The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is considering developing a multi-use walking and biking trail that would connect the Georgetown and Palisades neighborhoods. The DDOT should reach a decision on the feasibility of the project by the end of the year.
The trails would be located along the former Palisades Trolley Trail, running along Canal Road from 37th and Prospect Street to the Palisades Playground. The five mile trail would be largely isolated from major roads, providing safe transport between the neighborhoods.
While the old trolley trail is technically usable in some spots, the trail, and especially the Foundry Branch Bridge, which connects the trail to Georgetown, suffer from neglect. The bridge, which is currently owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, is one of the biggest obstacles to the development of the trail.
If the bridge is acquired by the mayor’s office, it has to decide whether or not to restore the existing bridge. Without the use of the bridge, the trail would have to go along Canal Road in the areas closest to Georgetown.
The trail has been widely supported by the community, with only a few groups raising concerns about paving over the natural landscape. However, proponents contend that paving is needed to make the trail fully useable and accessible. The current proposal uses crushed granite west of the bridge and asphalt east of it.
In a survey conducted by the DDOT, more than half of respondents said they would definitely use the trail if it was restored.
Kishan Putta, a Georgetown neighborhood Advisory Neighborhood Commission commissioner, said the trail was something important to the community. “The impetus [for the trail] came from the community and from DDOT responding to community interests,” he said.
All of the proposed paths run along Canal Road on land near the university, which has raised concerns, said Putta. “Some people have raised questions about whether it would impact traffic [around Georgetown], how much congestion it would be but DDOT is saying it won’t be much.”
A university spokesperson confirmed that the university does have concerns about the proximity of the trail to campus. “While Georgetown strongly supports sustainable transportation initiatives, we have concerns about any proposals that would cut across our campus or compromise student and neighborhood safety,” they wrote in an email to the Voice.
At least one of the proposed paths would run along prospect in between Village B and Car Barn.
According to Putta, this proximity to the university could be positive. “This trail, the beauty and opportunity of this proposal is that it cuts through and it gives Georgetown and the Georgetown university community direct access to nature,” he said.
Putta sees the trail as an opportunity for the university, which will have new access to/ Foxhall . This, he believes, could provide more housing for students and faculty off campus. “So many people connected to Georgetown all live west of Georgetown or would live west of Georgetown if it was easier to get to campus,” he said.
The trail is still under review, and a decision about whether to move forward is not expected until the end of this month, as indicated by the DDOT website. If the decision is favorable, it will still take at least a few years for the project to get underway Putta assured. DDOT could not be reached for comment on the exact timeline of the project.
Despite the concerns, Putta is hopeful the community will be able to get the trail developed. “There’s still a lot more questions involved but we should be trying to say yes, not trying to say no,” he said.