The Hy-Life: The long wait is over: Trolley Trail extension finally opens
BY JESSICA ARENDS
On the sunny, crisp afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, avid cyclist Rumi Matsuyama rode her bike down the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail, passed the intersection with Farragut Street, thumped over a line of freshly paved asphalt, pumped a fist into the air and cried, “Yes! We can do this now!”
A stream of bikers, some hailing from as far as Pennsylvania, followed with whoops and hollers while a train pounded by. After more than seven years of community advocacy and city planning, and a year of construction, and $6.4 million dollars later, the Trolley Trail extension from Farragut Street to Charles Armentrout Drive on Route 1 is finally complete.
So why did it take so long? According to Robert Patten, trail development program manager for Prince George’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the design phase began in 2016 after the City of Hyattsville’s formal request to build the extension was approved by the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) and a feasibility study was completed.
The design had to consider a number of challenges, including funding, bus stops, telephone poles, underground utilities and wheelchair access, as well as the negotiation of land use with the railroad company CSX. Since the extension runs right along Route 1, the designers had to consider how to meet the national standard of a minimum 5-foot buffer between a shared use bike and pedestrian path and the edge of a road. Additional trees and a low fence will help keep errant cyclists on the trail where the buffer is less than 5 feet, according to Patten.
(See our March 2023 article for more planning details.)
The Trolley Trail Extension Celebratory Community Ride on Dec. 9 consisted of one group sponsored by Arrow Bicycle, starting at Hyattsville’s Shortcake Bakery, and another sponsored by Proteus Bicycles, beginning at their location in North College Park. The two groups converged on the trail in College Park where they stopped for a festive photo of approximately 70 cyclists: One rider had a Santa hat taped to his helmet, another carried her dog in a handlebar basket. A few cycling clubs sported their bright green and yellow cyclist jerseys.
Matsuyama was especially motivated to advocate for the extension five years ago, after helping her husband open Maryland Meadworks, which is located across the intersection at the end of extension. She said that during the 2018 annual Cider Ride, she helped the Washington Area Bike Association (WABA) staff a table in front of Meadworks to gather signatures petitioning for the completion of the trail.
A few months later, WABA bike advocate Sam Denes, now a Ward 1 councilmember, came into Meadworks after being struck by a car while riding his bike.
“He was as white as a sheet,” Matsuyama said. Other cyclists had been struck by cars at the same intersection, according to Matsuyama. “So he and I both know all too well how incredibly dangerous that stretch of Rhode Island Avenue was.”
The idea for the celebratory ride came about when Matsuyama went into Arrow Bicycle to fix a flat tire and bumped into Denes. She mentioned a private ribbon-cutting ceremony planned that week.
“It was not quite the public community celebration we had hoped for,” Matsuyama said of the Dec. 5, 2023, event.
Matsuyama and Denes immediately contacted Proteus Bikes, Shortcake Bakery and Denizens Brewing Company to gauge their interest in a celebratory event. Plans for the festive bike ride quickly took shape.
“It all came together probably within an hour,” Matsuyama said. “Not because I have any magical organizing skills, but because everybody in the community is so excited about having that trail finally completed and wanting to just celebrate as a community.”
Shortly after, other celebratory events were planned, including a run, pub crawl and Sunday Funday. As part of Sunday Funday, Anacostia Trails Heritage Association funded discount punch card raffle tickets, which included more than 10 area businesses and were distributed at the various events.
“We realize we rise or sink together, that we are compatriots more than competitors, right?” Matsuyama said about the businesses along the extension route. “Even though the construction was miserable, we knew we would want this in the end.”
Cheryl Harrington, who opened Shortcake Bakery 12 years ago, stayed open late for the day of the ride. When asked if the construction impacted her business, Harrington said, “Oh, yes. It’s been hectic. Sometimes I’d drive by, and I’d think, ‘If I didn’t have to be here, I wouldn’t stop.’”
She continued, “But now, the trail, the road — it looks more welcoming. It’s gorgeous. You have to take care of what you have, because you know how long it took to get it!”
Valerie Woodall, a City of Mount Rainier councilmember, who also attended the event, submitted a proposal in June 2023 to the SHA to continue the trail south through North Brentwood and Mount Rainier to the D.C. border.
“Access to trails that connect to the larger Route 1 community is critical to driving visitors, business and providing space for healthy and active lives,” Woodall said.
Matsuyama says she’s now ready for the construction of the sidewalk on the west side of Route 1. “Hopefully it won’t take as long,” she said. “I might have to rent a jackhammer next!”
Jessica Arends is the arts, culture and lifestyle columnist for the Life & Times.