by Jeff Lemieux for GreenbeltNASAtrail.org
On Monday August 8th, Mayor Emmett Jordan and I rode from Eleanor Roosevelt High School to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and on to Good Luck Road and DuVal HS. How did we do it? At first, on a narrow sidewalk, then on long acceleration and deceleration ramps and wide shoulders along the north (NASA) side of MD Route 193 Greenbelt Road.
Why did we do it? To illustrate that there would be plenty of room for a roadside “Greenbelt East Trail” along Greenbelt Road. The proposed shared use trail would connect central Greenbelt to more employment, shopping, and housing areas in Greenbelt East and beyond.
Ultimately, we think the Greenbelt East Trail should run from ERHS past NASA further on to connect with WB&A trail at the Glenn Dale Splash Park. The Greenbelt East trail would help bridge the gap between the Anacostia River Trail System and the WB&A trail, which will soon connect Prince George’s County with Anne Arundel County via new bridge across the Patuxent River.
When the Patuxent River trail bridge is completed in 2023, the WB&A trail will connect with other Maryland trails heading toward BWI, Baltimore, and Annapolis. The Greenbelt East trail would be a key component of the East Coast Greenway, which runs from Florida to Maine.
Could the Greenbelt East trail be built? In my non-engineer opinion, this trail would be totally doable. For about one block east of ERHS, there’s a narrow spot under some power lines, but there’s plenty of room for an 8-foot sidewalk/trail. Further east toward NASA there’s abundant room on the acceleration/deceleration lanes and on the shoulders for 10-foot or even 12-foot trail. There would be even more room if the traffic lanes on Route 193 were narrowed by a foot – narrower lanes would also help calm traffic.
To be safe, we’d need jersey walls to separate the trail from traffic, given the high traffic speeds on Greenbelt Road. The existing “pork chops” curb structures and “slip lane” high-speed right turn ramps at several intersections would need to be squared off. That would slow down traffic making right turns to go westbound on Greenbelt Road from Mandan Road, the NASA main gate, and from ICESat road.
Staff from Maryland Department of Transportation/State Highway Administration (SHA) have expressed interest in launching a feasibility study. Because the shoulders and ramps where the Greenbelt East trail would go are already paved, this could be one trail project that takes months to complete, not years or decades!
Over time, if the trail is popular with bike commuters, bus stop users, and walkers/joggers, we could possibly ask NASA for some more right of way further from the roadway and turn the trail into more of a greenway, with tree plantings or a grass median between the trail and the road.
But first things first: a feasibility study by SHA. If Greenbelt and Prince George’s county assent, then SHA will study the route and assess the trail’s prospects from an engineering point of view. We also need to ensure that Route 193 is marked for a shared use path on the county’s updated Master Plan of Transportation.
In September, advocates are trying to organize a “trail walk” along the right of way, from ERHS to Goddard, to show the idea to our local political leaders. Stay tuned!