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Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Trail facts for kids

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WB&A Trail
Length 10.25 mi (16.5 km)
Location Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, Maryland, USA
Trailheads Annapolis Rd and Seltzer St
Lanham, Maryland
38°57′29″N 76°49′29.4″W / 38.95806°N 76.824833°W / 38.95806; -76.824833
Odenton Rd and Piney Orchard Pkwy
Odenton, Maryland
39°5′2.2″N 76°42′0.5″W / 39.083944°N 76.700139°W / 39.083944; -76.700139
Use Hiking, biking
Hiking details
Trail difficulty Easy
Season Year-round
Sights Patuxent River, Little Patuxent River
Hazards Tick-borne diseases
Limited water
Poison ivy
Venomous snakes

The Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Trail (WB&A) is a 10.25-mile (16.50 km) long discontinuous rail trail from Lanham to Odenton in Maryland. Despite its name, it does not actually connect with Washington, D.C., Annapolis or Baltimore; its name is taken from the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Electric Railway, from which the right-of-way comes. The trail exists in two separate pieces, one in Anne Arundel County and the other in Prince George's County, separated by the lack of a bridge over the Patuxent River. The bridge's construction and the trail's alignment was delayed for over a decade due to a property dispute; however, the trail was realigned and plans exist to complete a bridge by 2021. Additional plans exist to extend the trail southward to the Washington, D.C. border.

The WB&A Trail makes up part of both the East Coast Greenway - from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida - and the American Discovery Trail - from the Atlantic coast of Delaware to San Francisco, California.

Places served

From south to north, the trail passes through the following locations:

Route description

The trail currently exists as two unconnected segments: Lanham to the Patuxent River (within Prince George's County), and the Patuxent River (within Anne Arundel County) to Odenton (within Anne Arundel County).

Lanham to MD 193

The trail begins next to MD 450 near Lanham, just to the north of that route's intersection with MD 704. Closely paralleled by a BG&E 33kV distribution line, the trail runs due northeast, crossing the Folly Branch, before encountering a major BG&E electrical substation. Here, the 33kV line enters the substation and is replaced by a much larger BG&E transmission line; the line runs parallel to the trail all the way to Bowie.

Past the substation, the trail shares the WB&A's right-of-way with the power line and a local street, named Railroad Avenue. Just past Walnut Ave., the road is also known as Electric Avenue. At milepost 1, the trail passes to the north of the Glenn Dale Hospital, a defunct hospital now closed and scheduled for demolition. Near the hospital site, the trail is served by ample parking near its crossing of MD 953 Glenn Dale Road, the original route of MD 193. Beyond the crossing (at which trail users must stop before crossing), the trail diverts away from the WB&A alignment to run along Old Pond Drive; after running parallel for a short distance, the trail turns to the north for a very short distance before rejoining the WB&A alignment. Both trail and road share the alignment for a short distance before the latter meets Bell Station Road at a T-junction; beyond here, the trail runs alone through a suburban neighborhood, crossing beneath the dual carriageway of MD 193 via a short tunnel.

MD 193 to Bowie

Past MD 193, the trail runs through various suburban neighborhoods, screened by undeveloped land. At milepost 2, the trail crosses the Horsepen Branch near its headwaters. Near milepost 2.5, the trail crosses Hillmeade Road via a truss bridge; access to the road is via Daisy Lane. Beyond Hillmeade Road, the trail right-of-way is abutted by suburban development, with the BG&E power line a constant companion. Continuing northeast, the trail meets a pair of driveways just to the north of milepost 3 before once sharing the right-of-way with a local street, Mockingbird Lane. Beyond the start of the street, the trail quickly crosses several neighborhood streets on the level at milepost 3.5 before flying over High Bridge Road and a CSX railway line via a pair of truss bridges.

Beyond the second truss bridge, the trail runs past the back of a number of houses before serving as a driveway once again. Near the point where the first driveway merges with the trail (close to milepost 4), the BG&E transmission line quickly descends to ground level and turns due north, following two more transmission lines north to BG&E's Jericho Park substation. Just beyond the transmission line cut, another BG&E 33kV distribution line appears; this one is partially out-of-use and parallels the trail all the way to Odenton. The trail itself passes to the northwest of the Bowie Golf and Country Club before meeting several other driveways and Normal School Road, a former alignment of MD 197; interspersed with these junctions are two more crossings of the Horsepen Branch. Eventually, the trail itself crosses MD 197 via yet another truss bridge, the longest bridge on the entire trail. Access to the trail from MD 197 is provided via a driveway; after crossing the bridge, the trail meets it immediately beyond the driveway's intersection with MD 197, and a STOP sign is posted for the protection of trail users.

