Jones Falls Trail to enter its final phase

Board of Estimates approves a $2 million federal grant to complete the much-delayed project


A portion of the Jones Falls Trail between Woodberry and Cylburn opened last year.

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

The Jones Falls Trail, more than a decade in the making, is set to reach its northern terminus, the Mount Washington Light Rail station, in 2016.

The Board of Estimates yesterday approved a $2.05 million federal grant to underwrite Phase V of the 10-mile cycling and walking trail, designed to follow the Jones Falls from the Inner Harbor to the city’s northern boundary.

Currently ending at the entrance of Cylburn Arboretum, the trail is set to cross Northern Parkway on a wooden bridge near the Jones Falls Expressway and enter Mount Washington via Newbury Street.

Although funded by the remarkably long-winded SAFETEA-LU Act (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users), actual construction of the segment will be managed by the city’s Recreation and Parks Department.

Construction Planned this Fall

Department spokesman Gwendolyn Chambers told The Brew that the agency hopes to advertise the project in April, with construction beginning in September. It will take an estimated 18 months to complete the trail, she said.

Starting at Light and Lee streets, where it meets the Gwynns Falls Trail, the bike path winds through downtown’s east side to reach the Fallsway, then proceeds up Guilford and Mt. Royal Avenue to St. Paul Street.

Using a dedicated lane on St. Paul and Lanvale Street, the trail swings into the Jones Falls Valley and follows Falls Road to the Wyman Park Drive Bridge crossing the JFX. For the next three miles the trail circles around Druid Hill Park, descends into Woodberry and proceeds to Cylburn via Coldspring New Town.

The trail is just a sliver of the East Coast Greenway projected to connect Calais, Maine, with Key West, Fla., with 3,000 miles of scenic paths and shared-use roads. Eventually, if funding permits, the Jones Falls Trail will extend from Mount Washington to Robert E. Lee Park in Baltimore County.

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  • Rodman

    This is great news. Maybe I’m just pessimistic but managed by the Rec & Parks Dept? The same dept. that hasn’t been audited in years? I predict huge cost over-runs and an unfinished project. It’s a shame that it’s the first thought that pops into my mind whenever I hear about a project in Baltimore but given our leadership….. If it is completed, I think it will be great for the growing number of bikers using the Falls Road corridor (a hidden gem in Baltimore, in my opinion). Hopefully when construction is complete on Whitehall Mill and Mill No. 1, we will see a vibrant new are of the city.

    • bmorepanic

      Yes, but you can see how well they do above – trail built with Eco-terrible surfacing and graded incorrectly. Very emblematic of Rec’n’parks managed projects.

    • River Mud

      This whole contract sounds like it could have been featured on an episode of The Sopranos. “Hey you got that asphalt trail contract?” “Eh, no, we’re gonna do a sit out for 20 weeks until they renegotiate the price of gravel, ha ha ha!”

    • lanas

      are you insane?! Falls road is not a great bike corridor. Sight-lines are less than 20 feet in 3 spots, less than 50 in 10 locations. There is NO shoulder and no sidewalk north of the ‘trail’. The ‘trail’ crosses the road 3 times in less than a mile, 2 of the 3 crossings have sight-lines of less than 50 feet, one less than 20. Whitehall/Mill # 1 was a huge mistake. Average speeds approach 50 mph on Falls Rd/MD25 where the ‘trail’ is, and the auto traffic load on that road has increased dramatically and will continue…because there is ZERO public transport, ZERO pedestrian access, & only naive hipsters or those with a death wish bike through the mills. Falls Road in hampden is only slightly better for shear slowdown in traffic speeds due to congestion/residences/business. The lanes are way too narrow to accommodate 2 parking lanes, 2 travel lanes and one bike let alone bi-directional bike traffic. You are projecting from a few rosy colored rides where you got to see a ‘waterfall’. Too bad it was a waterfall of sewage in a dead river

      • River Mud

        I’ve lived here 16 years and have known many cyclists over that time. I’ve never known ONE who hasn’t been hit (or run into a car turning in front of them) while riding in the City. I’m not a rider at all and after seeing dedicated lanes (with obstructions) in NYC, that’s the obvious way to go for traffic and for cyclist safety.

        • James Hunt

          I don’t disagree, but here’s the thing: as a former cycle-commuter in the city, there was no greater pleasure than getting just ahead of car traffic on a downhill and letting fly. Cathedral Street just south of Mulberry (“Cathedral Hill”) is a perfect place for this. Can’t do it in a dedicated lane. Neither do dedicated lanes protect you from oblivious pedestrians crossing against the light. Once did an “endo” (i.e. arse over teakettle) braking hard to avoid crushing one who stepped out on me. I’m fortunate my father was an orthopedist; was able to get my separated shoulder looked after immediately.

