Although it's only 100 feet wide, more than 3 million people every year use the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park, which weaves through Northern Virginia from Shirlington to Purcellville.
The 45-mile-long Washington & Old Dominion trail, a favorite of the region's bicyclists, is getting a proposed face-lift and some amenities. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which owns and operates the park, is planning $1 million in trail restoration and bridge improvements over five years, said Dan Iglhaut, capital planning administrator for the park authority.
The authority also received grant funds to build shelters along the trail this summer.
The shelters "will provide a place to get out of the sun and the rain and allow users to rest on their way," said Kate Rudacille, land administration manager for the authority. "We have the elderly, children, every type of user out there at every level."
The shelters will be very basic -- a 12-by-12-foot cover over a concrete pad. There, users will find bike racks, park benches and some respite from the elements.
In Loudoun County, the shelters will be built a half-mile west of Hamilton Station Road and just to the west of the county line at Leesburg. In Fairfax County, a shelter will be built a half-mile east of Hunter Mill Road. In Arlington County, one shelter will be built about 500 feet west of Lee Highway and another a half-mile west of Columbia Pike.
The $110,000 project was funded by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. It should be completed by the end of summer, Rudacille said.
The $1 million in trail improvements are proposed as part of the park authority's five-year capital project plan. The plan is available for public comment until Wednesday. A final version is scheduled to be considered for approval at the authority's July meeting.
Under the plan, the authority would repave large sections of the trail, replacing asphalt that is 20 years old. The areas scheduled for repaving include the East Falls Church and Ashburn sections of the trail. The authority also plans to replace the decks on the Broad Run and Beaver Dam bridges in Loudoun.
The trail is on the old right of way of the W&OD railroad, which started in 1859 with the goal of transporting coal from Appalachia to the port of Alexandria. The railroad went out of business in 1968, according to the Friends of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, a citizen-run support group.
In 1977, the park authority purchased the right of way, which includes a 45-mile paved trail for walking, running, bicycling and skating and 32.5 miles of adjacent gravel trail for horseback riding.