The trail and the driveway run east-northeast, passing just to the south of a local shooting range; the driveway ends at the gates of the range, while the trail continues onward. Protected by a low sound barrier, this portion of the trail is again screened from nearby neighborhoods by undeveloped land. Near milepost 5.5, the trail crosses the Horsepen Branch again before passing beneath Race Track Road at milepost 5.5 via another tunnel, similar in design to the tunnel under MD 193. Beyond here, the trail curves upward and terminates at another parking lot.

Bowie to the Patuxent River

At the far end of the parking lot, a gate protects an access road to the Horsepen water pumping station; a gap in the gate permits access for WSSC, BG&E and M-NCPPC purposes; the latter covers users of the WB&A Trail.

At the far end of the access road, the trail resumes, turning north and then northeast again before meeting the WB&A Spur Trail; this paved, 1.3-mi. side trail passes through Patuxent River Park and the Fran Uhler Natural Area. Past the side trail, the main trail continues northeast for an eighth of a mile, crossing a tributary of the Horsepen Branch just west of its junction with the Patuxent, before terminating at a turnaround near the Prince George's County bank of the Patuxent River. At the site of the turnaround, the former abutments and supports of the WB&A's railway bridge can be seen, and on the far side of the river (on the Anne Arundel County side), the WB&A's formation can be seen continuing northeast alongside the BG&E distribution line. A wooden sign, facing to the north, can also be seen from the turnaround near the riverbank.

Patuxent River to Bragers Road

The trail resumes on the Anne Arundel County side of the Patuxent River. The trail follow a longer winding path away from the WB&A Railroad right-of-way. The trail climbs a steep hill from the banks of the Patuxent River before crossing Conway Road. It then turns east and parallels Conway Road as it passes through The Villages at Two Rivers before turning again north again and rejoining the old WB&A Railroad right-of-way on Bragers Road.

Bragers Road to Piney Orchard

The trail continues northeast on Bragers Road, a local street serving houses alongside the northern side of the trail. Other than the houses, this portion of the trail passes through undeveloped land, consisting mainly of forest and wetlands. The trail and the roadway share the right-of-way all the way to Patuxent Road, where the roadway ends.

Continuing across Patuxent Road (where trail users must also give way to road users), the trail continues through more wetlands and forest before crossing the Little Patuxent River via a newly constructed truss bridge. Past this truss bridge, the trail runs to the south of the Piney Orchard Nature Preserve before crossing another watercourse via another truss bridge. Beyond the second bridge, the trail meets a side trail that enters the preserve and eventually enters Piney Orchard proper at its crossing of Strawberry Lake Way.

Piney Orchard to Odenton

Beyond Strawberry Lake Way, the BG&E 33kV distribution line is in active use again; several transformers can be seen to the side of the trail, next to an artificial drainage pond. Past the pond, the trail runs through the heart of Piney Orchard, although it continues to be screened by a buffer of undeveloped land. The trail meets several side trails, providing access to the individual neighborhoods of Piney Orchard and Chapel Grove, before reaching another grade crossing at Waugh Chapel Road. Here, there is no direct crossing of the roadway, and trail users must turn south and use the sidewalk next to the road before crossing over and backtracking to the trail.

Beyond Waugh Chapel Road, the trail enters Odenton and passes beneath Old Waugh Chapel Road via a third tunnel before continuing through more suburban neighborhoods. More side trails are encountered as the trail runs north-northeast, crossing June Drive on the level. Beyond June Drive, the trail soon meets Piney Orchard Parkway and runs alongside it before terminating at Odenton Road, near its intersection with Piney Orchard Parkway. At the terminus, trail users can either continue north along a sidewalk or turn east and follow a Shared Use Path / Multi-User Path along Odenton Road to its terminus with MD 175. The trail will ultimately connect with the South Shore Trail at its terminus in Odenton. Recently, new signage advertising a bike route to Odenton station on the Northeast Corridor has appeared at the northern terminus.

