Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I-395 Extension: A Superior Option

officially un-considered Dunbar - O Street Tunnel
for extending I-395 (I-95) in Washington, D.C. near N.Y. Avenue

Washington, D.C. I-395 options

Dunbar - O Street (yellow and green double deck tunnel)
approx. 1,300 foot radii; 34 dwellings displaced
1971 design
approx. 800 foot radii; 600+ dwellings displaced
1996 design
approx. 300 foot radii; 0 dwellings displaced

Currently truncated I-395 Center Leg at New York Avenue

Images produced by National Capital Planning Commission for the Washington Geographic Information System. Distributed by VARGIS LLC of Herndon, VA.

Note the convenient placement of Dunbar HS, creating a clear area of its recreation field to arc a tunnel to run beneath O Street.

I came up with this idea myself; however I must wonder if this idea came to the designers of the current Dunbar HS.

Friday, November 23, 2007

ECTC 1970

Scans of a poster "Freeway Cancer Hits D.C.!" by the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis, with Marion Barry as one of its Vice Chairmen.

Shows the 1966 Supplementary Study (*) B&O Route North Central Freeway with the 1960s design for the Florida Avenue - U Street North Leg.

(*) Fails to show tunnel configuration alongside Montgomery Community College shown in the 1966 Supplementary Study, even while correctly showing the tunneled segments to cross the railroad at Lamond and at Fort Totten.

Monday, November 19, 2007

11th Street Bridges Project: Marion Barry Missing in Action?

Notes on the Bridge Oversight Hearing
For the record, Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry was NOT in attendance at this Very Important meeting that will significantly affect his ward. Pretty disappointing, actually.
Marion Barry was a leader of the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis (ECTC) which successfully pushed for truncating the freeways on the north (west) side of the Anacostia River, and was particularly vocal in stopping the Three Sisters Bridge near Georgetown, and the I-95 North Central Freeway alongside Catholic University of America.

Although these actions placed a disproportionate percentage of the express vehicular traffic through the less affluent areas of the south (east) of the Anacostia river in Ward 8 which he now represents at the D.C. City Council, he successfully sold that as stopping "white man's roads through black mans' homes".

Sunday, November 18, 2007

11th Street Bridges Project: Elitism Domination

Just check out the comments (pdf file) of the "Capitol Hill Restoration Society"


It revolves entirely around the idea of REDUCING benefits to society, by obsessing on reducing express road capacity, while saying absolutely nothing about design mitigation, such as cut and cover tunneling. They say nothing about maintaining the division of the 11th Street Bridge interchange and its western portion of the SE Freeway- for the sake of crossing a railroad segment that is planned for removal.

Could it be they prefer this division as a way of segregating their neighborhoods from those to the south?

This is typical of the sort of elitism masquerading as environmentalism, particularly within Washington, D.C., that I wrote about here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

11th Street Bridges: A Suggested Alternative

The existing 11th Street Bridges project bundles too many bad ideas to past muster, particularly its creation of a new elevated berm highway for the sake of crossing over a RR that will be removed a few years later.

Instead, adopt short and long term plans:

Short term: simply add the desired missing ramps from the 11th Street Bridge to and from DC 295 to the east. To fit these with the existing pair of two lane from I-295 to and from the west-south and the pair of two lane local connectors, with the existing pair of four lane spans, reduce the local connections from two to one lane apiece, and make the new I-295 ramps each with one continuous lane with two lane approaches along the Anacostia Freeway. To provide these with two lanes each would require re-routing at least the northbound local connection to the new northbound express ramp, or widen at least the northbound 11th Street span from 4 to 5 lanes.

Concurrently or consecutively, reconstruct the Anacostia Freeway underground as has been suggested by the DCDOT project for the Pennsylvania Avenue interchange, extended as far towards the 11th Street Bridges as geometrically possible. Because of the extra vehicular traffic, Anacostia Freeway underground reconstruction should accomodate a minimum of 4 lanes per direction, plus shoulders and a merge lane.

Long term: following the RR removal-relocation (which will depress and bury a segment of the the existing RR along the Anacostia Freeway), replace the 11th Street Bridges with lower level spans that go underground south of M Street to an undergrounded SE Freeway, maintaining the full connections at both ends of these spans, with the existing eastern SE Freeway segment covered with a waterfront promenade, and so extended towards RFK Stadium/Whitney Young Memorial Bridge, and which undergrounds a portion of its connecting Anacostia Freeway segment.

