Sunday, September 28, 2014

Getting Over Upon Society at Large and the Less Affluent

About the wealthiest unjustly placing the burden elsewhere
The Hill East stance against a Massachusetts Avenue Bridge and an extension of the SE Freeway along the west side of the Anacostia River that could serve as a traffic alternative to the obsolete Anacostia Freeway along that river’s east side, is a textbook example of a wealthier area getting over upon a less affluent area to the east.

That freeway – the Anacostia Freeway – the sole continuous route Washington DC freeway, was constructed between 1956 and 1964.  It may have displaced few residences.  But it was built with an almost entirely surface and elevated design that locally separates the neighborhoods to the east- notably Washington, D.C.’s least affluent from the waterfront, with little more than some lip service to portions of it being rebuilt in a tunnel configuration as local mitigation.

Such is alas but a link in a chain of a series of instances of wealthier areas within Washington DC getting over upon less affluent areas.

- The Failure to build the Northwest Freeway entering Washington, D.C. along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor.

This would have been a freeway ideally along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor in Bethesda MD and upper NW to the area of Tenley Circle, before entering a tunnel- necessary for the topographical transition to downtown.

The NW Freeway appears in planning documents during the latter 1950s, including an engineering study in 1957.  That study had two main options, one along Canal Road, the other along Wisconsin Avenue to Tenley Circle and continuing south via the Glover Archibald Park corridor.  Each had variants directly to the Whitehurst Freeway or an inland option along the Whitehaven Park corridor.

1957 NW Freeway Report

The Wisconsin Avenue corridor option had the best serviceability for that existing commercial corridor, being located roughly midway between Canal Road and Rock Creek Park, and connecting directly with the eastern spur of I-70S (I-270), taking advantage of the wide corridor by Medical Center.   As that corridor was to be extensively redeveloped to accommodate WMATA red line induced transit oriented development, it would have fit largely if not primarily within the footprint of this redevelopment, particularly in downtown Bethesda and Friendship Heights.

 1965 local downtown Bethesda, MD
NW Freeway route proposal

As envisioned by 1957-1959 planning, the NW Freeway would extend southward from the MD-DC line to a set of cut and cover tunnel underpasses beneath Tenley Circle with the possibility of an underground connection with an east-west intermediate 'Fort Drive' Beltway segment along Nebraska Avenue.   According to the 1957 study, that segment from the MD-DC line to Tenley Circle area would have displaced 74 residences.

A failure to overturn an agreement prohibiting a road allowing trucks through Glover Archibald would lead to a search for an alternative route for the southern NW freeway extension, with a brief consideration of a 'Cathedral Heights Tunnel’ concept roughly paralleling that park.  That might have facilitated this extension with likely little or no residential displacement, and relatively unobtrusively, through that wealthy area, upon a direct route to the Whitehurst freeway corridor along the Georgetown waterfront.  It could have been done as a deep drilled tunnel, or as a box tunnel along a ridge overlooking Glover Archibald with a pedestrian promenade – I have yet to see any details.  But was nonetheless dropped.

By 1958, planning had subsequently turned to a ''Cross Park Freeway” option- a less direct route turning due east starting though a somewhat less wealthy area and subsequently an even less wealthy area-  that instead turned due east to cross over Rock Creek Park, landing in Mt Pleasant as an open trench along Adams Mill Road before turning south to meet the Inner Loop North Leg – the east-west crosstown D.C. I-66 – at an interchange at 14th and U Streets.

That option would have started with a split just south of Tenley Circle, with an Glover Archibald Parkway that would have prohibited trucks, and with the Cross Park Freeway largely or entirely in a deep open trench through the Sidwell Friends School area and along the northern side of Tilden Street in the Cleveland Park neighborhood area, displacing few if any residences to the west of Rock Creek Park, and perhaps about 1,000 to the east of Rock Creek Park.

1959 NW Freeway

By 1959, this option was refined for the segment west of Rock Creek Park: with open trench replaced with deep bored tunnel from east of Wisconsin Avenue to west of Reno Road emerging as a trench paralleling the north side of Tilden Street NW and crossing beneath Connecticut Avenue as a cut and cover tunnel.   Meanwhile to the east of Rock Creek Park, NO tunnel options are even mentioned in this planning, which there considers only two options: a trench with retaining walls or one with sloped embankments.

