Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Barney Circle Freeway & Bridge Project

The Barney Circle Freeway project was officially planned from 1983 into 1996.

It consisted of a 6 lane eastern extension from the SE Freeway underpasses beneath Barney Circle at Pennsylvania Avenue SE to a split with a 4 lane mainline continuing over the river to connect with D.C. 295, and with 1 lane per direction on a roadway to R.F.K. Stadium and the East Capitol Street Bridge. An earlier design had that with 2 lanes per direction, which was in explicitly scaled back to serve fewer people.


It was the outcome of a study that had considered 4 alternatives:

Alternative 1: A new freeway alignment connecting the SE Freeway with East Capital Street. (RFK Stadium Access Road Route)

Alternative 2: A new freeway alignment connecting the SE Freeway with a bridge across the Anacostia to connect with the Anacostia Freeway. (New Freeway Bridge)

Alternative 1/2: An incorporation of elements from Alternatives 1 and 2, with a freeway extension from the SE Freeway via the above mentioned bridge, plus a set of ramps just before this bridge, for a connection to East Capital Street. (RFK Stadium Access Road Route with New Freeway Bridge)

Alternative 3: New ramps at the Pennsylvania Avenue/Anacostia Freeway interchange to accommodate southbound Anacostia Freeway traffic to the SE Freeway, and SE Freeway traffic to the northbound Anacostia Freeway. (New fly-over ramps at Pennsylvania Avenue to Anacostia Freeway)

This evaluation by the DCDPW, the Federal Highway Authority and the Barney Circle Steering Committee eliminated the following alternatives:

Transit option: Metro rail and bus would not meet the total measure of traveling needs, nor alleviate truck traffic on local streets.

2 variations of a tunnel option, due to technical design difficulties associated with geological and hydro logic conditions, severe construction impacts, the need to accommodate existing utilities hence requiring expensive design solutions and visually obtrusive ventilation shafts.

6 variations of interchange modifications involving new ramps at the Sousa and the 11th Street Bridges because they would require either (a) taking active developed parkland and recreation areas; (b) displaced a maximum of 15 businesses and 148 residences at the Pennsylvania Avenue/Anacostia interchange; (c) substantially impact other roadways or bridges with large structures that would still not ideally handle projected traffic volumes; and (d) focus visual impacts upon residential and commercial areas next to already heavily traveled freeway sections.

This 1983 Selected Alternative was the result of a study of FEIS alternatives initiated in 1981 by the D.C. Department of Public Works.

It was the sole freeway project planned for Washington, D.C. for about a decade and a half following the wholesale freeway "de-mappings" of I-70S, I-95, I-66, Theoretical I-66/Route 50, I-295 and I-695.


It became the object of a law suit in 1993 arguing parkland impacts including the disturbance of contaminated soil. This suit was filed by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund against FHWA to get basic information about how this project would affect their lives, and alleging that FHWA violated the Clean Air Act, Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act (which prohibits the construction of federal highways through park land where prudent and feasible alternatives exist). According to Fern Shepard, an attorney with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, the Barney Circle Connector was
"a proposed federally-financed freeway that will run adjacent to the Anacostia River, cutting through neighborhoods and park lands in southeast Washington, D.C. Ms. Shepard explained that southeast Washington is overwhelmingly African American and middle-to-low-income. The city's highest poverty rates are in this area. In her opinion, the construction of this freeway would have many severe environmental impacts, including:

Excavating 70,000+ tons of lead-contaminated soil adjacent to residential neighborhoods; Adding 80,000+ cars and trucks, driving at freeway speeds directly adjacent to residential neighborhoods. This will add substantial air pollution (about 170 tons a day) and noise pollution to these neighborhoods and decrease property values; Paving over 17 acres of scarce park land and adding the sixth interstate bridge over the Anacostia River, the most endangered urban river in the country; and

According to Ms. Shepard, this freeway construction was unnecessary since the missing freeway links can be supplied with low-cost, low-traffic, neighborhood- and park-protecting ramps. Ms. Shepard explained that the Barney Circle Connector would cost the federal treasury more than $200 million to construct, at a time when the District's fiscal crisis already has resulted in severe cutbacks in city bus service and increases in transit fares. With the assistance of Joseph Passonneau, recipient of the 1993 Civil Engineering Award for Most Outstanding Highway Design, an alternative plan was developed, featuring overhead ramps at the Pennsylvania Avenue SE interchange with the Anacostia Freeway to the south of the Anacostia River, which Ms. Shepard is persuaded would address the FHWA's concerns regarding missing highway links; at a fraction of the cost of the Barney Circle Connector, disturbing less than two acres (as compared to 17 acres) of park land without bisecting the park; it would not require the excavation of hazardous wastes; and it would not disturb homes or businesses (something also true with the Barney Circle Connecter). The lawsuit against the Project would receive further assistance by the Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation, the National Resource Defense Council, and the prestigious Washington, D.C. law firm Covington and Burling."
The project had the support of D.C. Mayor Barry who submitted in October 1996, the first of several of its contracts to the City Council for its approval.


In response to Mayor Barry's submission of construction contracts, Council-member Chavous, with support from Councilmember Mason, introduced a bill to disapprove, which passed on December 3, 1996 by a Council vote of 12-1 for a $15 million contract.

By March 5, 1997 the Barney Circle Connector was declared politically dead by D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who announced her support for its cancellation and the transfer of its funding for other things.

Barney Circle Bridge underpass to R.F.K. Stadium


Kofi Bofah said...

The term "expressway" and DC is a joke.

An oxymoron, really...

Pentagon City Guy said...

This freeway would be a godsend to the tens of thousands of us who are forced to sit the extra 30 minutes a day stuck in traffic on Penn Avenue to cross the river. The failure of this project is testimony of one of the major things "wrong" with DC.

I do not believe for a second that this bridge has any positive or negative effect on the use of the DC Metro Bus & Rail system. If you're driving, you're driving.

Where was the Sierra club when the Nationals stadium was being put up? That entire neighborhood contains the same soil makeup on boths sides of the Anacostia. For $200 Million, they should be able to put the freeway in a tunnel.

By the way, no boats travel up the Anacostia past this point (Penn Ave) anyway, the draft is too shallow.