This spreads and mitigate the burden while spreading the benefit- including reconnecting the area of SE boundaries north and south via I and M Streets, and east-west via 7th and 12th Streets, opening up blocks of reclaimed land for new development.

The official planning squanders these virtues.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

WMATA Takoma Station Transportation Treason and Criminal Malfeasance

Train wreck in Washington, D.C. SE, one day after WMATA's 5-0 unanimous (and near discussion-free) decision to continue to chock the North Central Red Line corridor, underscores subversion of evacuation corridor preservation in the name of providing "transit friendly"development or a "new urbanism" better descried as a "new medievalism."

Go to Takoma Station today and look at the proximity of the "Cedar Crossing" and "Elevation 314" residential projects built after 2001 (and after I took these photos), and envision such a derailment. Also recall that two previous derailments along that RR corridor in 1976 and 1996 had greater setbacks between the RR and anyone's home, respectively Blair Road and a parking lot, giving at least 50 feet. At least one wing of Cedar Crossing, and most of Elevation 314 fall within such a derailment footprint.

Where's the U.S. Department of Transportation on this potential safety risk?

Where's the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on evacuation corridor preservation?

Interesting how such decisions are usually unanimous with little or no debate.

Railcars Fall From Bridge into Anacostia River- The Washington Post Nov 10
Metro Board Approves Project at Takoma Station- The Washington Post Nov 9

Thursday, November 08, 2007

11th Street Bridge Project Rush Job

continuing 1950s style elevated and surface freeway to overpass an existing railroad that's officially envisioned to be removed


The "Final EIS Preferred Alternative"

This study bundles a good idea -- ramps connecting to both directions of the Anacostia Freeway with numerous bad ideas, starting with deleting the ramp connections towards RFK Stadium, and the creation of a counter-intuitive left hand split form the eastbound SE Freeway via an elevated berm for the sake of crossing a RR that's envisioned to be removed and relocated, as per the study announced earlier this year.

The "Final EIS Preferred Alternative" adds other bad ideas, continuing with destroying the freeway continuity to the east, placing all of the vehicular traffic on the surface through traffic light intersections.

And Now, Anacostia- the 11th Street Bridges Project

11th Street Bridges Project: 4 Options Considered

11th Street Bridges Project: Considerations

Monday, October 22, 2007

Takoma, D.C. Transportation Corridor Chock

WMATA to violate evacuation route sensibilities.
From: Megan Scribner

We've just learned that the WMATA Board has moved the Takoma Station development to their "consent agenda" which means they plan to approve it without discussion. They are scheduled to meet this Thursday, October 25.

Tonight at the City Council Meeting, the Council will brief the community on this very negative action by WMATA, which has come up so quickly. We need to be there to urge ALL of our political leaders to be strong and continue the fight to defeat the flawed EYA plan.

FYI -- On Friday, the City submitted to WMATA an alternative site plan apparently for the purpose of demonstrating that there are a number of alternatives and that therefore WMATA should reject the EYA plan. While we have some concerns about this "City" proposal and the process that led to its being sent to WMATA - we feel that right now we need to focus on the WMATA's vote on Thursday.

On Wednesday night Governor O'Malley is giving a speech from 8-9:00 at Takoma Park Middle School on Piney Branch. O'Malley is someone who can ask the MD WMATA Board members to vote against the plan. It would be good to have a good community turnout - not so much as a protest but as a way to visibly show how strongly the community feels about this particular development. Please come in red shirts, we'll supply the buttons or stickers -- hopefully there will be an opportunity during an open mike session to ask for his support.

If you haven't had a chance yet, please ask O'Malley to contact the two WMATA Board members who represent Maryland and urge them to vote for Smart Growth and against the EYA plan - or at least to make sure the EYA plan is SUBSTANTIALLY changed so that it is truly transit-oriented - has adequate bus facilities, parking, safe traffic patterns, safe pedestrian access and adequate handicapped access etc. (Since we're trying to garner his positive attention - you might also wish him luck also on a successful special session.) For the governor's office: governor@gov.state.md.us or fax 410-974-3275 (both will get a response). Also, can email through his constituent website www.governor.maryland.gov/mail. Or call 1-800-811-8336 (will not get a response). www.governor.maryland.gov/mail

On Thursday, the WMATA Board's Meeting is at 10:00am at 600 Fifth Street, NW. There will only be 20 minutes (2 minutes per person) of public discussion on all issues, including fare increases. So while you probably won't have an opportunity to talk. It would be good to have a good community turnout. Please come in red shirts, we'll supply the buttons or stickers.

