.

by Jim Titus on Nov 4, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

MD Governor O'Malley, Prince George's County Executive Baker, U.S. Secretary of Interior Salazar, Secretary of Transportation LaHood, Senator Cardin, and DC Mayor Gray came to Bladensburg this morning to dedicate a new section of the Anacostia River trail system. They unanimously spoke of the need for better connections between jurisdictions. I had a chance to briefly mention the WB&A to county exec Baker and the potential to commute from Prince George's county to Fort Meade and the BWI employment areas. (And by implication, of course, from AA county to DC ultimately we hope.)

Here are some roughly edited video snippets, and yes that's Mayor Gray on a CaBi at about 8:55 : http://vimeo.com/31616299

by Jeff on Nov 4, 2011 4:16 pm • linkreport

I have been waiting for this trail to be completed in order to do weekend bike trips to Baltimore.

The proposed alignment might make sense as an interpretive nature trail for hikers, but certainly not for a through route for longer-distance bike rides. Trails aren't just for recreation, they're also for transportation of all sorts. This route is part of the East Coast Greenway and it's the most direct route between two major cities. Would the DOT accept a similarly inconvenient detour for one of its treasured highways? I think not.

It appears that the detour is merely because the developer wants some flatter building lots in the middle of the subdivision, even though there are already several hillside lots and plenty of wasted frontage along the utility easement. Said subdivision will also put a golf course and backyards right next to the supposed shooting range. Sorry, neither property owner presents a good enough excuse.

(Funny, the Maryland Bicycle Map shows this section of trail as completed. Perhaps someone should tell MDOT.)

by Payton on Nov 5, 2011 4:57 pm • linkreport

Jim T.- you mentioned that you are representing PG county
on some type of planning board. It seems like Anne Arundel
county should have similar representation of bikers on their board. I support you and your effort to re-evaluate
the plans for this rails to trails endeaver. I will spread the word to all I know who might be interested.

by George on Nov 11, 2011 11:24 pm • linkreport

Work began this week on the section of trail 1/2 mile south of the Patuxent river (right at the Horsepen water treatment station). It appears that the trail extension from that point westward towards Bowie State University has begun.

by Steven on Aug 25, 2014 9:44 am • linkreport

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