Saturday, December 20, 2014

Current I-395 Center Leg Air Rights ROW PINCH- Shoddy Consideration & Misrepresentations

Developer give-way ZERO consideration of I-395 flexibility
Needlessly assumes I-395 will never have an extension,
nor consideration for an I-66 crosstown tunnel

This right of way PINCH is unreported in every article that I have seen on this project outside of A Trip Within the Beltway.

I-395 Center Leg Capital Crossing right of way pinch
from 4 to only 2 lanes per direction

"Typical I-395 cross section"  page 10 2009 Air Rights EIS
DDOT's behavior here reeks of behind the scenes deals and bribes.

Their weird silence, stonewalling of the WP requests for information, and then their idiotic stance that since it's part of 395 that they can't weigh in was absurd.

New email message to   --  December 12, 2014
I received no reply to my email of November 21, 2014.

Does your project use the designs shown in the 2009 report that pinch the I-395 right of way?

What is the width of the northbound and southbound mainlines once the project is completed?


The underground I-395 Center Leg was designed to feature 4 lanes in each direction within the tunnel segments on both the north and the south sides of the open trench that is the site of the current air rights project.

As the segment to the south may have issues of inadequate merge-split lanes it may be viewed as a 3 through lane plus one axillary lane in each direction facility, unless the outer walls are re-located outwards beneath the mall.

However, the northern tunnel being a newer design and with its potential merge area to the north of K Street, is properly an 8 through lane tunnel.

Center Leg trench looking north showing the unused righthand lanes- 
the jersey barrier separates the 3rd lane which is now used as a shoulder from the 4th and rightmost lane which remains in its original concrete with the original right-hand shoulder in asphalt.

Center Leg northbound transition to the southern portal of the northern tunnel segment at Massachusetts avenue- note the non-load-bearing wall coordining the space off for the 2 outer lanes

The North Segment:

The segment to the north, between Massachusetts avenue and K Street NW, was built between 1975 and 1978, with a finishing project from 1983 to 1986.  It features a design for a full 4 lanes in each direction, plus shoulders, plus space for an additional - 5th - northbound lane for a left lane ramp to the planned crosstown I-66 Tunnel that would have been under K Street between Franklin Square and Washington circle.  Additionally it features a separate one lane northbound on ramp that would have merged with the northbound mainline to the north of its northern portal at K Street.   Although what people may see today is only a 2 lane plus shoulder in each direction tunnel, that is only because of walls that were added as part of the 1983-1986 finishing project- as the K Street Tunnel and the I-395 extension to the northeast were both canceled once the initial project was underway. These walls are not load-bearing, as can be seen in the expansion joints visible on the surface of K Street and thus could be easily removed.

Northern Center Leg Tunnel 
showing pair of 3 lane continuations to 1971 plan for freeway extension to the northeast, with pair of one lane connections towards I-66 K Street Tunnel

Note the expansion joints on the surface of K Street marking the load-bearing walls.
Note the unused northbound on-ramp, with its merge area north past the tunnel's portal at K Street.

This design with the 4 southbound lanes and the 5 northbound lanes was designed to connect to a pair of 3 lane connections to the northeast, and a pair of one lane connections to the west.

The South Segment (The Mall Tunnel)

The Center Leg tunnel segment to the south, known as the Mall Tunnel, extending from D Street NW to just south of C Street SW,  was constructed between 1966 and 1973.

Unlike the newer northern tunnel segment, the older southern tunnel segment has no afterthought walls, and features an unobstructed space for 4 lanes in each direction.  The site DCRoads, by Steve Anderson states that each direction is 66 feet wide- which would allow 4 lanes at 12 feet each - 48 feet -- plus 18 feet for shoulders.

That appears to be the case with the northbound carriageway.  It starts at its southern end just south of C Street SW where it intercepts a 3 lane roadway and a single lane on-ramp from D Street SW that converge into a 4 lane roadway just inside the tunnel.   (The 3 lane roadway intercepts a single lane for the I-395 northbound transition from the SW Freeway, and a 2 lane roadway that intercepts one lane apiece from the westbound SE freeway and from South Capitol Street).