Thanks for all your good efforts on this.

TakomaParkList mailing list
This regards the Metropolitan Branch B&O railroad corridor where today's WMATA Red Line runs above ground.

The proposal for new housing in the Takoma WMATA station site constricts and complicates Washington, D.C.'s sole continuous grade separated northern radial roadway for the sake of adding a fraction of the transit oriented development feasible along Maryland's Route 355 and Route 1.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Something For Nothing

The authorities want to charge a toll on an utterly insufficient (and truncated) highway system, while out of hand dismissing any and all capacity increases.

If there is to be a toll, place it upon a new facility- namely the I-95 Grand Arc Mall Tunnel proposed by citizen writer Douglas A. Willinger since 1997.

DOT Pushing Commuter Tax for DC

Washington, DC visitors will soon pass through toll booths as federal officials continue the push to toll existing interstate freeways.

I-395Commuters in the nation's capital are drawing closer than ever to paying a congestion tax, thanks to lobbying from the Federal Highway Administration. The agency has created a "toolbox of potential measures" to improve congestion in the area that essentially boils down to a single proposal: toll booths on the 14th Street Bridge.

The agenda from an agency meeting held Wednesday made it clear that improving capacity by widening the existing six-lane general purpose route is not an option. Aside from listed gimmicks such as "variable message signs" and "ramp metering" -- both of which are already present on the route -- the only significant options on the table involved tolling. To advance the concept of charging commuters, survey crews in unmarked vans have been photographing motorists at various locations after they had crossed into DC on the bridge over the past several weeks. The photographs allow officials to identify individual motorists using license plate recognition software and to calculate how much revenue can be raised from non-residents.

The 14th Street Bridge serves as the main access point between Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Motorists would have no realistic free alternatives to enter the city under such a proposal. This would, in effect, revive the District's commuter tax, a two percent income tax levy on workers who lived in neighboring states. Congress blocked the fee in 1973, but for the past thirty years, city officials have looked for new ways around the law. In November 2005, a federal appeals court panel considered a District government lawsuit designed to reinstate the tax. Judge John Roberts, now chief justice of the Supreme Court, joined in the unanimous ruling upholding the 1973 law.

The US Department of Transportation likewise pushed commuter taxation by handing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg $354.5 million so that he could set up an $8 tax on motorists entering Manhattan. This tax, following the lead of the London congestion charge, is expected to jump to $50 for the owners of politically unfavored vehicles like sports cars, luxury cars and SUVs.

View a copy of the toolbox document in a 149k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Toolbox of Potential Measures (Federal Highway Administration, 10/9/2007)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Washington, D.C. Big Dig

Construct a downtown underground Inner Loop with southern, eastern and northern spurs


Provide for a more comprehensive transportation network within existing urban area

Serve security with additional evacuation routes.

Provide full downtown Inner Loop “hub” feed by radial spokes serving the southwest to northeast, southern, eastern, northern, and western compass coordinates.

Design Principles

Use existing corridors and rights of ways with minimal displacement

Use underground design.

Maximize the benefit- flexibility in design allowing future additions

Staged Construction phases to finish one component for use before addressing another corridor (IOW avoid simultaneously construction on two parallel corridors).

Be integrated with classical Washington, D.C. planning, extending the legacy of the L’Enfant and McMillan plans, with roadways beneath new landscaped promenades improving local pedestrian accessibility, such as along the Anacostia River and replacing the existing divisive surface and elevated railways now trisecting NE with the Grand Arc Mall Tunnel.

Project would:

- replace the 14th Street Bridges.

- reconstruct the SW/SE Freeway underground from portal in vicinity of 14th Street SW, with c/d lanes for I-395 beneath G Street SW and 2nd and 3rd Streets SW/NW, extended to the northeast via tunnel with segment under O Street NW/NE to vicinity of railroad junction interchange

- construct the East Leg to RFK-East Capitol Street and then to the northwest as covered tunnel

- construct the I-66 K Street Tunnel with western and eastern approaches respectively beneath Pennsylvania and New York Avenues, with a Whitehurst Bypass Tunnel connecting to a Canal Road Parkway and a Three Sisters Tunnel to Virginia I-66.

