Friday, April 30, 2010

The Fallacy of NOT Building D.C. I-95

Questioning Reality


That things where not what they were popularly presented as being was something I began thinking about in 1972, at the age of 9, traveling with my family by automobile to Washington, D.C., and first encounter this paradox with regard to the I-95 ‘stumps’.

Supposedly, I-95 was stopped at the Beltway as a ‘white mans roads through black mans’ homes’.

Yet clearly juxtapositioned with this stopped highway is its physically clear existing right of way of a 250 foot wide power line right of way pointing towards this Union Station’s northern B&O Metropolitan Branch railroad industrial corridor.

I-95 ‘stub’ roadways just inside the Beltway, alongside parallel PEPCO right of way.

That was some ‘white mans road through black man’s home’ with its wide open 250 foot wide PEPCO power line right of way extending to some 1600 feet from the DC line at New Hampshire Avenue, before continuing another 1600 feet to connect with the B&O Railroad route.

Un-built inside the Beltway & D.C. I-95 via the PEPCO-B&O RR Route,

National Archives II at right

This is THE logical route for inside the Beltway I-95, for its use of existing right of way and for its proximity to New Hampshire Avenue and by extension the east west Missouri Avenue providing superior serviceability into northern Washington, D.C..

As planned by 1973, this route for inside the Beltway I-95 would have taken about 0 dwellings in Maryland, and clusters of 23 and 5 near the north side of New Hampshire Avenue, just inside D.C. flanking the open field of the Masonic Eastern Star Home at 6000 New Hampshire Avenue, and then another 34 at the western edge of Brookland.

The numbers are so low because of the extensive re-use of existing corridors and right of ways- namely the PEPCO right of way and the B&O Metropolitan Brach RR corridor with its lightly developed industrial strip providing the space to grade an 8 lane freeway, with little need to displace residential dwellings- with that for the I-95 segment of the B&O North Central Freeway limited to 34, as per a 1970 DCDPW design revision reducing it from the 69 of the 1966 design.

Completing I-95 all the way from its ‘stumps’ at the Beltway to New York Avenue, as designed by 1973 would have displaced a total of some 57 dwellings- a figure comparable to that taken for constructing the – mile long Inter Counter Connector – miles to the north in Maryland, or the reconstruction of the I-95/I-495 Beltway interchange in Virginia – while serving some 220,000 vehicles of people daily (the 1960 design meanwhile would have displaced some 1,095 alone).

See how the Washington Post LIES about this route:

Completing its continuations to the portions of the Washington, D.C. that were built – the I-95 North Leg East connecting to the I-95 Center Leg, and the I-295 East Leg connecting to the SE Freeway – as designed by 1971 would have respectively displaced 600+ and 172 dwellings.

This is where the most dwellings would have been torn down (and replaced with new housing).

Yet the biggest protests against “white mans roads through black mans homes” occurred at the site of the proposed I-266 Three Sisters Bridge alongside Georgetown University (that would have displaced 0 dwellings), and at the area of the B&O Route I-95 North Central Freeway in Brookland alongside Catholic University of America, that would have displaced 34 as per the 1970s and later planning, or 69 as per the 1966 plan.

Meanwhile, such issues of mitigation as the increasing use of the existing corridors – earlier planning took far more of a lets cut an all new swath through dwellings and parklands – and that of cut and cover tunneling, containing noise and pollution while reclaiming surface land for other uses, were oddly “forgotten.” (As a historian of the planning of Washington, D.C.’s – discuss matter of finding nothing about the 1966 plan’s proposal to cover the I-95 North Central Freeway alongside the main campus of Catholic University of America, nor any objection when the cover was deleted.)

Things took on a clearly Hegelian dialectics turn by the mid 1960s with the political undermining of the B&O route that had been proposed by the November 1, 1962 Kennedy Administration report.

