This summer, Prince George’s county embarked on an extensive project to rebuild the levees protecting neighborhoods along the Northeast Branch and Northwest Branch rivers. According to a spokesperson from the county’s Department of Public Works, the Army Corps of Engineers had threatened to withdraw approval for flood insurance for homes behind the levees if they were not upgraded. The website for the project lists the purpose as “FEMA certification.”
I believe what happened was that after Hurricane Katrina, the Corps of Engineers decided that the levees would not be able to withstand the upriver storm surge that could be associated with a major hurricane, especially considering the impact of rising global sea levels. So the levees have been raised by quite a bit farther downriver, but barely at all further upstream. However, this is just my theory – I haven’t heard a definitive rationale for why the levee upgrades were made.
At long last, the work is nearly finished. The popular NE Branch bike and pedestrian trail, which runs along the river from near Lake Artemesia to the Bladensburg marina (and slightly beyond) is now fully repaved from Riverdale Road to a point just beyond Decatur Street.
The NW branch has also now been fully repaved along the levee between Route 1 and 38th Street. The trail was rerouted earlier this year to accommodate the new skate park just off Route 1 near Shortcake Bakery.
Finally, the parks department has just repaved the section of the NE Branch trail between the bridge just south of Lake Artemesia to the underpass at Paint Branch parkway. This new section of trail is now nice and smooth, and it won’t puddle up as bad when it rains.
The bottom line? The local trails between Greenbelt and College Park and DC are in great shape heading into the winter season. One cautionary note for cyclists: the underpass at East-West Highway has a lot of sand on the trail left over from the flooding associated with Hurricane Sandy. Be careful in that section!
Plans to widen Sunnyside Road in Beltsville
Last month, the Greenbelt Advisory Planning Board (APB) met to discuss the county’s plan to widen Sunnyside Ave. between the CSX tracks and Route 201. The good news is that the plan would add sidewalks and bike lanes.
The bad news is that the county has designed an enormously wide roadway, with room for four lanes. The APB drafted a letter to the county, arguing that that building to that road width is unnecessary for traffic purposes, too expensive, and would cause too great an environmental impact. Our draft letter encourages the county to maintain the rural two-lane feel in that section of road.
It’s pretty obvious from the plans that the county’s engineers are planning to turn Sunnyside into more of a highway, presumably to connect some day with a widened Route 201 and more highways intended to connect up with the ICC.
My opinion is that this current design plan is wasteful and inappropriate. We don’t want or need four-lane highways through the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. The rural two-lane roads we currently have are an enormous amenity for local drivers and cyclists – it’s hard to find actual pleasant scenic roads these days.
And don’t get me started about the ICC. Regardless of whether you think the ICC is a useful road, its enormous cost and dividing impact will resonate in Maryland for decades. All other needed infrastructure, like the Purple Line, is on hold while we pay off a superhighway that few people use and the state didn’t really need, at least not on that massive scale. The money would have been much better spent upgrading and reconditioning existing streets, highways, and transit systems in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Upcoming Group/Social Rides
The weather looks great this weekend: sunshine and high temps in the 60s!
This Saturday, November 10, we’re planning to do a 20 mile (2 hours, with rest stops) ride in the Beltsville farms and the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. The ride starts at 10 a.m. from Proteus bike shop in north College Park, and the route has some hills. We usually stop for lunch at the New Deal Café on the way home!
On Sunday, we’re planning a longer ride to Washington DC. We’ll leave the bike shop at noon, and we’ll get lunch and maybe do some shopping along the way. This is a great way to learn an easy and low-traffic route to downtown DC – it’s my commuting route! I’m planning to do some shopping at Eastern Market, and we might visit the U.S. Capitol grounds. This ride is 30 miles round trip, and the route is mostly flat. Please bring your farecard in case you get tired or otherwise wish to take the Metro back to Greenbelt!