- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

Accessing Metro’s newest station on foot remains a task for the brave and ambitious, as city officials said yesterday a special walkway to avoid the busy intersection of New York and Florida avenues is far from complete.

At the station’s grand opening Nov. 20, transportation officials said the pedestrian walkway would be finished within weeks and would keep customers from having to walk across New York and Florida avenues.

But D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Rice said the city is still in negotiations with the Potomac Electric Power Co., which controls a key section of land and the completion date “is now unknown.”

“We thought we had an agreement with Pepco to finish the trail,” Mr. Rice said. “Somehow that agreement is no longer, the terms are not what we thought we had, and we’re still talking to Pepco to try and finish it. … We hope to have it as soon as possible.”

A Pepco spokesman said he could not elaborate because officials familiar with the situation could not be reached for comment.

The New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet University station is on Metro’s Red Line between Union Station and Rhode Island Avenue NE.

Pedestrians voiced concerns yesterday about the safety of walking to and from the station, which sits amid a massive construction site one block east of the intersection of New York and Florida avenues.

The intersection, with a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant buttressed against it, is known for its heavy traffic.

“This is great that [the station] has opened up,” said Nadine Pederson, who walked to the station yesterday. “But right in front of the Wendy’s, there’s some sort of bizarre traffic configuration where a car could be coming right at you and you wouldn’t even know it.”

City officials say the $7 million unfinished pedestrian walkway, a section of which forms an overpass running alongside the station’s train platform, will provide safe passage over Florida Avenue and under New York Avenue.

When the walkway opens, it will be the first completed section of the planned Metropolitan Branch Trail, an 8-mile-long, multipurpose path that will run along the Red Line from Union Station to Silver Spring.

In addition to the unfinished walkway, no driveway has been paved to permit vehicle access to the new station. As a result, riders must access it from a sidewalk on Florida Avenue or a sidewalk under a bridge in the 100 Block of M Street NE.

Surrounding the station is the construction site of the future headquarters of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It is not expected to be completed until 2006.

Officials say the walkway from the station will extend to the northwest side of the intersection of New York and Florida avenues. But so far there is no sign of a walkway being built on the northwest side of the intersection — near the headquarters of XM Satellite Radio and behind a FedEx building.

Wooden construction planks and plastic tarps were visible along an elevated portion of the walkway beside the station platform. An elevator that will bring pedestrians from the ground level of the station to the elevated portion of the walkway is still being installed. And an electrical crew was installing a street lamp yesterday near one station entrance next to six lanes of heavy traffic on Florida Avenue.

Ms. Pederson, 35, has been using the station regularly since it opened, as it is the closest station to her home on First Street NW.

“Safety is the issue,” she said.

Ms. Pederson also said she was excited to have a Red Line stop so close to her home, but getting to it can be hazardous, particularly at night when “it’s pitch dark out.”

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