1959 proposal with 3 separate northern radial freeways

1962 Kennedy Administration proposed Washington, D.C. interstate highway system with 2 into 1 “Y” route along the B&O RR

Initial North Central Freeway study: 1963-1964- making a mockery of JFK’s B&O Route NCF

John F, Kennedy letter June 1, 1963

“…I noted that certain portions of the highway network within the District of Columbia required further study. The guidelines which I believe should be followed in this re-examination are as follows:

The re-examination should focus upon the sections of the highway plans which have from the beginning been the most uncertain and the most controversial- the North Leg of the Inner Loop and the Three Sisters Bridge, both of which involve the manner in which necessarily involve a re-study of those additional portions of the plan which are directly affected by the conclusions reached in the re-examination…”

“ the very large part of the highway program which is not under study can go forward as scheduled.”- John F. Kennedy letter June 1, 1963

Not included in the list of the controversial sections of the highway plans, and thus amongst those which 'can go forward as scheduled' would include the B&O Route North Central Freeway.

LINK- the subversion of JFK’s B&O North Central Freeway

LINK- North Central Freeway Most Needed Most Botched

LINK- North Central Freeway 1964 Highway Routing Mystery

Illustrations: Sam Abbott 1964

The 1964 ‘recommended route’ (Railroad East-Sligo) would have displaced 471 such houses within Takoma Park, Maryland, for the I-70S segment; this town was established by a developer Benjamin Franklin Gilbert in 1883 along the then recently constructed B&O Metropolitan Branch RR into northern Washington. D.C.; the 1.1 mile segment of this 1964 plan had it deviate ¼ of a mile away from said RR upon a longer more out of the way route then simply following the RR: far more invasive then necessary for creating the North Central Freeway.

The negative popular response that would subside with the subsequent supplementary North Central Freeway engineering study released in November 1966 (that essentially followed the 1962 Kennedy plan), would be re-kindled by various officials waffeling between the 1966 and 1964 designs, as late as 1968; included in that was the supposed highway 'advocacy' of the Federal City Council with its highly questionable prioritization against delaying highway construction, hence meaning supporting the 1964 plan over the 1966 plan in order to start construction a few months sooner. That amount of time, would be sufficient to reverse the official positions of the U.S. National Capital Planning Commission, and the D.C. City Council.

Letter to Maryland Governor Agnew, 1967 on how waffling on North Central Freeway planning was inciting opposition.

Citizens of Takoma Park and Silver Spring had reason for their demonstrations of bitter dissatisfaction with the highway authorities of your predecessor's administration. After we had been given reason to believe that the causes of our protests had been in at least some part overcome, the matter now threatens to break into renewed bitterness. I am sure you will wish to avoid this as much as many of us.

We showed that the methods of traffic projections which were claimed to justify the North Central were fallacious, the results in error by as much as 400 percent. Our contention was tacitly admitted in "re-studied" versions of the proposal made public last year, sharply reducing the original plan of 5 lanes each way.

The re-studied proposal also tacitly admitted that the route first proposed was needlessly, even carelessly if not ruthlessly, destructive of our communities. The new version hugged both sides of the existing Baltimore and Ohio railway, thus avoiding a new swath of destruction to divide our communities and sharply reducing the number of homes to be taken.

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.

As Governor of our State, you are in position better than we as private citizens to require straightforward answers from the Bureau of Public Roads. You can also insure that the Maryland State Roads Commission refuses to go along with divisive proposals which these communities will regard as cause for new protests.

You can make yourself even better appreciated here by doing both, and by supporting the earliest and most extensive development of rail rapid transit. Will you do so?

The North Central Freeway segment through Takoma Park, Maryland was for I-70S (I-270); the I-95 segment was further south.

Such mis-managment of the highway program made perfect sense when the route is along the railroad passing alongside Catholic University of America, and with the most logical connecting segment to the power line right of way -- the PEPCO route officially unconsidered until 1971 and only adopted for a few months in 1973 prior to the extension's outright cancellation that July -- running through the Masonic Eastern Star property at 6000 New Hampshire Avenue NE.)

