Don’t Sweat It! MBT Morning Commute Convoy

Don’t Sweat It! morning commute convoys along the Metropolitan Branch Trail resume this Monday, October 19th, 2009.

The goal of Don’t Sweat It! is to introduce area residents both to commuting by bike and to new sections of the Metropolitan Branch Trail as it is completed. The convoy includes a stop at 8th and Monroe NE. Free registration is required.

Don’t Sweat It! Monday Morning Commute Convoys on the Met Branch Trail: We’ll show you how easy it can be to commute by bike to work downtown and you’ll get to see the Metropolitan Branch Trail as a crucial section is completed between Franklin Street and New York Avenue, creating a safe connection between Brookland, Edgewood, Eckington, NoMa and downtown!

The next and final convoy is Monday, October 26th.

Recent Metropolitan Branch Trail Updates

New York to Franklin Street: The trail section from Franklin Street to the Shopping Center has received its first layer of paving and the solar LED lights are up.

Ft. Totten Connection: The District is ready to begin the design phase for the segment that would connect the trail along John McCormack Road to the Fort Totten Metro station. However, the work can not move forward until a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is signed by the National Park Service, providing access for trail development along the edge of their property at Fort Totten.

More Metropolitan Branch Trail Information

Metropolitan Branch Trail

Brookland: 12th Street Speedway Stop Sign Needed

Stop sign on  Newton and 12th Street

Stop sign on Newton and 12th Street

Brookland residents and frequent pedestrians had long had problems with traffic throughout the neighborhood including drivers speeding, running red lights, and not stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks. Residents have once again become very concerned about the intersection of 12th and Newton which besides being a very busy pedestrian gateway to the 12th Street business district is also one of the walking arteries to and from the metro. Not only is this a pedestrian heavy route , most motorists fly down 12th street at least 35-40 miles per hour often completly ignoring any folks waiting to cross 12th Street.

A few of the other infamous streets in Brookland that consistently have speeders, traffic problems, and accidents are Michigan, Monroe, and Franklin Streets. These arteries are often used by Maryland commuters driving into the city while not realizing that they are driving through residential neighborhoods.

Car Failing to Stop for Pedestrian

Car Failing to Stop for Pedestrian

The intersection of 12th and Newton often has very young students and families with strollers trying to across against traffic while waiting for cars to stop, which they are legally required to do for pedestrians in a crosswalk. Pedestrians are taking their life in their hands hoping a speeding car will stop, that is if the motorist even sees them.

Newton Crosswalk

Newton Crosswalk

This is not a new problem. This intersection has a notorious history of accidents including one story of a former Brookland resident who was struck and severely injured and never fully recovered from the crash. Even this past incident didn’t help to institute other traffic calming efforts on12th Street.

Sure the we got the 12th Street streetscape that didn’t underground the power lines as residents wanted and we got some large bumpouts, but what about intersections like 12th and Newton that really need an all way stop.

Speed Limit 25

Speed Limit 25

An additional problem with the 12th and Newton Intersection is that the crosswalk sign is obscured by an overgrown tree while traveling north on 12th Street. Cyclists and motorists cannot see these signs and this is contributing to folks not stopping for pedestrians and creating a potentially dangerous for all the car+person=near accident situations.

Tree blocking Crosswalk and Speed Limit Sign

Tree blocking Crosswalk and Speed Limit Sign

Below is a photo of the view that most motorists see, which is an overgrown tree blocking the crosswalk and speed limit signs, making it a more dangerous intersection than its needs to be. This tree needs to be trimmed so it does not obstruct the view of motorists traveling north on 12th Street.

Crosswalk and Speed Limit Signs Completely Obstructed by Tree

Crosswalk and Speed Limit Signs Completely Obstructed by Tree

There is one stop sign on Newton Street for this intersection, but none on 12th Street proper where cars speed daily. Residents are lobbying DDOT to make this intersection a 3 way stop ( Newton between 10th and 12th street is one way). It is my understanding that DDOT has previously done a traffic study a few years ago, but I do not know what came out of it, whether or not a stop sign was called for by the previous traffic study has not been communicated to nearby residents. Nearby Brookland residents are starting a new petition to get the much needed stop signs added to 12th and Newton which would make it much safer intersection for pedestrians and motorists than it is currently is today.

Lolly, a resident on Newton Street that has been working to get an all way stop on 12th and Newton has posted a number of her thoughts and the challenges with folks at DDOT while trying to get some answers about the lack of a stop sign at 12th Newton Streets NE.

