Tuesday, November 24, 2015

CUA Brookland Corridor Chock Continued ...

new demolition specials upon the northbound un-built D.C. B&O Route I-95 right of way,
with more being planned

see:  http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2015/01/choking-dc-b-grand-arci-95-corridor.html

looking northwest from corner of Kearney and 9th Street - 2 projects:
 in foreground- Townhouses at 3300-3314
in background - Office building at 3350 - currently under construction

New buildings now being constructed and planned along the east side of the B&O corridor and west of 9th Street NE, northward from Kearney to Lawrence Streets - directly in the path of D.C. B&O I-95 that had been canceled as the result of the 1960s era political planning manipulations.

Previously posted at this blog about this misguided development thrust:



The lots had been property of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Administration (WMATA), which after decades of letting the land sit, has embarked upon a development frenzy, offering such parcels for sale for sale for development.  This is despite the intrinsic utility of these lots for future improvements to this vital transportation corridor which is the sole northern radial grade separated transport corridor within the northern portion of Washington, D.C.


This map from a May 2015 WMATA offering indicates a parcel just north of Lawrence Street, plus one to the south centered upon Kearney Street.  The WMATA offering describes these lots as follows:
Lawrence Property: Square 3829W, lots 817, 818, 819 totaling approximately 21,094 square feet on 9th Street, NE between Monroe and Lawrence streets in Northeast Washington. The three Lawrence Property lots are being offered as one sale. Offers for individual lots will not be accepted. [asking price: $500,000]

Kearney Property: PAR 01330157 containing approximately 16,239 square feet on 9th Street, NE between Lawrence and Jackson streets in Northeast Washington. [asking price: $375,000]
The red outlining on the map above is actually incorrect as that lot does not extend north of Kearney Street.  These two lots are currently empty and WMATA is offering them for sale as sites for new buildings along the western side of 9th Street NE to accompany the following two immediate projects already under construction.

The northern one is an office building - just south of Lawrence Street upon what is shown as the lot between the two lots marked in red; the southern one is a row of 8 residential townhouses, each with two separate dwelling units - extending to just north of Kearney Street.  The addresses respectively are 3350 and 3300-3314 9th Street NE

The office building: 3350 9th Street NE eastern face

 3350 9th Street northern face

 3350 9th Street northwestern side off street parking

The office building is a project of Inle Developers LLC.



The residential townhouses are a project of Getinet Bantayehu, who purchased the lot for $1.6 million from the initial developer Oxbridge, who had paid $500,000 for that lot in 2013.

This is land that had been long planned for D.C. I-95 throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s via the B&O Route.

While the initial 1960 engineering study had placed this area's I-95 segment to the east along 12th Street NE, as part of a planning with three separate northern radial freeways within Washington, D.C., the subsequent planning, starting with the November 1, 1962 Kennedy Administration report, had routed both directions of the highway in the area just east of the B&O railroad, with the 1966 and 1971 planning documents suggesting that this segment be placed beneath a lid with new buildings atop.

1966 B&O I-95

1971 B&O I-95

Political support for the freeway would be subverted by the planning manipulations around and in the years following the assassination of the U.S. President whose administration had adopted the B&O Route for D.C. I-95.

"Significance of Using B&O Route. Use of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad corridor to bring Routes 70-S and 95 into the city is the key to meeting the need for additional highway capacity in northern Washington, Montgomery County and northwestern Prince Georges Counties and at the same time avoiding the substantial relocation of persons, loss of taxable property and disruption of neighborhoods that would result from construction of the Northeast, North Central and Northwest Freeway proposed in the 1959 plan. Further savings are realized by placing the rapid transit line to Silver Spring and Queen’s Chapel in the same railroad corridor."
Though the November 1, 1962 transportation plan was quite explicit about a tight alignment along the railroad, the planning embodied by the engineering report publicly released on October 1964 blatantly disregarded that, with 37 alternative routes, many nowhere near the railroad, and with a recommended route option largely along the railroad but with severe deviations to the north of Monroe Street in Brookland and further north in Takoma Park on what was not only a far more destructive route - some 471 houses versus about 25 - but one longer.  Though the authorities would follow up in 1966 with a far more acceptable plan, the then new US Federal Highway Authority would waste little time with re-invigorating the opposition by announcing that they were not necessarily going to follow the 1966 plan but rather open the process up again to include the options from the extremely unpopular 1964 planning- ostensibly to save $22 million on retaining walls.
"...The reduced, re-routed proposal was made public last year with endorsement of D.C. And Maryland highway authorities. The D.C. Portion was forced through the National Capital Planning Commission by votes of representatives of the D.C. Highway Department and of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads. From this we concluded, reasonably enough, that the highway authorities of the two jurisdictions (Maryland and D.C.) had reached a firm understanding with the Bureau of Public Roads.
Many of us were therefore astonished and aroused to preparations for renewed protests when Washington newspapers recently reported that the Bureau has acted to open it all up again. We have not found the Bureau forthcoming with candid information, but the press articles intimate an intention to force Maryland to accept modifications of route or design ostensibly “cheaper.”