LINK- RR Industry law firm Covington & Burling paid ECTC to riot at DC City Council

The only place along the route where I am aware of a solitary tree standing in the middle of the route is that within the field of the Masonic Eastern Star Home at 6000 New Hampshire Avenue NE

Forgotten in all of the group ‘think’ regarding doctrinaire hatred of urban freeways and love of urban railway REGARDLESS OF DESIGN*, is the latent monumental beauty expressed by Union Station as the headpiece of a northeastern linear park atop a set of railway and highway tunnels literally pointed at the head of the beast

(*aka the existing status quo that an underground highway with parkland atop is bad but placing the traffic simply upon the surface streets or way out on the Beltway is good, along with that of splitting the poorer areas of DC apart by surface railways, along with a disproportionate amount of the traffic through SE of the Anacostia River.)

I call it ‘Grand Arc’

Alas, the political pyramid favors blotting this potential majestic thrust in favor of apparently piece-meal appearing projects, for this helps obscure comprehending JD’s ‘King of the world’, by creating the illusion that the government is too weak to organize its Capital City. Note not only the new buildings atop, but also alongside, particularly at the picture’s bottom.

Urban Highways Underground

'Artspace' Demolition Special April 30 2010 Groundbreaking

Blocks the right of way of the Grand Arc Mall Tunnel-
mis-located "artspace" project blocks public space

Also see: The Fallacy of NOT Building D.C. I-95

Dance Place

OPEN LETTER to artspace:

The new artspace center in Washington, D.C. is too close to the railroad corridor- DC's only major transportation corridor, and is in space needed for a multi-model solution for handling our transportation needs:

Please let this serve as formal notice that your project is mis-located (should be re-located further from the corridor), and that in its current location, it should be demolished- as should any such developments placed too close to the corridor.

I understand that our government has totally gone apostate in defending the public interest regarding transport.

However, as a private citizen I want you to know what you are doing by supporting this unconscionable chock of this important transportation corridor.

Please inform anyone involved in this project of its demolition special nature.

I totally support the use of eminent domain for public use to remove the mistake that ground was broken for today.

Either relocate the project, or be emotionally prepared to see its demolition- assuming that we get a government for the people rather then the elites that we have allowed to abort the South Capitol Mall.


Douglas A. Willinger
A Trip Within The Beltway

Be sure to explore the tags "North Central Freeway' and "Highway Routing Mysteries"

8th Street NE facing south, with lightly developed rail-side industrial properties at left

Project was assisted by the D.C. Mayor Fenty.

Jennifer: Tell us a little more about what the Brookland Artspace Lofts in D.C. will feature.

Heidi: It will have open interiors, underground parking, performance areas, wide hallways and large elevators so the artists can easily transport their artwork around the building. It will also feature a mosaic tile installation that will be provided by community volunteers, and a “green” roof that will be installed as a community service project.

Jennifer: I know that you worked closely with the D.C. government to make this project happen.

Heidi: That’s right. Discussions about the project began in 2006, when the leaders of Artspace worked with the D.C. Department of Housing and Development, then subsequently with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (pictured right).

The government had developed a policy that would direct D.C. agencies to work together to create and fund art projects that act as an effective tool for economic revitalization. The Brookland Artspace Lofts are a result of that initiative.

Jennifer: I understand that the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will provide $10.4 million in stimulus funding. Is that correct?

Heidi: Yes, and that includes $1 million in low-income-housing tax credits for the role Artspace is playing in revitalizing the Brookland neighborhood.

This is not the first time that Fenty has committed an act of planning malfeasance; another was the "Elevation 314" apartment house built within the corridor right of way zone (of this same railroad) .

Fenty is a complete idiot with pushing/promoting/accepting these mis-placed development projects. If he is so blind to something as apparent as this, how can people trust his judgment overall?