These 4 northbound lanes continue northward beneath the Mall before 'loosing' the rightmost lane with the two lane off-ramp at C Street, with the second to right hand lane being an 'indecision' lane where one can take that off-ramp or continue upon the center leg now as the outermost of 3 northbound lanes next to an extra wide shoulder that is subsequently striped as a 4th northbound lane.

Further north in the vicinity of the Mall Tunnel's northern portal at D street NW, the right hand two lanes split off from the mainline to the 2 lane exit ramp at Georgetown Law Center, leaving two northbound lanes in the trench with the space for the 2 additional lanes unused.

The Mall Tunnel's southbound carriageway appears to be somewhat narrower at its northern end beneath the Labor Department Building.   There, it intercepts the two open lanes from the trenchway, picking up a 3rd lane from the southbound on-ramp from 3rd Street, re-aligned from its original design, with an extra wide right-hand shoulder that though marked by an overhead light, is unused as a 4th lane, apparently to provide extra space for the subsequent southbound on-ramp from D Street just south of the labor Department Building.

Ideally, the Mall tunnel should have its walls eventually relocated outwards in the area south of the Labor Building to allow a continuous 5th lane between the southbound on and of ramps, as well as perhaps providing somewhat wider shoulders. Without doing that it may be best viewed as a 6 through lane plus 2 auxiliary lane facility.   If the space beneath the Labor Department Building is considered inadequate for a proper merge area for the on-ramp currently scheduled for reconstruction, than a new design that carries that on-ramp in a separate tube carrying it past the Labor Department Building ought to be considered.  THAT would thus allow maintaining the southbound off-ramp that is to be eliminated by the current air rights project: its elimination is another stupid idea that assumes the freeway shall never be extended.  (Rather, that ramp should be retained.)  Such actions would become more needed once a northern extension from the Center Leg is constructed.

The 2009 Center Leg Air Rights Study fails not only for misrepresenting the Center Leg capacity, but also for assuming that the freeway shall never be extended, nor that an I-66 K Street Tunnel project would never be built.

It fails to consider the feasibility of either project, even as a 1996 design for a New York Avenue tunnel employing that avenue's existing right of way, and shown with 2 lanes in each direction is actually wide enough for 3 lanes in each direction.  That plan, by using the existing right of way beneath New York Avenue, would avoid the displacement of 600+ dwellings along that Avenue's north side between New Jersey Avenue and North Capitol Street.

1996 'Ron Linton' New York Avenue Tunnel proposal for 4 lane tunnel 
within right of way sufficient for 6 lane version

Both the 1996 I-395 extension proposal and the I-66 K Street Tunnel would use existing right of way.

An alternative concept for a tunneled extension arcing beneath the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and N Street and continuing as a double stack beneath O Street meanwhile would only displace about 33 or 34 dwellings while providing vastly superior geometric operationabilty then either the 1971 or 1996 plan.

Yet the 2009 EIS fails to consider flexibility for any of these proposals with its willful and unnecessary pinching of the I-395 Center Leg right of way to a fixed 2 lanes in each direction.  It even pinches the median shoulder, trading away safety, simply to maximize developer profits.
If people can get so upset over the recent developer suggestion to entirely shut down the Center Leg segment north of the Labor Department Building, why than should they be so complacent about the permanent giveaway of 50% of its right of way?

And why should this permanent right of way giveaway go so unreported by newspapers as The Washington Post, numerous real estate development blogs, including of course Greater, Greater Washington, which has so far declined A Trip Within The Beltway suggestion to include it in their breakfast links recently?


Unknown said...

Have you thought of contacting the FHWA Division Administrator for DC? I think obviating the ability to construct and handle traffic from a future NY Ave tunnel is a huge mistake.

-Kevin McDonald

Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

Yes I have thanks for the suggestion.

I find it incredible not only that this was never reported, but that so far goes unnoticed by the many who objected to the recently proposed temporary I395 shutdown. Way too much of the media simplistically serves as real estate development project cheerleaders, particularly GGW.

Methinks that shutdown, proposed by the developer was to prevent people from seeing the right of way PINCH being constructed until too late.

There needs to be a similar outcry to stall this project until it is redesigned to fully respect the right of way.

Douglas Andrew Willinger said...