Metropolitan Branch Trail
|Metropolitan Branch Trail|
|Length||8 miles (13 km)|
|Trailheads||South: Union Station, North: Silver Spring|
The Metropolitan Branch Trail, also called the Met Branch Trail, is an 8-mile (13 km) shared-use trail that, when complete, will run from the Silver Spring, Maryland Transit Center to Union Station in the District of Columbia. It serves to extend the Capital Crescent Trail where it merges with the active WMATA/CSX railroad into the National Capital. At Fort Totten a connector trail to the Northwest Branch Trail of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System at Hyattsville, Maryland will be constructed; and an on-street connection to the National Mall will be constructed from Union Station. When completed, the Metropolitan Branch Trail will serve as part of the East Coast Greenway.
Seven miles of the trail are within Washington, DC and one mile (1.6 km) is in Maryland. The trail gets its name from the Metropolitan Subdivision of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O), which the trail parallels. It is considered a rail-trail conversion, because a key section of the trail is on former B&O right-of-way. The remainder of the trail closely parallels the current WMATA/CSX tracks into Maryland. It is anchored by two significant railroad landmarks, Union Station and the old B&O Railroad Station in Silver Spring.
The Metropolitan Branch Trail was first conceived in 1988, by Patrick Hare, of the Brookland neighborhood. Working with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, in 1989, Hare organized a group of eleven area cyclists to conduct an exploratory walk/ride. Soon after the Coalition for the Metropolitan Branch Trail was formed to explore and promote the potential for a multi-use trail. The Metropolitan Branch Trail entered the DC Comprehensive Plan in the early 1990s and in 1997 the DC Department of Public Works (DCDPW) completed an engineering feasibility study that proved it would be possible.
In 1998 Congress allocated $8.5 million in demonstration project funding to the District for the trail through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the six-year federal transportation funding bill. In 1999 WABA published a concept plan for the trail that envisioned creation of a large urban park and greenway along the abandoned, and as yet undeveloped, CSX Transportation property; and later that year a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Brookland-Catholic University Metro station where a one-mile (1.6 km) portion of the trail had been built along McCormack Road as a part of routine street reconstruction in 1998. Another short, on-road trail section was built along First Street NE from Union Station in 2000.
With funding secured, planning began in earnest. In April 2001, WABA published a study describing the necessary acquisitions for the trail. In 2002, when the city and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) agreed to construct a new Metro station at New York and Florida Avenues, trail advocates and city staff negotiated for WMATA to construct a portion of the trail as a part of the station construction project. Around the same time the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) completed a Feasibility Study and Concept Plan for one mile of the MBT between DC and Silver Spring. In 2003, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) hired a special project manager for the trail, prepared a Takoma Alignment Study and initiated development of the comprehensive concept plan, which was completed in 2005.
When the New York Ave–Florida Ave–Gallaudet University Metro station (to be renamed NoMa – Gallaudet University with the June 2012 edition of the official Metro map) opened in November 2004, it included about 2,000 feet (610 m) of trail on a raised structure. In the same year, a half mile of trail was built in Takoma Park, Maryland from the District line to Montgomery College. It was later paved in January 2006. On July 28, 2004 a bridge was built from the Takoma Park section over the railroad tracks to Jessup Blair Park in Silver Spring. Stairs from the New York Avenue Metro Station section to L Street NE, a trail under the tracks along L Street NE and a one block portion along 2nd Street NE were completed in the spring of 2008. In May 2010, a new 1.5 mile segment from New York Avenue to Franklin Street opened.
In February 2013, a section opened from Colesville Road to Ripley Street in Silver Spring, MD opened as part of the Silver Spring Transit Center. On July 9, 2013, a 500 foot long section between Monroe Street and the CUA Metro station opened as part of the Monroe Street Market development. 
A substantial segment of the original Metropolitan Branch right-of-way south of Franklin Street NE (in some places, 200 feet wide) was originally marked as an extension of Delaware Avenue under the L'Enfant Plan. It was converted into railroad sidings for industrial uses on Capitol Hill in the late 19th-early 20th century, parallel to B&O railroad.
The Metropolitan Branch sidings became disused as industrial applications left the city, and the owner, CSX, which had already sold the active B&O railroad tracks within the District to the Washington Metro under a joint use agreement, made plans to redevelop many of the properties along the right-of-way, leaving it as a staging ground for temporary construction uses. During this period, the wide, grassy strip became a popular short-cut for pedestrians and cyclists trying to access the new Red Line (Washington Metro) which runs along the corridor.
Initially, WMATA engineered the Red Line to accommodate existing railroad uses in the corridor, bisecting the existing rail line and preserving many of the Metropolitan Branch sidings. In 1988, a decade after WMATA purchased and widened the active tracks, Montgomery County, Maryland purchased the Georgetown Branch of the B&O, a single track spur feeding into the Metropolitan Branch from the north, for transportation use including an extension of the Capital Crescent Trail. The remaining disused portions of the Metropolitan Branch spanned the distance parallel to the Red Line between the Georgetown Branch and Union Station, including sizable gaps north of Franklin Street, where the railroad had been widened by WMATA; the only available right-of-way for a trail in these areas was on adjacent parkland, or streets parallel to the railroad tracks.
Subsequent alterations to the Metropolitan Branch Trail route have reduced the amount of right-of-way acquisition by placing substantial portions of the proposed trail on-street, while retaining a continuous off-street trail between Franklin Street and the New York Ave–Florida Ave–Gallaudet University Metro station.
- "$6M to WMATA for Bike Access to NY Avenue Station" (Press release). District Department of Transportation. 7 March 2002. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
- District Department of Transportation (2005). Metropolitan Branch Trail Draft Comprehensive Plan (PDF). Retrieved 2009-05-28.[dead link]
- District Department of Transportation (2010). Metropolitan Branch Trail Opening Press Release (PDF). Retrieved 2010-08-28.[dead link]
- Whitney Teal (2013). More of the Metropolitan Branch Trail Opened. Retrieved 2013-02-24.
- Shani (2013-07-08). "Monroe Street Market (Catholic U) Development To Open Pedestrian And MBT Areas Today". The Brookland Bridge. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail. "A Brief History of the Georgetown Branch." Accessed 2009-11-14.
- Metropolitan Branch Trail - official site (DC Department of Transportation)
- Northwest Branch Trail - Montgomery County Department of Parks
- Silver Spring Trails