Of course when this planning malfeasance is brought to his attention, he can only say "shut up" - as there is no defense for this planning malfeasance.

Alas, there is no prosecution of officials such as Fenty, who betray the public's right of way interest.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Planning in a Vacuum- CSX-SE Freeway Tunnelization

With Virginia Avenue to be torn up anyway, what about something more comprehensive?

How will the CSX tunnel expansion project affect a future tunnel project to replace the existing elevated SW-SE Freeway?

Proximity Demand Coordination- yet were where the Feds?

Why was this corridor’s planning languishing as EYA and others rushed in to develop up against the right of way?

Note the close proximity of the SE Freeway’s transition from elevated berm to open viaduct in order to cross the mouth of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, with the connections at left with the interchange with the Center Leg and the SW Freeway.

Note how the viaduct portion over South Capitol and New Jersey Streets is entirely south of the CSX railroad, before swinging to the railroad’s north side at 1st Street SE

That was how the original 1955 Inner Loop design had it, shown here with the original East Leg along 11th Street.

This 1961 rendering below at its top shows an un-adopted routing of the SE Freeway, along the Virginia Avenue railroad tunnel’s southern side. I have not yet seen a rendering of this option for the segment further east (with this rendering failing to show even the connections to the 11th Street Bridges[s]).

Given their proximity and grade requirements – freeways can tolerate 5-7 % while heavy rail can only take 1% -- and the short distances to the 11th Street Bridges – the under-grounding of the SE Freeway is surely a project to coordinate with that for reconstructing the railway, such as that now announced to start construction by 2011.

Here’s a close of the 1955 design.

Here’s what was built.

And here’s a close up where the freeway crosses the RR at the start of the latter’s tunnel

Note the proximity of the support columns for the SE Freeway viaduct.

Photos by Matt Johnson

The CSX Project:

Reconstruct the Virginia Avenue railroad tunnel with greater height and width; digging it lower and widening it with a temporary trench to the south that is later filled in.


- Dig a trench about 25 feet wide along the existing tunnel’s southern side for diverting the trains throughout the reconstruction
- Remove the roof and at least one of the lateral walls, excavate the floor 3 or 4 feet lower and widen to 40 feet.
- Route trains into reconstructed tunnel and fill the trench

Not yet known to me is:

- whether or not both of the existing tunnel walls are replaced/relocated
- whether the center-line shall remain the same, or is shifted
- the method of construction, particularly the method of securing the ‘temporary’ trench- perhaps a less expensive yet noisier to construct pile driving instead of a more expensive yet quieter to build and more permanent slurry wall?


Facilitate the reconstruction-restoration of Virginia Avenue with a well thought overall plan encompassing the CSX project and a future underground SE Freeway

According to this communiqué from Capitol Hill:

- The District comprehensive plan stipulates that the railroad tunnel expansion should only occur in conjunction with the tunnelization of the existing parallel SE Freeway

Since this segment of the SE Freeway is an elevated berm-way, framed by vertical concrete retaining walls, its burial will require some space, particularly while maintaining traffic to and from the reconstructed 11th Street Bridges and the SW Freeway.

Apparently CSX shall pursue this tunnel augmentation project as inexpensively as possible, meaning:

- open trench construction (without a street deck), except for the cross streets
- replacing only one of the existing tunnel’s lateral walls, which given that era’s generous ‘over-engineering’ could be incorporated into the reconstructed tunnel, hence shifting the mainline fully to one side or the other.

With the ‘temporary’ trench to the south and the option of replacing one or both of the existing tunnel walls, the likeliest option is that of shifting the center-line to the north, closer to the elevated SE Freeway, using the existing southern RR tunnel wall to segregate the trench from the RR tunnel construction.

But given the cost premium of underground construction particularly with excavation, is simply configuring this project via filling in this space really its most cost effective and productive potential use?