      • Jed Weeks

        That’s why there’s going to be forced traffic calming for cars installed that will discourage automotive thru traffic and encourage safe bicycling and walking.

        • Aaron Mirenzi

          sweet. I’ve always wonderered why they don’t install the speed bumps a la guilford avenue on falls/clipper mill road.

          • Gerald Neily

            Dirty little secret: Speed humps have practically no effect if you go fast enough, say, 50 mph.

      • Rodman

        Wow lanas, I thought I was pessimistic but you have me beat. I don’t think you’re ever going to get a perfect bike “trail” if you’re in the city. If you want a bike lane with zero chance of interaction with cars/people, take youre bike out to one of the county trails. I live in NYC during the week and Baltimore on the weekends. I ride my bike to work daily and even with dedicated bike lanes, you have to be careful of pedestrians walking into the lane or crossing intersections. If you obey traffic signals (which a lot of bikers are guilty of ignoring) and are aware of what’s around you, biking in the city can be a pretty fun way to travel. The thing is, there’s safety in numbers. When NY got Citibikes everyone thought bike deaths and accidents would spike. They didn’t because there’s now way more bikes on the streets and cabs/pedestrians/other drivers are much more aware of bikers. As far as traffic goes, Falls Road is probably one of the least traveled roads in the city with single lanes in either directions and a completely separate bike lane in some areas. Finally, I just discovered the waterfall for the first time last year. I thought it was pretty amazing and think a lot of other people would love to bike by there. That “waterfall of sewage in a dead river” empties into the harbor- should we tell tourists and all the people living by the harbor that they are crazy as well? Baltimore has a decent sized biking community and it’s getting bigger if the new bike shops are any indication. I think if we were all (myself included) should be a little more optimistic about this news.

  • Gerald Neily

    The quality of the existing “trail” varies drastically. Parts of it are wonderful. Parts are glorified sidewalks. Some are utterly unglorified sidewalks. Since it is illegal to ride a bike on a sidewalk (ha ha), this is unfortunate. Parts aren’t even as good as unglorified sidewalks, just occasional signs and sharrows. The defacto north terminus is now Coldspring Newtown, not the Cylburn Park entrance on Greenspring Avenue. Since that neighborhood has a huge boundary abutting Cylburn, this is inexcusable.

    All this should lead to a constant stream of adjustments for years to come. Putting the “trail” on the Fallsway through the Prison District has proven shortsighted in light of the growing calls for a “cycle track” along Maryland/Cathedral Street corridor, which would be far more feasible and effective if it was part of a comprehensive traffic management plan that diverted heavy auto traffic over to the Fallsway/Guilford corridor and out of Mount Vernon – improving neighborhood livability and bike-friendliness at the same time.

    • davethesuave

      i have no desire to bike on city streets, no matter the stripage. i want to get on a bike/hike only trail asap, if only to save getting swiped by a mirror.

  • River Mud

    The gig is that the contract gets signed in September, and then the contractor will claim “Force Majeure” (act of God/nature) after the first winter storm, allowing him/her to claim extra money to delay the project into the next spring (roughly June), by which point he/she will be able to re-negotiate the price of supplies and labor with the City. It’s brilliant, really.

    • davethesuave

      why didn’t i see it? Kudos, Mud.

      • River Mud

        I’m a non-profit contract/project manager for stream and wetland projects :) The situation I described above is common. It’s not that City contract officers don’t see it also….it’s that they simply don’t care if the project triples in price by the time it’s complete. It’s not like they get a 10 cent bonus for every dollar they save the City (which…perhaps they should).

    • ushanellore

      It’s so brilliant it is routine.

      • River Mud

        dislike :(

  • Aaron Mirenzi

    While I’m glad the city is taking serious biking as a transportation alternative, clearly its a work in progress. If you wanted to start in the inner harbor and end up at Cold Spring Lane via the JFT, I can tell you right now, you would get lost because the signage simply isn’t there yet.

    • Gerald Neily

      Signage is the easiest part, Aaron. If the City can’t get that right, how can they make the rest of it work?

    • Charles Norman Martin

      I took the entire length of the Jones Falls Trail last weekend (February 1, 2014) and it seems to be very heavily signed now (with actual signs) for its entire length, including general traffic signs like stop signs, curve warnings, hill warnings. Also, the part that reaches the Cylburn Arboretum is finally officially open.

  • Andrew

    Does anyone know the legality of riding a bike on the inner harbor path along the water to Canton?

    • Aaron Mirenzi

      i’ve never had a problem, just don’t hit anybody

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