Hopefully we can get the obstructing trees trimmed and get an all way stop at this intersection.

Map of the 12th and Newton Intersection


Should the intersection of 12th and Newton have an all way stop?

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Beyond Brookland: McMillan Sand Filtration Plant

The McMillan Sand Filtration Plant is a 25 acre parcel of land that is part of the McMillan Park along with the McMillan Reservoir located in the Bloomingdale neighborhood in NW Washington DC. The site is located just below the Washington Hospital Center complex and between 1st NW and North Capital.

The land was in active use until about the mid 1980s. The filtration plant was innovative for its time. Sand was used to purify and filter 75 million gallons of water per day for Washington DC. The McMilllan Reservoir located across 1st Street from the filtration plant is still in active use.

The reservoir was part of the McMillan Plan developed by the McMillan Commission, both were named for Senator James McMillan of Michigan . Some of the greatest architects of the day served on the commission including Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. who designed McMillan Park which was intended to be part of the city’s park system.

The very unique looking “structures” are silos used that were part of the sand filtration system and washed the impurities out of the city’s water supply. The vines and plants located on the silos were intentional and placed for aesthetic purposes.

The plant itself sits on top of hollow vaults of sand running the length of the property and over 15 feet deep. The vaults only light is from the entrances and the 5000 or so man hole covers located on top of the vaults. Most of the sand used for the vault was donated from James McMillan’s home state of Michigan.

The site is destined for development and there is a plan to redevelop it in the near future. The plant is very unique from a historical and architectural perspective and one hopes at least some of that will be preserved when the site is redeveloped.

Below are a number of additional photos of the McMillan Sand Filtration Plant taken during a recent tour.

McMillan Filter Plant Sign Photographer The Shrine from McMillan Chair in a McMillan Vault McMillan Silos Underground In a Vault Water in a Silo Underground Door Deteriorated Vault Entrance Vines Green Vines Flower Vehicles Keep Off Grass (Man)Holes Water Plants Good View In Emergency Break Glass Building with Vines More Vines Door with Vines Vault Entrance Vine Mania Rusty Door Door Hinge Vault Entrance Broken Door McMillan Girl Steps Fence & Geese

View the complete photoset

Metro Red line: No Trains from Brookland to Takoma this weekend

No Red Line trains will be going from the Brookland / CUA station to Takoma station this weekend. The closures are from 10 p.m. Friday, August 14 through all day Sunday, August 16. Metro is offering free shuttle service for Red Line riders for traveling between Brookland-CUA, Fort Totten and the Takoma stations.

Metro is recommending adding an additional 30 minutes to your trip. For more information read Metro’s advisory .

Deadly 1906 Washington DC Train Wreck Near Fort Totten

Map of village of Terra Cotta in modern day Fort Totten

1890 Map of Terra Cotta

The Metro subway crash that killed nine on Monday was not the only serious accident on that stretch of track. On December 30, 1906, one of the country’s worst railroad disasters occurred about a half mile away — on what was then the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad. On that day, at 6:30 in the evening, train #66, a local coming from Frederick, Maryland, was stopped at the Terra Cotta station. Terra Cotta station no longer exists, but was about where the Fort Totten station of the Metro sits today. Train #66 had three passenger cars, all made of wood as most were a century ago, and it was pretty full. Behind it was a deadhead train, #2120, with a big locomotive pulling six empty passenger cars.

It was a foggy night, and track signals were not easy for the train crews to see. Just as train #66 was beginning to pull out of the station, train 2120 slammed into it, apparently going full speed, about 65 miles per hour. The heavy locomotive tore through the passenger cars, sending debris and bodies flying on both sides of the track for a quarter mile.

Although Terra Cotta was called a village, it wasn’t much more than a few houses, with the large Potomac Terra Cotta Company occupying most of the land around the tracks. Brookland was really the nearest community, about a mile away. Here is the way the Washington Post described it the next day:

“The scene after the accident was terrible. Bodies were hurled on every side. A heavy fog hung over the scene, making it difficult to see far. The many acts of heroism and self-sacrifice that were performed will never be known. Mothers were robbed of their children, husbands lost wives, and wives husbands. Parents died before the eyes of their children, and saw little ones mangled beyond recognition.

There was little of the wrecked train left. The monster engine had done its work of death and destruction thoroughly. On either side of the track were great piles of debris, and buried in it were men, women, and children. A quarter of a mile from where the collision took place the last vestige of the wreckage was found. It was a high pile of debris, and buried far under it were the bodies of two women and a child. A neatly gloved arm protruded from the debris.”