The result is that the whole controversy, which had been somewhat quiescent, is beginning to agitate the communities again. I can assure you this is so, for although I recently resigned chairmanship of the Metropolitan Citizens Council for Rapid Transit and write this simply as an individual citizen who wishes your administration well, I do remain in close touch with neighborhood sentiment on transportation-related issues..."
Such manipulations would be instrumental in prodding the various planning decision bodies, namely the U.S. National Capital Planning Commission, and the D.C. City Council to reverse their long-standing support for the B&O I-95 North Central Freeway, amidst waves of emotion that would conveniently overlook the planning manipulations as to why the explicit recommendation of the Kennedy Administration report had been disobeyed.
This has left the region with no grade separated highway leading into Washington D.C. in the vast arc from the George Washington Parkway along the Virginia shore of the Potomac River to the Baltimore Washington Parkway, and none such roads for trucks in the even larger arc from I-395 to the southwest from Virginia, to Route 50 in Maryland.

The popularized late 1960s rallying cry against constructing the I-95 North Central Freeway would be "no white mans roads through black mens' homes", with such resentment predicated upon the conveniently overlooked planning manipulations subverting the B&O North Central Freeway following the cancellations of any freeways in the wealthier areas to the west of Rock Creek Park.  Yet all of that would actually increase the disproportionate amount of the traffic burden upon poorer areas, as with those to the east of the Anacostia River where an antiquated surface Anacostia Freeway restricts local access there to the waterfront.
The Washington, D.C. area would clearly benefit from having a well designed I-95 northern radial freeway, which is best routed by the B&O corridor, and could and should follow design initiatives elsewhere for its construction as a linear park covered cut and cover facility that would likewise cover and expand the existing railroad.

Nevertheless, the region suffers under the stranglehold of the various powers that be including a WMATA so focused upon its short term profits that it would sell out the region's long term comprehensive transportation planning.

Of course Constitutional power remains to ultimately correct such planning errors, and this blog can serve as a warning beacon to anyone contemplating buying into such mis-placed real estate development projects.
An overview of real estate development threats to the D.C. I-95 Corridor:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Modify WMATA Farragut Connector Tunnel To Accomodate K Street Tunnel For Crosstown I-66

Years ago, during the 1960s, the idea of a vehicular tunnel beneath K Street was advocated as the best way for achieving the crosstown D.C. link for I-66.  It was promoted by opponents to the previous plan from the 1955 Inner Loop study for a new right of way swath freeway along the southern edge of Florida Avenues and U Street, requiring removing hundreds of buildings; the K Street tunnel meanwhile would have removed only a relative handful at its eastern connection, largely to clear the Carnegie Library at Franklin Square.

As such, the I-66 K Street Tunnel and had the support of US NCPC's Elizabeth Rowe, who was also connected with the private organization, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City that had been founded by Delano during the 1920s..

Planning for the WMATA rail subway system had accommodated that with space above the southern end of the Farragut North subway station platform.  The need for this connection was initially created by a decision to provide two separate stations for Farragut North and West, rather than a consolidated facility accommodating both station-stops, to avoid excavating beneath the Farragut Square park just south of K Street that would have required removing a number of trees.

During the mid 1970s, the I-66 K Street Tunnel would be 'de-mapped' to scavenge its funds for speeding construction of the WMATA rail subway system, with such reasoning that the world was going to run out of petro by the 1990s hence somehow rendering private automobiles obsolete, and that Virginia was not going to build their connecting inside the Beltway segment of I-66- both which proved to be false.

Subsequent planning following the 1970s 'de-mapping' of the I-66 K Street Tunnel now fails to respect its underground right of way space, and thus needs modification for such.

A recent article in Greater Greater Washington details the two main design options now/recently under formal consideration, with an estimated total monetary construction cost of $130 million.  See official report.

Option One places a staircase from the proposed connector tunnel to the platform below in the way.

Option Two places a new connecting section from the proposed connector tunnel to the existing mezzanine platform.

As it is the area of the southern platform of the Farragut North station that would be connected to the new pedestrian tunnel at the area beneath K Street, this existing area would need an extension to just south of K Street in order to provide the space for this connect that would avoid the space beneath K Street and hence accommodate both this new underground pedestrian connection and the K Street tunnel.   This would have to be a variant of Option One, as a continuous mezzanine level platform conflicts with the space for the K Street tunnel.

A google map photo shows three trees along the Farragut Square park's northern edge, which extends northward past the customary southern edge of the K Street right of way.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Washingtonian Freudian Slip


"Rendering of the Three Sisters Bridge, which would have linked with interstates and erased three well-known areas of DC. Photograph courtesy of DDOT."

hyperbole article "The Insane Highway Plan That Would Have Bulldozed DC’s Most Charming Neighborhoods" by Harry Jaffe | October 21, 2015

see: http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/capitalcomment/history/the-insane-highway-plan-that-would-have-bulldozed-washington-dcs-most-charming-neighborhoods.php

The Three Sisters Bridge would have "erased" zero neighborhoods.