While the impacts to the east of Rock Creek Park were by far the severest, about 1,000 in Mt. Pleasant versus perhaps none in Cleveland Park and 74 along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, it was opposition in those latter areas which had the greatest mitigation via tunnels that got away with effectively stopping any further official consideration of a NW freeway, via a 1960 act of the U.S. Congress banning design consideration of any freeways to the west of Rock Creek Park.


- The Failure to Build B&O D.C. I-95

Meanwhile, planning considerations would continue for the two remaining northern radial Washington, D.C. freeways shown in the 1959 Mass Transportation plan study report- each of which then as planned would have displaced far more residence than the upper NW portion of the NW Freeway - the North Central and North East Freeways respectively along Georgia Avenue and 11th Streets.  Of these two freeways only the North East, which was to serve as I-95 had had an engineering study by 1960.  That study - A Report on location: The Northeast Freeway, Washington,D.C., June 1960 Prepared fot the Board of Commissioners by The ClarkesonEngineering Co., Inc., Consulting Engineers, Inc. Boston, Albany andWashington, and the District of Columbia Department of Highways - considered three main route options.  These were:
2 variants to the east, roughly as the 1959 Mass Transportation Plan envisioned for I-95, designated options A and B, respectively displacing 792 and 732 residences;

2 variants to the west, roughly where the 1959 Mass Transportation Plan envisioned for the North Central along Georgia Avenue, designated options F and G, respectively displacing --- and ---, with F including a 4,200 foot long drilled tunnel segment

3 variants in the area between, partially paralleling the B&O railroad, designated C, D and E respectfully displacing 1,095, 1,117 and 922 residences- with the latter two to the railroad’s west immediately alongside CUA

1960 I-95 Report

The partial B&O routes (C, D and E) plus route F would have entered D.C. via a route segment through the Catholic Sisters College neighborhood, while option G would have employed the existing Fort Park Drive right of way – already in existence for the planned but unbuilt Fort Drive circumferential parkway/intermediate beltway.

Paradoxly, this 1960 reports figures list the greatest residential displacement figures for the options along the B&O railroad -  the sole such corridor in northern Washington D.C. and such affording the least potential displacement impact - though the one running alongside perhaps the largest piece of private property there: Catholic University of America.

Nonetheless, while selecting the variant that would run furthest of the two away from Catholic University, without explaining the route’s turning eastward away from the railroad through western Brookland neighborhoods south of Michigan and Monroe Streets and west of 10th Street, requiring the removal of historic Brooks Mansion, this 1960 report recommended the partial B&O route option, avoiding the introduction of an all new local separation No reason is given why such a route would not have instead simply continue immediately along the railroad’s eastern side.

With early 1960s Washington DC highway planning discussions noting the logic of this centrally located B&O railroad industrial corridor, the planning by late 1962 turned to the concept of a combined North Central-North East Freeway routing along the B&O railroad corridor, with an I-70S B&O North Central Freeway and an I-95 North East Freeway converging into an I-95 B&O North Central Freeway.  With the open opposition of Roman Catholic Church officials to the ‘Catholic Sisters’ route for the northernmost I-95 North East Freeway segment in Washington D.C. leading to its re-routing via the Fort park Drive right of way entering D.C. between Gallatin and Galloway Streets, the combined B&O-Fort Drive I-70S/I-95 ‘Y’ route became a main component of the November 1962 transportation study of theAdministration of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

"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."


A study report was due out in the summer of 1963 but would not then appear.   Owing to President Kennedy's interest in reduced impact highways, and given the 1963 and 1965 reports on the then proposed Inner Belt in Boston (the area where Kennedy was from) which featured underground partially enclosed semi tunnel freeways beneath park promenades, he may have intended such a design along the B&O railroad in NE Washington, D.C. particularly along the segment running alongside Catholic University of America.

1963-1965 Boston Inner Belt Proposal

Whatever the case, President Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963; and the North Central Freeway study report that would finally appear about a year later would effectively do that- assassinate- his vision for such a freeway aligned tightly along the B&O railroad corridor.