- construct the proposed Kennedy Center lid with underground revisions that do not negatively impact operation ability

- construct a South Capitol Street tunnel connecting I-295 and I-395

- construct a New York Avenue NE tunnel along the railroad corridor, beneath a new landscaped lid alongside new development towards Maryland Route 50 via continuous freeway either via existing New York Avenue right of way as shown in recent DCDOT planning, or along the railroad.

- construct a WMATA Red Line/B&O Metropolitan Branch multi-model transportation tunnel lowering the existing railroads with additional capacity, with a new underground highway from New York Avenue northwards with a split at New Hampshire Avenue for a PEPCO continuation in Maryland to I-95, with the railway/highway tunnel continuing north, northwesterly to the Capital Beltway, with downtown Silver Spring and Takoma heavy rail in a new bored tunnel, and with the Red Line partially in cut and cover tunnel and partially along existing surface segments, notably the historic art deco George Avenue overpass. This serves as the foundation of a new landscaped lid that would extend southwards towards and architecturally integrated with the back side of Union Station, and extending northerly through the Brookland/Catholic University of America and Takoma areas: the Grand Arc Mall Tunnel.

Differences from earlier designs:

SW/SE Freeway fully depressed and buried, with c/d lanes for I-395 SW Freeway- Center Leg Tunnel and extension.

North Leg Re-Routed to minimize displacement of the vanguard of historic DC neighborhoods, while improving operationability, with routing shifting the eastern approach to the I-66 K Street directly under New York Avenue, as well as keeping I-66 and I-95/I-395 in separate tunnels until a point further east near the railroad junction. This latter tunnel (illustration below) would arc northeasterly beneath the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and N Street NW and the recreation field of Dunbar H.S., transitioning to a two level configuration beneath O Street before turning to follow New York Avenue. This reduces displacement from the 1971 design by some 95%, from 148 and 600+ respectively for the I-66 and I-95/I-395 North Leg segments, to only 34, while providing the gentlest turning radii of any plan over the 1971 plan and the 1996 plan which displaces 0 but has the sharpest turning radii wrapping around the back side of the Bibleway Church complex. This would be far less disruptive to maintaining traffic flow during construction then the 1996 plan.

East Leg primarily covered as tunnelway with waterfront segment beneath new pedestrian terrace, and “orb” interchange at East Capitol Street, with design including c/d lanes.

North Leg West interchange placed underground beneath new landscaped terrace-staircase to Rock Creek Park.

I-66 West Leg Deck with highway grade lowered and new parallel western carriageway.

I-395 Red Line/B&O Metropolitan Branch multi-model transportation tunnel “B&O Route”, Grand Arc Mall Tunnel, would place the railroad and the new highway beneath a new linear park that extends southward to Union Station, reducing the dwelling displacement in Brookland, D.C. from 34 (1970 revised plan) to about 14, with the southbound lanes in cut and cover along western side of railroad corridor, such as along the eastern side of 8th Street, with portal just south of Franklin Street. This would afford perhaps the most spectacular view through the windshield anywhere along I-95 if not the entire U.S. interstate system.

I-395 New Hampshire Avenue via full tunnel beneath field of the Masonic Order of the Eastern Star Home to new traffic circle at D.C./Maryland line.

Preliminary Staging:

1 Establish I-395 bypass tunnel along SW Freeway and Center Leg easterly to Maryland 50:

Downtown Route: underground C/D carriageways for SW Freeway – Center Leg respectively beneath G Street SW and 2nd and 3rd Streets SW/NW, with extension to northeast to interchange NE, plus the New York Avenue East connection to Route 50, the South Capitol Street Tunnel, and the extension from the SE Freeway at the Barney Circle Underpasses/waterfront terrace to East Capital Street.

2 Establish an east west cross town bypass tunnel connecting the Whitehurst Freeway and I-66 with Maryland Route 50 and East Capitol Street:

Northern East-West Route (North Leg): Pennsylvania Avenue/K Street Tunnel/New York Avenue Tunnel and Mt Olivett Road Tunnel to East Capitol Street, with improvements of added westerly carriageway, with grade lowering beneath a version of the urban deck design promoted as part of the Kennedy Center Access Project, connecting to a widened Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge.

Complete the Canal Road Parkway to vicinity of Foxhall Road.

Construct a Whitehurst Bypass Tunnel with a split to a Three Sisters Tunnel to I-66 in Virginia, and to the Canal Road Parkway. The area of the connections at the foot of Glover-Archibold Park and Georgetown University should be the object of a design competition.

