Millennium Trail opens in Rockville

Bicycle beltway is first of its kind in metropolitan area, city officials say

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Christian Steenburgh, 4, helps celebrate the completion of Rockville’s Millennium Trial with a piece of chocolate cake during ceremonies Saturday morning.

The Millennium Trail, Rockville’s 10.6-mile bicycle beltway that has been in the works for nearly a decade, is open.

During opening ceremonies on Saturday, people walked, ran and biked along the dedicated multi-use path that city staff touts as the first of its kind in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

City and other local politicians were joined by about 150 residents, members of the Montgomery County Road Runners Club and volunteers who worked to make the trail possible.

‘‘There are a very large number of communities around the country that have bike plans and many of them remain on the shelf,” Burt Hall, director of Rockville’s Department of Recreation and Parks, said Monday. ‘‘So I am very proud Rockville has completed, with the future bike⁄pedestrian bridge over I-270, 100 percent of our Bikeway Master Plan.”

Eight years in the making, the bicycle beltway encircles the city, crossing four major roads: Route 28, Rockville Pike, Interstate 270 and Falls Road. It is part of Rockville’s 45-mile network of pedestrian- and bike-friendly paths approved by the City Council in 1998.

The network is a combination of dedicated bike and pedestrian paths, like the Millennium Trail, and on-street bike routes and lanes, such as those along Nelson Street.

‘‘It provides pedestrian and bike accommodations in places where there were none,” Hall said, referencing sections of Norbeck Road and Wootton Parkway.

The Millennium Trail was named in honor of the first federal grant received for the project in 2000. The majority of construction costs, $2.2 million out of $3 million, were paid by Federal Transportation Enhancement Program grants.

‘‘We’re striving to provide alternative transportation for everyone,” said Betsy Thompson, a program coordinator who has worked on the Millennium Trail since its inception. ‘‘It’s better for fitness. It’s better for the environment.”

Happy trails
About the newly completed Millenium Trail: 10.6 miles encircling the city
Cost $3 million
Crosses Route 28, Rockville Pike, Interstate 270 and Falls Road Runs parallel to sections of Wootton Parkway to the south and East and West Gude drives to the north Part of 45-mile network of pedestrian- and bike-friendly paths
New signs helping users navigate the trail are being installed.

Future developments within the city will be required to connect to the trail network.

Thompson said multiple City Council administrations have supported the recreation and transportation initiative.

‘‘At any point someone could have come in and put a stop to it,” she said. ‘‘But I think they all saw it was important to our transportation system”

After the opening ceremony near the Fallsgrove Clubhouse at 400 Casey Lane, the festivities moved to a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of the bike⁄pedestrian bridge that will cross Interstate 270 along Route 28. The last link in the 45-mile network, the $4.2 million bridge project was awarded to Pessoa Construction of Fairmont Heights.

Construction was originally expected to have been under way by now, but cost estimates ran high. To save about $750,000 from previous bids, artistic elements and decorative lighting were removed from the plan. The new design also removed one section of the overpass, instead creating an upgraded, street-level crossing of the two access ramps on the east side of I-270.

The bridge is expected to be completed by the end of 2007. A $3.8 million federal grant issued through the Maryland Department of Highway Administration helped pay for it.