That report, released October 1964, would feature an upwards of 37 potential routes, with preliminary options almost entirely nowhere near the railroad, and with a 'recommended route' partially along the railroad but with serious route deviations in Brookland, D.C. (placing it further way from Catholic University) and especially in Takoma Park MD.  that latter route rather than displacing about 30 residences along the railroad would instead swing 1/3 of a mile further east on a longer route instead displacing some 471 houses in Takoma Park's oldest neighborhoods- understandably sparking massive protests.  At this time President Johnson would further stroke local resentment by stating his opposition to any freeway to the west of Rock Creek Park- despite the comparative impacts.


Despite JFK''s vision for a low level freeway along the B&O railroad, officials in 1965 touted a quad decked elevated freeway above the railroad.


It was not until late 1966 that they finally released a study report roughly conforming to JFK;s 1962 planning.


Though conforming to public opinion, officials came under attack by the Committee of 100, which had supported JFK' B&O route North Central Freeway concept, turned 180 degrees.   Through the law firm of Covington & Burling a law suit alleging lack of proper approval was pursued- that the freeway lacked the approval of the necessary entities - the DC City Council and NCPC, when in fact such bodies then supported the B&O route freeway, before themselves withdrawing their support by late 1968.   Such a reversal of official support would come only AFTER the actions of other officials, namely within the created in 1967 US Federal Highway authority to come out in support of reverting to the infamous 1964 planning to save a few million dollar upon retaining walls.

Top officials of the Bureau have ordered a full review of the plans for the 3 ½ mile road … While it is good practice to disrupt as few people as possible in road building, is it worth the added cost of $22 million?

… Rejection by the Bureau would certainly fan the embers of one of the Washington area’s freeway controversies spearheaded by a group called the Save Takoma Park Committee. It rallied the residents of the middle income suburb composed largely of turn of the century homes on tree lined streets to strident opposition at hearings in Washington and Silver Spring on the original [1964] alignment.

A local citizen from Takoma Park, MD in 1967 would write in a letter to Spiro Agnew:

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.

Official noise favoring the 1964 plan would continue into 1968 until both the D.C. City Council and U.S. National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) formally reversed their support for any NCF Freeway, ignoring the distinctions between the 1964 and 1966 planning, along with its utility for providing what would have been Washington D.C.'s sole northern radial freeway.

 With respect to interstate traffic moving into the metropolitan area from the north on I-70S and I-95, vehicles with destinations beyond the District clearly should be diverted around the beltway. Interstate traffic with destinations within the District has options that are obviously as satisfactory as such traffic finds in any metropolitan system. The interstate system -- as a city to city system -- gives no assurance of freeway access to the heart of the central city. Both I-70S and I-95 traffic can move down the same arterial street network used by the commuters, and presumably a large part of this interstate traffic will be at non-peak hours.

I-95 traffic can be channeled over a short jog on the beltway to the Baltimore Washington Parkway for a penetration into the District over that route. Three options would be provided for this interstate traffic with downtown destinations -- via Kenilworth Freeway, via the proposed new Anacostia Parkway, and via New York Avenue (which is being improved as a major entrance into the Nation's capital from the east). Additional capacities to handle this I-95 traffic, of course, will of course be needed on the beltway and the Baltimore Washington Parkway. (An alternative would be a new highway in Maryland that would bring I-95 directly into the Baltimore-Washington Parkway at or near the Kenilworth interchange.)

The Commission believes that these facilities can adequately provide for interstate traffic from the north with central area destinations. The construction of a freeway to the north (in addition to the string of major surface streets) in order to accommodate interstate traffic would simply open up another arterial gateway for the suburban commuter. This the Commission rejects as both unnecessary and undesirable. (pp. 31-32)

Local impacts were given as the reason of this opposition which focused disproportionately along 69 residences between the east side of the freeway route and the west side of 10th street NE.  I say disproportionately, owing to the relative lack of attention to the some 600-1000 further south and west for the final connecting segment to the Center Leg - todays I-395 3rd street tunnel, let alone the lack of attention to the geometric reality that that latter segment's impact is reducible to a mere 33 or 34 if it were to run beneath the recreation field of Dunbar HS as a tunnel.   Such is a strange omission, given all of the hoopla over stopping 'white mans roads through black man home'.