3 Establish the SW/NE Gateways:

Reconstruct I-395 from Virginia upon new monumentally styled twin spans centered on the Louisiana Avenue axis going underground at a new traffic circle at 14th Street SW, with construction made easier with traffic diverted onto the already constructed new c/d carriageways

Construct the Grand Arc Mall Tunnel with the New Hampshire Avenue Tunnel spur connecting to the Maryland PEPCO extension to I-95

4 Fix that suburban east-west link:

Reconstruct the I-495 Capital Beltway with additional capacity for the I-270 connections largely buried beneath land that becomes part of Rock Creek Park, starting with its new carriageway just south of the existing Beltway

An option would be to supplement this with a largely deep moled tunnel for a Wisconsin Avenue corridor link

Cost Guess: $25 billion over 15 years
Stage able design would allow some defer ability flexibility.

Cut and cover tunnel construction disruptions to traffic would be minimized via top down construction, that is, construct a new surface roadway first and then excavate and finish the tunnel beneath. This could bring the time of the surface disruption to about that established planning groups would tolerate for such streetscape projects as the K Street transitway.

Volvo's Subliminal Message for Takoma Park
Grand Arc Mall Tunnel

Answering A Critic

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dig the Big Dig

By Michael Grunwald

Sunday, August 6, 2006; Page B02

Let's stipulate that graft is bad.

Spectacular cost overruns: Very bad.

Shameless pork, lousy oversight, shoddy construction: Bad, bad, bad.

Fatally shoddy construction, needless to say, is just awful.

And yet: Boston's Big Dig, on the whole, may turn out just fine.

The most expensive public-works project in U.S. history -- initially priced at $2.5 billion, now speeding past $15 billion -- has long been a national joke, an endless saga of tunnel leaks, corruption probes, scathing audits, patronage hires and politically wired builders with all the effectiveness of the first two little pigs. The joke ceased to be funny last month after 12 tons of ceiling panels collapsed in a Big Dig tunnel, crushing a car and killing a mom. There is no way to defend the negligence, profligacy and perennial mismanagement that have soiled the project's reputation.

But the low-rent scandals surrounding the megaproject have obscured its high-minded achievements: knitting together a city torn apart by bad planning, using highway funds to reduce rather than promote sprawl and harnessing the power of government to fix government mistakes of the past. The Big Dig is a throwback to a time when Americans cared about cities, and their government tried to achieve big things that didn't require the invasion of other countries.

The Big Dig, in essence, is a bipartisan effort to undo some of the damage of urban renewal. In the 1950s, well-intentioned planners bulldozed 1,000 homes and businesses to clear a path for the Central Artery elevated highway, an ugly gash through the heart of Boston that cut off the city from its waterfront. It was supposed to eliminate blight and traffic, but it had precisely the opposite effect, creating a rusty eyesore that quickly became one of America's most congested strips of asphalt.

The Big Dig demolished the Central Artery and diverted its traffic beneath the city, an engineering feat that has been chronicled in PBS and Discovery Channel documentaries. (It was done without shutting down the city, which was like performing open-heart surgery on a patient running a marathon. And all affected homes and businesses were compensated -- sometimes excessively so.) The expressway eventually will be replaced by a ribbon of urban parkland, but its absence has already reconnected the city to its long-abandoned waterfront, which is experiencing a renaissance. The project also includes a tunnel to Logan International Airport, a gorgeous bridge over the Charles River and a slew of transit projects, including new commuter rail lines to the suburbs and better subway connections within the city. And the project has transported 3.5 million cubic yards of fill to a Boston Harbor garbage dump called Spectacle Island, which has been transformed into a 121-acre recreational jewel, featuring a marina, two beaches, five miles of hiking trails and 28,000 trees.

Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor whose administration conceived the Big Dig in the 1970s, recently spent his 43rd wedding anniversary on Spectacle Island with his wife, Kitty. When he ran for president in 1988, Dukakis was often caricatured as a passionless automaton, but he didn't sound like that when he talked about the old dump. "Oh, it's a magnificent place," he said. "They've built up a real hill on the island, so you've got this incredible 360-degree view of the harbor. And it just sparkles."