History

The trail derives its name from the now defunct Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Electric Railway along whose right-of-way the trail now runs. From 1908 through 1935, state-of-the-art electric commuter trains ran along this route carrying passengers between Washington, DC, and Baltimore. The same railroad's right of way also serves as the basis for the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail and the Odenton Bike Path.

In the mid-1980s, Morris Warren, a Prince George's County trail advocated began pushing the county to turn the railroad right-of-way into a trail, founding the Prince George's WB & A Trail Club prior to 1991. In July 1991, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening announced definitive plans to open that county's section of trail, and later that year, the entire ROW from Baltimore to Lanham was included in the Baltimore-Washington Grenway. Around the same time Anne Arundel County began planning what was originally known as the West County Trail (WCT) along a piece of the right-of-way between Prince George's and Odenton. It showed up in Maryland planning material as early as 1992. In 1994, 4.1 miles of the railroad right-of-way in Anne Arundel County was given to the county for the WCT by Constellation Real Estate to meet open space and recreational space requirements as part of their development of Piney Orchard. The right-of-way in Prince George's county, parts of which were owned by Amtrak, the state of Maryland and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission was purchased in 1995, clearing the way for construction. In the same year, Anne Arundel County finished the West County Trail Master Plan.

The first section of the trail, in Prince George's County, a 5.6-mile (9.0 km) long stretch from MD 450 in Glenn Dale to Race Track Road in Bowie, opened on November 8, 2000. This section was extended 1100 feet northeast from Race Track Road to the Patuxent River in 2005. Once it became clear that the bridge across the Patuxent River would not be located at the point where the old railroad bridge had been, PG County built a 1.3 mile trail spur to the point where the bridge would be built and a little beyond it where it will one day connect with Phase 9 of the Bowie Heritage Trail. This WB&A Trail Spur opened in early 2016.

Construction of the Anne Arundel portion of the trail started in 2003 in four phases. Phase I started with a 2.3-mile (3.7 km) long section, in Anne Arundel County through Odenton which opened in 2004, linking Waugh Chapel Road to Strawberry Lake Road, both located in Piney Orchard. Phase Ib extended the trail another two miles (3 km) northeast in 2006 to connect Waugh Chapel Road to Odenton Road. Phase II extended the trail 1.3 miles from Strawberry Lake Road to Conway Road and opened in November 2007. It incorporated two bridges, including one passing over the Little Patuxent River. Phase III took the trail 1.7 miles farther south from Conway Road to the shores of the Patuxent River was completed in 2016 and opened on June 2, 2016.

Meanwhile, the Odenton Bike path, which will partially connect the WB&A Trail to the South Shore Trail, opened in 2003.

Future

The trail is currently discontinuous due to the gap between the Prince George's side and the Anne Arundel side; there is no bridge over the Patuxent River as of 1 January  2020 (2020 -01-01). Anne Arundel County has received a Bikeways Program grant for 80% of the estimated cost for bridge design. Prince George's County and Anne Arundel County will share equally the 20% match. The Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works will manage the design effort for the bridge with construction programmed for Fiscal Year 2017. There are currently plans for a 544-foot bridge between the two approaches, including the 160-foot main span over the Patuxent. The contract is anticipated to be awarded in the early 2020, after which construction will commence, with an expected opening in early to mid-2021.

Phase IV of the trail will build a 2.06 mile spur east of the current trail from the intersection with Strawberry Lake Way, along that road to Waugh Chapel Road, through the Odenton Natural Area and then across the school grounds of Arundel High School and Middle School to Phase II of the South Shore Trail.

In addition to the WB&A Trail, the South Shore Trail, built along right of way of the same railroad, will eventually connect the trail to Annapolis; and the Bowie Heritage Trail will connect it to Bowie State University and the Bowie MARC station.

An extension of the trail north along the old WB&A right-of-way, paralleling the existing road, all the way to the BWI Trail, was included in the 1995 West County Trail Master Plan and the 2002 Severn Small Area Plan, but not in the 2013 Anne Arundel County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

An extension of the trail south to the Marvin Gaye Park Trail in Washington, DC, along Maryland Route 704, is in both the Prince George's County 2009 and 2016 Bicycle Master Plan. A feasibility study was conducted in 2018 toward this extension.

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