In the meantime the Committee of 100 would promote an alternative plan- with far less local serviceability and greater environmental impact running along a far lengthier segment of the Northwest Branch.  Peter Craig of DC highway fighting fame since the late 1950s battle over the NW freeway went from proposed cut and cover tunnels with existing right of ways in 1962 to such more out of the way routes with far higher impacts.  This was done under what we could call a mockery of environmental justice.

1968 'Committee of 100' I-95 Proposal

1966 'lid' proposal for I-95 B&O North Central Freeway alongside Catholic University of America southwards from Taylor Street

1971 'lid' proposal for I-95 B&O North Central Freeway from just north of Michigan southward to Rhode Island Avenue- I am not aware of Catholic University of America ever objecting to the deletion of the 'lid' segment northward to Taylor Street alongside the main body of its campus

In the time since such theatrics, the freeways have remained unbuilt.  This includes an extension of the SE Freeway along the western shore of the Anacostia River that could be relatively easily built as a box tunnel freeway to better open up thatwaterfront to local use, while providing a valuable alternative route to the outdated existing Anacostia Freeway to the east- better facilitating that latter freeway's reconstruction in a below grade tunnel.

SE Freeway Extension - East Leg of the Inner Loop Late 1960s

In the meantime, a madness has engulfed local planning with ill-advised real estate development to constrict the North Central-North East route.  This includes a hideously placed, yet approved by U.S. NCPC PERJURY residential development project ‘The Hampshires’ by Comstock on a key property needed to connect the B&O and the New Hampshire-PEPCO inside the Beltway I-95 route- an infinitely superior and more environmentally friendly alternative to the long planned Northwest Branch route.

All of this ill development betrays the public interest and places a disproportionate amount of the traffic burden upon less affluent areas.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A SE Freeway Plan Benifiting The Greatest Segment of Society


Shown as an underground bus depot, though clearly practical as underground box tunnel freeway
connecting into the existing set of box tunnels beneath Barney Circle

Freeway Cover should be modified to connect the north-south running streets to M Street 
and extend Water Street with appropriate waterfront terracing, 
reconnecting neighborhood to waterfront
NONE of the proposed options would do such 

Relatively Low Cost Underground SE Freeway - build box tunnel atop existing eastern SE Freeway and the adjacent railway with terracing down to the waterfront- low cost due to that the most expensive portion of an underground freeway is creating the new excavation, and this segment would not require any new excavation.   Build new linear park atop, flanked by 2+ lane surface roadways tied into the existing street grid, with some new development to the sides.

Extend to new interchanges at East Capitol Street and Benning Road - would require minimal excavation, being cut into side of hill along the western side of the Anacostia River, with northern portion a trench through parking lots, connecting to the New York Avenue Corridor-with access to the BW Parkway and design flexibility to the northwest.

Build such with surface roadways as "complete streets" tied into the street grid; line portions with new development alongside if not atop in areas. 
They could keep the freeway, extend it along the west bank of the Anacostia to Route 50/BW Parkway with interchanges at East Capitol St and Benning Rd and cover the whole thing with a platform containing a "complete street"-type boulevard lined with retail, entertainment, condos, and apartments that intersects with existing neighborhood streets .

This would make lot of sense considering DC's desire to get the 2024 Olympics. The housing could be built as housing for the teams and converted to market and affordable housing later. And since it would be a once in a lifetime project - located away from the historic core where people are obsessed with "views" - perhaps they could relax the height limits, allowing for some really creative and interesting architecture.

But that would require imagination and spunk. Something the District's "leaders" are severely lacking.
Provides underground freeway at considerably less cost then the much needed undergrounding of the existing Anacostia Freeway to the east of the Anacostia River that now cuts off those less affluent areas from the Anacostia Waterfront.

Provides alternative route- crucial for diverting traffic from the existing Anacostia Freeway, making that latter freeways undergrounding - which requires a new excavation -- more practical.  That would increase the likelihood of those less affluent areas to the east of the Anacostia Freeway to have that freeway undergrounded, hence increasing their access to the Anacostia Waterfront.