It is instructive to compare the Big Dig with the recent $286 billion federal highway bill, a porkfest that focused mostly on new roads that promote sprawl in rural areas and end up increasing traffic congestion. The Big Dig is a porkfest, too -- it never would have started if the late Massachusetts Democrat Tip O'Neill hadn't been House speaker. But it will improve a highway that people already use, while reducing traffic bottlenecks through improved design and the accompanying mass-transit expansion. And it will promote smart growth instead of sprawl, generating jobs, housing and cultural amenities that won't depend on cars in the underutilized Boston waterfront.

The Big Dig, in other words, represents an embrace of the city at a time when skyrocketing gas prices and global warming are making the march of exurbia unsustainable. The project has also removed the city's worst eyesore, and reconnected its core to neighborhoods that were isolated by the Artery.

Fifteen billion dollars is still a huge amount to pay. (Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, once suggested that it would be cheaper to raise the city than to depress the Artery.) It's worth asking whether the Big Dig's remarkable streak of overruns, indictments and construction fiascos -- the most symbolic was probably the mysterious odor that forced toll collectors to wear gas masks for a while -- was inevitable for such a gigantic government undertaking. It is not a coincidence that "big government" has such a sketchy reputation. Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) apologized for making a racially insensitive comparison after he called the Big Dig a "tar baby," though no one disputed his point about the political danger of big-government projects.

But the moon mission was a big-government project, too, and that worked out all right. Those sparkling waters off Spectacle Island are the direct result of another big-government project, the $4 billion Boston Harbor cleanup, which was finished on time and under budget -- though not quite fast enough to inoculate Dukakis from George H.W. Bush's filthy-harbor ads in 1988. And there are still plenty of big-government projects with worthy goals in the works, such as the restoration of the Everglades and the reconstruction of New Orleans.

Those multibillion-dollar megaprojects are off to difficult starts as well, and in this era of small-government rhetoric and big-government spending, it's important to try to figure out why. Dukakis blames the Big Dig's problems on lax oversight of private contractors by Republican governors who didn't really believe in government. Others suggest that the project's problems flowed naturally from its grandiose design.

The larger point is that those problems will eventually be overshadowed by Boston's remarkable face-lift. Nobody remembers how much the moon mission cost, or whether it overshot its budget.

We remember that it achieved something big.


Michael Grunwald is a Washington Post staff writer.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Washington, D.C. Big Dig


Jim Riley has one of the most thought-provoking posts I've read in a long time when it comes to transportation, namely whether or not the time has come for a D.C. Big Dig:
If a D.C. Big Dig (or anything like it) is ever to be done, this is something that will take an Act of Congress and may have to be shoved down the District’s throat. Am I comfortable with that? Not really, but it is a Federal city, so there is some logic to congressional involvement in spearheading such a project. Congress should also retain oversight and the ability to appoint top officials overseeing it. Perhaps they could tap Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Chairman Matt Amorello, a former State Senator and Republican candidate for Congress from the Worcester, MA area, to head it up. Amorello took over the Big Dig in Boston and turned the troubled project around.

It’s time to stop nibbling around the edges and do something bold to attack our region’s traffic problem. Doing nothing is not an option. Too many politicians have taken that road for too long. This goes to the very heart of the traffic beast in our region. Until someone slays that dragon, all the other work that we do will only continue to forestall the inevitable return of gridlock resulting from commuters trying to get into D.C.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Volvo’s Subliminal Message for Takoma Park

Douglas A. Willinger
Takoma Park Highway Design Studio

Published in the July 1997 Takoma Voice

Beyond a possible Federal highway conspiracy with the telephone company to subliminally promote an interstate highway through Takoma Park via the telephone interchange “270 [See: True Fiction,Takoma Voice, April 1997”, what about that being suggested by the Swedish auto-maker Volvo with its new sedan, the “S70”- a likely play upon “70S”, the former name of what we would call the I-270 extension inside the Beltway, known as the “North Central Freeway” that was to run through Takoma Park, along a number of alignments proposed during the 1960s, including Sligo Creek [1963] and along Philadelphia Avenue [1964- right through the site of Takoma Towers], rejected for their destructiveness to houses and park lands.

Subliminally reminding us that this is the ultimate “inside the beltway” car for this inside the beltway highway, whether S70, 70S, 270, or perhaps 270 S, connecting ultimately with the 3rd Street Tunnel downtown, the Volvo S 70 could make for one fast ride downtown. You know it is an omen if you see any of these Volvo sedans at the Takoma Metro parking lot, or in desolate used – car storage lots on the other sides of the tracks – the logical site for this as of yet un-built expressway, employing existing rail-side industrial properties – rather than clear-cutting through neighborhoods. They bespeak of a day when Volvo sedans, filled with shoppers and car-poolers – and heavy traffic in general – traveling into and out of the District have an alternative to driving upon largely residential surface streets.