The outright 'de-mappings' of the Washington, D.C. freeways system was not about saving neighborhoods. 

The plans underwent serious revisions, most notably with the cross town I-66 North Leg, replacing the 1955 plan for a new swath along U Street, with a tunnel under K Street that was promoted by opponents to the earlier plans.



The outright 'de-mappings' were based upon specious 'reasoning'.



Rather it was about keeping freeways further away from major religious institution properties, to wit, Jesuit Georgetown University with the Three Sisters Bridge, as well as Catholic University of America, with the indisputably needed North Central Freeway.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Urbanists Place Profits Over People at Large

Richard Layman presents some good ideas of tunnelfication,
yet seems incapable of protecting such regarding real word examples.

January 8, 2008


 . Tunnelize the Metropolitan Branch railroad line. This is a stretch. It would cost billions and would involve creating tunnels for both the railroad and the subway. But it would allow for adding capacity to that line, which is quickly moving to capacity, and given that the subway line is bracketed by CSX railroad tracks, it can't expand except by having double stacked trains, which we can't do because of the way the tunnels and bridges exist.... (Note that a railroad, maybe CSX, maybe Norfolk Southern, is making their line from Chicago to Richmond capable of carry double stacked containers the whole route. This means adjusting tunnels and bridges...)

Note that this isn't a priority for me, but I think it should be listed nonetheless.

Feb 25 2009


. Therefore, if you create a "deck" in Brookland you create another obstruction, one that creates another problem.

And the whole point of putting the Brookland station and tracks in that vicinity underground had to do with trying to knit the east and west parts of the neighborhood together (oddly, this is somewhat problematic because for the most part, the west parts of the neighborhood are made up of institutional campuses and don't lend themselves very well to connection).

Nov 15, 2011


The proposal for the North Central Freeway was supposed to follow the Metropolitan Branch Railroad line--north on the east side of the tracks and south on the west side of the tracks--but this would have destroyed the quality of life in the area (a very short portion of the route under Rhode Island Avenue was proposed to be tunneled).

Doug Willinger (various websites) has always said that a completely tunnelized freeway should have been considered.

While for many reasons, I don't favor big freeways, above- or below- ground, I am starting to think that the only way to address the Blair Road-Takoma conundrum would be to create a tunnel "freeway" for the through traffic focused mostly on getting from Montgomery County to DC's Central Business District.

2. New York Avenue/Route 50 tunnel

As I mentioned over the weekend, the New York Avenue Transportation Plan recognized that the big problem with traffic on New York Avenue is that because the road functions as a through freeway link from I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to I-395 in DC, connecting to Virginia, much of the traffic on the road is "through traffic" not intended to stop in DC.

This through traffic makes much of the road--from the DC-Maryland line to Downtown DC--traffic engorged, unsightly, and uncomfortable, with negative contributions to quality of life for residents.

They didn't go for broke and recommend a complete tunnelized solution from the DC-Maryland line to the I-395/New York Avenue junction, not because they didn't see the need, but because of the cost.

After all, the Central Artery Project ("Big Dig") in Boston cost over $14 billion for 3.5 miles. This length would be about 5 miles.

Still, one way to make it happen would be to charge tolls, just like the Carmel Tunnels project in Haifa.

3. Add a subway line on New York Avenue?

To make a New York Avenue tunnel project even more expensive, they could put a heavy rail subway line into it as well, from Bladensburg Road to Mount Vernon Triangle, although it could be conceived of, in part as a leg of the proposed separated blue line, which would continue west to Georgetown and then into Virginia.

4. General discussion on tolls

Since these tunnels would mostly be focused on serving nonresidents, except in how they would mitigate the negative impact of use of these roads on quality of life, tolling is a logical response, as a way to impose fees on the users for the costs that they normally impose on others without paying.

June 10, 2013

Condominiums abut Spring Place NW, on the west side of the railroad tracks on the Blair Road side of the Takoma DC neighborhood.

In Takoma, in the past few years three apartment or condo developments have been built abutting the Metro station.  Another development is under construction--a Busboys and Poets will be locating there (see "Busboys and Poets coming to Takoma, and may head to Brookland" from the Washington Post), another on Spring Place is working through the approval process, and another development is in the pipeline. 

With a couple of exceptions these developments will absorb most of the build out capacity of the neighborhood, and going forward beyond these developments there will be limited impact on the extant residential sections of the neighborhood. (The Walter Reed campus abuts part of Takoma and will be redeveloped over the next 20 years.  But this won't impact Takoma per se all that much, other than providing access to additional retail.)

The primary reason I favor denser development at Metro stations is that it allows, for the most part, preservation of the bulk of a neighborhood's residential character with minimal changes.  This is true for both Brookland and Takoma--although the community's unwillingness to make some hard choices in Brookland likely means that Brookland's traditional retail core, currently strung along 12th Street, will  re-center to Monroe Street by the transit station (functioning similarly to the Shoppes at ArtDistrict development in Hyattsville that I wrote about earlier).