Opposition to the freeway to the west of the Anacostia River - whether the established portion or the extension -- would be a classic text book example of a wealthier area getting over on a less affluent area, and society at large.  Such is being pushed by officials as ANC 6B09 Commissioners Brian Flahaven and Kirsten Oldenburg. 
In November 2013, the District Department of Transportation shared five design concepts for replacing the end of the Southeast Freeway with a boulevard and constructing a full traffic circle at Barney Circle SE. As I detailed at the time, all five DDOT concepts essentially replaced the freeway with….a freeway completely separated from the neighborhood grid. ANC 6B unanimously opposed DDOT’s concepts and urged the agency to reconsider their plans.


Note that the freeway extension would run along the outer edge of ANC6B and NOT displace any homes there.  Built properly with the box tunnel cover with waterfront terrace, it would actually increase ANC6B's waterfront access.

A freeway extension is alas not being formally considered, only the long established portion to the west of Barney Circle-Pennsylvania Avenue and east of the 11th Street Bridge is being considered.

Recent planning was pushing to have this SE freeway segment decommissioned and replaced at best with a surface street, though DCDOT has apparently had second thoughts and is now moving for its restoration for re-opening. 
Bowing to political pressure from both DC and Maryland commuters, DDOT is planning to temporarily re-open the freeway between 11th Street and Barney Circle by the end of the year. Construction crews are already putting the old road back in place using funding from the 11th Street Bridge Project.
I watched while hundreds of dump truck loads of dirt were piled on the freeway over the last couple years. Now I’m watching as hundreds of dump truck loads of dirt are removed.
Some reasons given: 
Let DC reopen this road. It would relieved the operational problems on the other side of the river. Traffic bound for eastbound Pa. Ave enters DC 295 from the left side of the freeway trying to exit to Pa. Ave on the right side of the road. This is dangerous.

On the other hand, westbound Pa. Ave traffic entering DC 295 enters on a cloverleaf ramp trying to merge with DC 295 traffic exiting to Pa. Ave eastbound. Equally dangerous.

This is why I assume the SE freeway spur is being opened.

As for thinking that opening the road will increase traffic on 19th and 17th Streets, drivers were using the narrow ramp by the cemetery illegally. If it was blockaded, the traffic on those two streets would not increase.

Let DC reopen the road to relived the dangerous situation on the other side of the river before some gets injured or killed.
People from the Hillcrest neighborhood, on the eastern, less affluent side of the Anacostia, understandably see this as a positive development.   In response to a letter from Boyle Stuckey, 2d Vice President of the Hillcrest Community Civic Association (HCCA):
We at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) have received your support for reopening the connection between the Southeast/Southwest Freeway (I-695) between 11th Street SE and Barney Circle.

This is an important connection for District residents east of the Anacostia River, primarily in Ward 7. Reopening this roadway segment will reestablish traffic movements (for example, eastbound I-695 to eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue SE toward Ward 7; westbound Pennsylvania Avenue SE to westbound I-695).

We appreciate your support and will take your concerns about closing the left-turn lane from Pennsylvania Avenue SE to northbound DC 295 into consideration. For further questions, please contact DDOT at 202-673-6813.
DCDOT is doing the right thing- as a foundation and start for a significant change for the better.



In the day and a half since I published this piece, not one but two articles have appeared on this freeway segment in David Alpert's Greater, Greater Washington:

Very interesting comments section in both.  Likewise with the following 2010 and 2013 GGW articles on the adjacent area to the south:
Last spring, I was in a studio at school that looked at the development potential of removing or capping parts of the Southeast/Southwest Freeway. I did the urban design plan, and in the area you're talking about, we extended the existing street grid to the river and got a pretty substantial amount of housing and a lovely waterfront park to boot.

My beef with Southeast Boulevard is that they didn't really consider how the street would fit into a larger scheme for that area. It could be the spine of a new waterfront neighborhood, but instead it'll just be a street as divorced from its context as the freeway is.
by dan reed! on Feb 28, 2013 11:12 am • link
Dan Reed- I would love to see that studio's work.

A Landmark Example of 'Hill East' Gated Community Mentality