Furthermore, the advertising slogan for the S 70 suggests a future for an I-270 extension inside the Beltway, ultimately connecting with an upgraded 3rd Street Tunnel: "S70 Unlike any Volvo before it!"

That is, a future for such an I-270 extension UNLIKE those plans of the 1950s and 60s that raised so much ire, such as plans for expressways through Rock Creek Park, then along Wisconsin Avenue and Potomac Palisades, before being kicked over through Takoma Park by 1964 (needlessly cutting a new swath through long-established neighborhoods of Victorian homes and relatively old growth trees along Philadelphia Avenue, rather than hugging the existing B&O rail corridor.

By 1967, the plans for the “North Central Freeway” were reshaped with the proposed highway hugging each side of the rail corridor (with Metro). In response to citizen sentiment, a 1971 highway design consultant report [Deleuw, Cather and Harry Weese Associates, released that November] proposed placing this stretch of I-70S beneath decking between Aspen Street and Piney Branch Road. Foolishly, this plan placed both directions of I-70S along the rail corridor’s east side, thus committing the atrocity of removing the landmark Big Brown on the corner of Eastern and Piney Branch (roughly 85 feet from the tracks) [otherwise known as the Cady-Lee Mansion, at 7064 Eastern Avenue, built around 1884 and designed by the same architect who designed the official residence of the Vice President), along with the Victorian houses northwards along the Takoma Avenue facing the tracks. (All the while preserving the then mainly empty properties northwards along the railroad’s west side for building new apartments as well s “townhouses” along Blair Road. Unlike any 70S before it, any acceptable I-270S is going to have to place the proper respect—this is a historic District and a City. Give us an I-270S tunnel. Use the existing railroad corridor, judiciously widened to avoid classics including Big Brown. Place the existing railroad underground too! Maximize the local benefit by giving Montgomery College access to Blair Park, and the creation of a new Takoma Town Square (complete with a replica of the original Takoma station that was destroyed by fire in 1967) to replace that existing WALL of an elevated railway.

Modern cities around the world are working to complete their urban expressway networks, replacing the destructive planning of the past for a new generation of primarily underground roads. With tunnel portals designed by landscape artists.

Check out what Boston is doing – take a look at the new Charlestown Town Square/Highway Tunnel. How about a new grand mall stretching from Union Station to Silver Spring.

Watch out for any S 70 Volvo sedans spinning their wheels, or parked in the portion of the Metro parking lots closer to the railroad, let alone the used-car lots on the other side of the tracks!

B&O railroad corridor looking south-east from Takoma WMATA Station

B&O railroad corridor looking west from Takoma WMATA Station

I-270 Takoma Station Tunnel

Build a Washington, D.C. Big Dig

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

1971 North Central Freeway Routing Mystery

Accordingly, people in Takoma Park opposed the North Central Freeway, even with the B&O railroad route as proposed in November 1962, because it would displace a row of houses.

Indeed, this was so with both the 1966 and 1971 B&O route North Central Freeway proposals. Although the 1966 plan included a set of 3 lane tunnels alongside the railroad further to the north at the vicinity of Montgomery Community College and Blair Park, it transitions to an open depressed and then elevated along the elevated portion of the railroad where the topography falls back in the Takoma Station area, with 3 lanes on each side of the railroad. This avoids the Cady Lee Mansion, but it relocates Takoma Avenue displacing the adjoining Victorian houses. The 1971 plan replaces this with a 6 lane tunnel on the railroad's east side; this displaces the Cady Lee Mansion, with the open trench portion to the north relocating Takoma Avenue and displacing those houses.

A design with 3 or even 4 lanes on each side of the railroad as cut and cover tunnels would have preserved all of these houses, with Takoma Avenue reconstructed in its existing location atop the northbound cut and cover tunnel.

Why then was not such a plan ever drawn up?

1966 North Central Freeway Routing Mystery

Why does the 1966 plan adopt an alignment with greater parkland impacts at Fort Totten then the 1964 plan?

1964 plan which follows the railroad at Fort Totten

1966 plan which veers to the west at Fort Totten

Why add an objection that was lacking in the earlier plan?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

B&O "Y" Route Convergence Critique

1966 B&O Route Low Level I-70S-I-95 "Y" route

It was under capacity: committing the cardinal sin regarding the number of lanes, with a lesser number fed by a greater number.

