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DDOT promises better lighting on Metropolitan Branch Trail

Perenially dark lights on the Metropolitan Branch Trail have frustrated cyclists for quite some time, but DDOT says they will do better in the future, and some fixes are coming in the near term.

Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

After I wrote about lighting problems on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, DDOT spokesman John Lisle shared some plans to upgrade and maintain lighting along the trail.

Lisle said:

Obviously they are not performing as well as we'd like and we are working with the contractor to get them all up and running again. Heather [Deutsch, in the bicycle planning group], has led this charge over the past year and the lighting team is working on it as well.
They inventoried the lights and here's a summary of what they found:
  • 22 lights were out, 2 of which were missing the entire fixture
  • 4 lights with blown fuses were repaired on the spot
  • 36 batteries failed the test
  • 1 electronic controller failed test
  • 32 fixtures were loose at the arm mount and the contractor was able to tighten all of the fixtures.
We have contacted the vendor and they are preparing to ship the batteries by [December 11th] and will make preparations to have the two missing fixtures sent at a later time. They also will replace the broken electronic controller.

In addition we are providing temporary lights for the New York Avenue Bridge Project contractor to install under that bridge to light the trail.

Lisle also promised an update once most of the lights have been fixed.

One challenge that has impeded fixing lights is that no group was formally responsible for this. Deutsch and the other bicycle planners, part of DDOT's Policy, Planning, and Sustainability Administration, are responsible for planning and designing new bicycle facilities, but not ongoing maintenance.

There's a group that handles streetlights, and that's part of the Traffic Operations Administration. It would be logical for them to maintain trail lights as well. Soumya Dey, acting head of TOA, said that DDOT has been operating under an emergency temporary contract for streetlights while they work out a permanent contract. The current contract doesn't encompass trail lighting, but Dey said that the new one would.

If DDOT can fix some of the lighting now, including getting some under the dark New York Avenue bridge during construction, and then make trail lighting part of some division's long-term maintenance responsibilities, we can hope trail users need not suffer for long.

Geoff Hatchard lived in DC's Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff's writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer. 


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Whats the denominator of the light population on the MBT? How many lights in total?

by Tina on Jan 7, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

While we're at it, can we get some lighting on the Capital Crescent Trail?

by Tyler on Jan 7, 2013 9:28 pm • linkreport

Tyler, that's come up before - neither the park service nor the neighbors support it.

by David C on Jan 7, 2013 10:56 pm • linkreport

no one knows how many total lights? Just curious, what proportion is "22 out", etc.

by Tina on Jan 8, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

@Tina-I'll try and remember to count tonight/tomorrow, but I doubt I'll be super accurate. Also, I don't ride it south of R St.

by thump on Jan 8, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

OK Tina, I just did a count using Google Maps and it looks like there are about 88 light poles. They are fairly easy to pick out w/ the imagery b/c of the solar panels. I didn't count anything that might be under NY Ave (one or two lights?), and it looks like there should be at least one light directly south of the underpass that isn't there (or that I missed). 1/4 of the lights out isn't great!

by thump on Jan 8, 2013 12:35 pm • linkreport

@thump -wow! thanks! I'm surprised the total wasn't included in the ddot report. It just seems if you are going to report an inventory of the lights you'd start with "total lights=n"

by Tina on Jan 8, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

Contractors were repairing lights last night. One starting at NY ave bridge, the other at Franklin street bridge.

by josh on Jan 9, 2013 6:44 am • linkreport

This is great news. What we now need is police patrolling the area at night. There have been a handful of robberies and assaults on the trails, especially at night. What do we do to make that happen? Or do people have non-police alternatives? I know more riders would make it more safe, but I know people are reluctant to use the MBT at night...

by TanyaP on Jan 9, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

@TanyaP-I have to admit to being a little apprehensive on some nights, but usually there is at least one other person that I pass along the way (often more). I think this is a great place to do some type of "blue light" phone, where you pick it up and it goes straight to dispatch. We had a system like that on my college campus. If you were at one light, you could see at least two others so you always had an option of where to retreat to should you need it. It wouldn't hurt to install a couple of cameras either.

by thump on Jan 9, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

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