Many Brooklanders did what they could to help.  Rev. Edward Southgate of St. Anthony’s was one of them.  He spoke to the New York Times the next day:

“We have now in Brookland,” said Father Southgate of St. Anthony’s Church, in Brookland, the first priest to reach the wreck, “a little baby, not much more than a year old, whose mother was evidently killed, and who was picked up alongside the track and brought into Brookland.  The little thing is not hurt bodily, but no one knows her name or where her relatives may be.  A kind woman is taking care of the child.”

Frank Kuntz was a Catholic University student. Though he was home for the holidays the day of the crash, his friend and fellow student, Brawner Hetfield, lived in Brookland and was near the tracks that night.  In his book, Undergraduate Days 1904-1908, Kuntz relates what Hetfield told him of the disaster:

“Then came a terrible noise which he described as a combination of an explosion, escaping steam, breaking wood, groaning brakes and human screams. It was so loud that it could be heard on the campus and all over Brookland, as well as any place within a mile or more of the crash. According to Brawner, the gateman yelled “My God! She’s wrecked!” That was all Brawner needed to start him up the railroad tracks at a pace calculated to cover one mile at the best steady speed.

In a few minutes he came to a huge locomotive, hissing leaking steam. In the darkness he could vaguely make out its engineer running around in circles, wringing his hands and crying, “I swear, I thought it was on the siding where it belonged.”

A conductor in the little ramshackle station was yelling into a telephone, “The excursion train was not on the siding where it should’ve been, and we rammed clear through it! Send ambulances, doctors, and nurses as quickly as you can! And wreckers to clear the tracks!”

“And priests!” Brawner shouted to him, and the conductor repeated Brawner’s words into the phone.

Brawner saw the watchman of the terra cotta plant near his shanty and asked him if he could use his telephone to get help. Brawner dialed the University’s number, which he knew, and soon had a divinity student at Caldwell Hall on the line. Brawner told him that the tracks at Terra Cotta were strewn with dead and badly injured and asked him to get as many priests from Caldwell, the Marists’, the Paulists’, and Holy Cross as he could to come over to the wreck…

Soon a few priests left Caldwell and were joined at the Marists’ by two more carrying lanterns…Meanwhile, Brawner called his pastor at St. Anthony’s Church in Brookland and, knowing he had no rig, asked him to bring a doctor with him since doctors did have rigs…

Soon telegraph and telephone lines all over the country were humming with the news, and people were jamming the Brookland-bound trolleys. A locomotive with a searchlight and wrecker came out from Washington carrying many newspaper reporters.

Brawner kept busy helping priests and doctors move the dead and injured from the tracks. All told, there were fifty-three killed and nearly a hundred injured, and it was daylight before all the injured and dead were removed…

The priests from Caldwell, Holy Cross, the Marists’ and the Paulists’ did heroic work under appalling conditions and deserve to be remembered for the inspired work they did.”

Four men were charged with manslaughter – the engineer, conductor, brakeman, and fireman of train 2120. After a lengthy trial, the jury found them not guilty, saying there was not enough evidence to convict. Still, the Interstate Commerce Commission laid the blame on those men and the signal operator at Takoma Park, claiming all were negligent and not following proper procedure. As a result of the Terra Cotta wreck, the ICC banned wooden body passenger car construction. What changes might WMATA make to prevent future accidents of the kind that killed nine people on Monday?

This post was written by Bob Malesky, a 40 year Brookland resident and CUA alum. Bob and his wife lived in several parts of Brookland before settling on Newton St. Bob spent over 30 years working as a producer at National Public Radio and is currently working as freelance writer/producer.

Related Materials

Horrific Redline Metro Train Collision near Fort Totten

Our thoughts and condolences are with the victims and families of those involved of in the “Deadliest Collision in Metro’s History” The crash the occurred on the redline around 5pm near the Fort Totten metro occurred when a parked train was hit by another train resulting in the death of nine and injury of 70 passengers

The blogosphere and twitterverse contained multiple realtime information about the crash and phtotos from the crash. Additionally local news agencies had information about the tragedy.

City paper has questions about Crashworthiness of Metro Cars Which states:

Metro General Manager John Catoe said in a press conference that the last car on the stopped train was a relatively new 5000-series CAF-built car; the lead car on the moving train was a 1000-series Rohr-built car—the oldest type in the system.

This begs the questions is there a know problem with 100 series car including a “telescoping” problem at high speeds?

We Love DC has a posting of tips of using metro on Tuesday. also tips for getting aroundclosed streets