A 6 lane upper left I-70S, and an 8 lane upper right I-95, should converge into 14 lanes, not the mere 12 of the 1966 design (with a questionable 1 lane drop for I-95 at its ramp connections towards North Capitol Street), that would quickly funnel into 10.

I-70S-I-95 convergence
1966 B&O Route Low Level

This set of design defects was shared by the 1964 plan, which also fed more lanes into fewer. The 1964 plan had 6 lanes apiece from the 8 lane main roadways of I-70S and I-95 converge into 12 lanes quickly narrowing to only 10 (plus the 2 lane reversible median roadway that had not been planned with connections to the I-95 Northeast Freeway), with both I-95 and I-70S having a 1 lane drop and pickup, the former for the North Capital connections, the latter with “round the corner” connections between both highways to exchange their southbound to northbound traffic, e.g. southbound I-95 to northbound I-70S and southbound I-70S to northbound I-95: a connection that.

Provided that traffic patterns would allow the lane drops, the combined 6 or 8 +2 I-70S and 6 or 8 I-95, would ideally require the sum of these numbers: 14 to 18 lanes.

As per the 1964 design with its 2 lane median roadway for I-70S (but not I-95), this would translate to a 6/2/6 or 8/2/8 cross section, or perhaps a duel barrel design, with a 4/4/2/4/4 configuration.

To accommodate this number of lanes, the existing 6-8 lane Center Leg would require the addition of an 8 lane East Leg, plus parallel cut and cover tunnels beneath 2nd and 3rd Streets NW/SW along the Center Leg, connected to a new preferably underground SW/SE Freeway with additional capacity for the SW Freeway, and to a new South Capitol Street corridor tunnel.

I-70S-I-95 convergence
1964 Route #11 (Railroad East-Sligo)

Combined with the respective inside the Beltway I-70S and I-95 interchanges with Maryland Route 410 would provide a useful bypass of normally 4 lane 410’s 2 lane bottleneck through Takoma Park. However the latter plans delete this feature.

It would have been interesting to see consideration of greater capacity, with a design capable of as much as 24 lanes, and with separate express carriageways, encased in a multi-cell cut and cover tunnel. Curiously, such a design was not drawn up, despite the utility of the cut and cover segments, particularly if such would bury and stack the express carriageways.

Such a cut and cover tunnel would accomplish and reconcile greater human activity within the existing footprint.

It would cost very little money compared to the various war budgets, and would serve the idea of greater evacuation route capacity that some within the government gave lip service to after 911.

Friday, May 11, 2007

1966 B and O Route Design Persuit

This railroad “Y” Route concept for the Washington, D.C. North Central Freeway, recommended by the November 1, 1962 “Recommendations for Transportation in the National Capital Region: A Report to the President for transmittal to Congress” by the National Capital Transportation Agency, under U.S. President John F. Kennedy, only become the object of the supplementary (the 2nd) North Central Freeway engineering feasibility in late 1966. That 1966 Supplementary Study explored four variations of this B/O “Y” route concept:

· (1) High-Level option: Elevated freeway over or immediately adjacent to existing Railroad, permitting lower lying commercial and industrial buildings to remain in place under the facility.

· (2) Low-Level option: Freeway generally at or below the Railway, located immediately adjacent to the Railroad. .

· (3) Freeway below the Railroad grade, with the Railroad and transit facilities supported on a structure over the Freeway.

· (4) Freeway approximating the existing Railroad alignment and grade, with the Railroad and transit constructed beneath the Project.

Options 1 and 2 would preserve the existing railroad, while options 3 and 4 would remove and replace it.

It recommended option #2: a “low level” route alongside the existing railroad.

It deleted the reversible median roadway that was a feature of the 1964 North Central Freeway plan (but not its connecting I-95 Northeast Freeway), and that for Virginia’s I-95 (I-395) Shirley Highway.

It was further recommended that the depressed portion in Brookland near Catholic University of America be covered (with what’s been called a lid, cap, or deck), effectively making that segment a cut and cover tunnel, with the space atop devoted to new housing and park and recreation space. It includes an illustration showing such a highway cover extending from the north end of the main Catholic University of America campus, southwards of the Brookland/CUA train station.

Such a cut and cover tunnel would additionally shield the area from noise and pollution.