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The Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT)—a former piece of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O)—serves as a heartbeat of the capital, serving thousands of commuters and recreational trail users as it connects some of the city’s most historic and burgeoning neighborhoods. It will eventually comprise 8 miles of trail or separated walking and bicycling facilities, from Washington, D.C.’s Union Station to Silver Spring, Maryland. The trail is also a key segment of the developing 800-mile Capital Trails Coalition network, a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation project that aims to connect the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region by multiuse trail.
Following the route of the B&O’s Metropolitan Branch line, the MBT, also called the Met Branch Trail, is a busy, urban rail-with-trail that is adjacent to Metro’s Red Line, MARC commuter service, CSX freight trains, and Amtrak. Currently, the trail stretches for about 4 miles between Union Station and Fort Totten, with most of the remaining 4 miles to Silver Spring being a signed, on-street bike route or side paths.
While most of the trails in D.C. are flanked by foliage and water, the MBT features vibrant artwork and a series of revolving murals and provides safe off-road access to community destinations, business areas, and residential areas for thousands of residents and visitors.
Beginning at Union Station at First Street Northeast, the on-road trail heads east then north along a wide side path along Second Street Northeast. At L Street, it heads west under railroad tracks and becomes an off-road pathway for 1.5 miles, to Franklin Street in Edgewood. On this section of trail, you can link to many Northeast D.C. neighborhoods, including NoMa, Eckington, Edgewood, and Brookland, via grade-separated crossings of Rhode Island, New York, and Florida Avenues.
Just after crossing under New York Avenue, you’ll find Alethia Tanner Park on your left. The park was completed in 2020 and includes a playground, a dog park, plaza areas, and gardens.
In Edgewood, at US 1/Rhode Island Avenue, you’ll come to a pedestrian bridge leading over the highway and active railroad tracks to the Rhode Island Ave–Brentwood Metro station (Red Line). Completed in 2014, the pedestrian bridge was a major milestone in the trail’s development, enabling hundreds of people to cross safely over the tracks to the Metro station daily.
Continuing north from Franklin Street, the trail is routed on Eighth Street Northeast for just under 0.5 mile to Monroe Street Northeast and the Edgewood Arts Building in an area known as The Arts Walk. Here, you’ll find galleries, studios, and Monroe Street Market, which offers an eclectic array of eateries and a few shops.
You’ll head one block west on Monroe, one block north on Seventh Street Northeast, and one block east on Michigan Avenue Northeast before being routed north and along a side path on John McCormack Road near Catholic University. From here, the MBT follows a signed on-street bike route to Takoma Park, where a small section of off-road trail crosses the border between D.C. and Maryland. The trail ends at the Silver Spring Metro station on Colesville Road.
Construction and planning to fill in multiple sections of on-road trail and build new sections of off-road trail, and to create a direct connection with an extended Capital Crescent Trail in Silver Spring, are in progress. For more information, go to the Capital Trails Coalition website.
While there is not dedicated parking for the trail, the trail is accessible via Metro at the following stations: Union, NoMa–Gallaudet U, Rhode Island Ave–Brentwood, Brookland–CUA, Fort Totten, and Takoma. The trail is also accessible via Amtrak and MARC at Union Station in Washington, D.C.
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