What consideration has been given to any sort of coordination between the future stated goal of an under grounded SE Freeway tunnel from South Capitol Street to 8th Street with the CSX project?

Likewise, what about that concerning the just started 11th Street Bridges Project?

Let alone the accompanying mandatory project to so bury the SW Freeway, given that its meeting with the SE Freeway is an elevated viaduct, meaning that any CSX-SE Freeway Tunnel project would otherwise require its SE Freeway Tunnel be built while retaining the existing elevated berm-way SE Freeway until the realization of the full SW-SE Freeway Tunnelization Project. Clearly thus they must be planned all together, yet where’s any indication of that?

Photo by Matt Johnson
SE Freeway berm-way at left

Instead we have a situation with questionable decisions to extend new real estate development – aka buildings full of peoples’ dwellings – in extra close proximity to such major transportation corridors. The plethora of simply bad decisions as:

- Failing to reserve a strip of the Cappersburg properties along the along the area closest to the Virginia Avenue RR tunnel

- Failing to reserve a strip of the properties along the entire southern side of the SW Freeway, especially between 9th and 7th Streets with the 1999 construction of the ‘Capital Square’ townhouse project.

- Approving the ‘Capital Square’ project with its northernmost row of 28 townhouses- complication the future under-grounding of the SW Freeway via creating a right of way band pinch.

- Selling the interchange land for the northbound I-395 Tunnel on ramp between Massachusetts Avenue and K Street for the demolition special "Golden Rule" apartment house, blocking the on-rap and potentially creating a dangerous migratory pattern of elderly citizens carrying home their groceries from the nearest food market - also named 'Golden Rule' for the association with the Bibleway Church at the northern end of I-395.

- Allowing the transportation corridor reconstruction to lag behind decisions by entities as EYA to construct new dwellings

It is hardly a flattering indication of those within the government.

Given this track record, anyone is going to have to ask if the CSX project, in its current form, present the most optimal ‘defragging’ of this right of way- or might its cost savings as so configured, be more than offset by it increasing the costs of the SE Freeway Tunnel project?

SE Freeway Physical Realities:

Burying the SE Freeway is going to require some space, particularly with the need to maintain traffic throughout the construction to and from the reconstructed 11th Street Bridges.

Along its southern side is Virginia Avenue, with the RR tunnel beneath.

It has underpasses for cross streets.

It connects to its west to the SW Freeway, with the configuration being an elevated viaduct before a slightly depressed segment between 7th and 9th Streets Sw

It connects to its east with the 11th Street Bridges with a brief continuation to a set of tunnels beneath Barney Circle where it is truncated since 1974.

Situate the CSX Project to facilitate SE Freeway under-grounding, while preserving the easements for its connections to an under grounded SW Freeway, the already underground Center Leg and a future South Capitol Street Tunnel.

This is essentially ‘defragging’ the existing corridor right of way by assembling the needed contiguous space for constructing the future eastbound cut and cover SE Freeway tunnel before demolishing the existing elevated freeway to construct the westbound twin.

Such a stage ability is required to reduce construction impacts, and is subverted by the government’s apparent inability to just say no to developer projects located closer and closer to a right of way (such as the infamously placed row of EYA Capitol Square townhouses alongside the SW Freeway).

Basic options include:

- Cut and cover CSX tunnel shifted south, re-using existing northern tunnel wall, creating space for future eastbound cut and cover SE Freeway tunnel

- Cut and cover CSX tunnel shifted north, re-using existing southern tunnel wall, and thereby in the median space for future cut and cover SE Freeway tunnel

- Drilled railroad tunnel directly beneath eastbound lanes of SE Freeway berm, allowing full Virginia Avenue right of way for the future eastbound SE Freeway Tunnel

- Full Virginia Avenue right of way cut and cover tunnel accommodating the expanded railway and future eastbound SE Freeway tunnel

These decisions can’t be avoided.

Capitol Hill communities will need to be vigilant, including being fully willing to sue the government for failing to plan.