BY KIT SLACK
Wondering why construction has narrowed Rhode Island Avenue to one lane between Melrose Skatepark and the Hyattsville courthouse?
The answer: The state highway administration is extending the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail a half mile south from its current endpoint, which is across the street from Arrow Bicycle and next to Go Brent Realty.
When construction is finished, pedestrians and cyclists will be able to travel on a 10-foot-wide trail along the train embankment on the northbound side of the road. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation website, the new trail will stretch from Farragut Street to Charles Armentrout Drive.
Grass buffers, ranging from 5 to 8 feet wide, will protect trail users from Route 1 traffic — extra safety for children and beginning cyclists. At bus stops, pullout lanes will replace the grass buffer. Route 1 will be reduced to one travel lane northbound, with turn lanes as well as the bus pullouts.
The narrowing of the road may slow car traffic coming into Hyattsville, giving motorists more time to notice small businesses lining the street. Those businesses include Shortcake Bakery, Maryland Meadworks, Pizza Paradiso, Streetcar 82 Brewing and five automotive shops.
The new trail should be finished by the end of 2023.
In the meantime, Cheryl Harrington, who owns Shortcake Bakery, worries that some may not know she is still open. Her bakery is near the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and Charles Armentrout, where construction has been heavy as new curbs and crosswalks are being put in place.
“People are confused by this intersection anyway, and then you add to that the construction and they are just not sure.” Still, she says, getting in and out of her business is already safer for cars now that clearer traffic signals have been installed.
Both Harrington and Ken Carter, who owns Maryland Meadworks, say construction crews have been great about getting everything cleared out and put back together so that customers can get to them by Thursday, when both businesses open for the weekend.
Carter, a long-time advocate of the project, has been impressed with the construction’s rapid daily progress. According to Hyattsville Transportation Manager Taylor Robey, current work involves upgrading drains and digging trenches for electrical conduits.
The new trail will connect the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail, which runs through Hyattsville, Riverdale Park and College Park, with the Anacostia River Tributary Trail system. It will also make for quicker connections to trails like Sligo Creek Trail, which winds through Takoma Park and Silver Spring, all the way up to Wheaton Regional Park. The improved trail will also connect to trails along the Anacostia that run from Bladensburg Waterfront Park down to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and beyond.
Area residents will now be able to bike from Fairland Regional Park, outside of Laurel, all the way to the Navy Yard neighborhood on Capitol Hill in the District. Parts of the trail follow the trolley route that connected Laurel to D.C. from 1902 to 1948.
Hyattsville’s advocacy for the project began in 2015, and the groundbreaking took place at the end of June 2022.
The trail extension project will put the focus on bicycles on a stretch of Route 1 once famous for its auto industry, adding to the bike-friendly reputation established by Arrow Bicycle, College Park Bikes and the annual Cyclocross bike race.
“This is going to be great for Hyattsville, increase bike commuting and be good for our customer base,” said Carter.