Friday, January 09, 2015

Answering a Critic

       B&O-PEPCO I-95

See comments at:  

The only thing that hasn't changed in the last 40 years in the corridor in question is that nobody wants this highway?!  *Nothing* in them is valid anymore?!-  

A baseless claim, regarding a later freeway routing option.  One on the books for only a few months in 1973; at the tail end of a crafted controversy against its connecting segment within the District; that itself was relatively uncontroversial, until becoming highly politicized for reasons unrelated to its basic feasibility.

It's the same right of way.  The same topography.  Virtually the identical development, with the one main difference being that eminent domain special development upon the connecting segment just inside the Distract: the Comstock ‘Hampshire’s’ project.  Which anyone buying into was warned via my blog, so they knew they were buying an eminent domain demolition special that should have not been approved. 

It's a different generation.  One that has seen the fallacy of pretending that WMATA serves as a substitute rather than a supplement to highways  40years after the wholesale cancellation of the unbuilt inside the Maryland Beltway freeway system - resulting in some of the worst traffic problems in the US!  One that may be far more skeptical of the whole idea that a nation as rich as the U.S.somehow HAD to de-map the freeway system to fund the WMATA system- particularly given the 100s of billions squandered in the drug war.   And one that may be aware of more innovative urban highway projects elsewhere done right to blend into the urban fabric in a more benign indeed complimentary fashion from Boston, Massachusetts, to Madrid, Spain.  In a state where highway expansion - dualizations and grade separations - have been derided as a simple means to fund what may be worthy transit projects - the Maryland election of a new Governor with votes from areas acknowledged as favoring better highways and questioned the simple prioritization of transit at the expense of highways may portend a change, perhaps on a broader scale: that perhaps we should re-think certain transit projects, either defer them, or at least work out some better financing from the new development that would rely upon them, to lessen the financial burden on official budgets in areas that have not simply deferred highway projects, but rather pretended that such should never be built.

Also, completing an unwanted plan is pretty much the worst justification for a project ever. I am completely aware of what these old studies were advocating. They were widely rejected for a host of reasons.

Unwanted by who, what, and why?

The PEPCO I-95 extension plan was the result of popular sentiment against the longstanding plan, from the 1950s to February 1973 for the inside the Beltway I-95 extension via Northwest Branch Park routing.  That plan would have taken about 100 acres of parkland along a stream, plus about 110 residences in Maryland, entering the District via the Fort Drive right of way, taking 0 homes there between Gallatin and Galloway Streets- and was opposed within Maryland for the parkland stream corridor impacts.  The PEPCO I-95 alternative first appears only in the 1971 Deleuw, Cather, Weese study, and was written up highly favorably for using an existing non stream corridor 250 foot wide clear-cut, so noting the feasibility of re-aligning the power-lines, including the option of burying them, and the superior geometry of the new Hampshire Avenue corridor extension connecting with North Capitol Street and Missouri Avenue providing better serviceability access into the north-south and east west street grid into northern Washington DC.

I ask yet again, what travel demand would this project satisfy? That couldn't be addressed with widening 295? Where will all these cars park? Why should thriving neighborhoods be destroyed to save a guy from Columbia a few minutes commuting time?

Service into, and for northern Washington, D.C. as well as through traffic.  Widening I-295 (and hopefully modernizing it with full shoulders and some cut and cover tunnels as local mitigation) can serve the latter but not the former.  To go through SE to get to NE or NW?  Why must traffic go way out of its way through a poorer area that still awaits mitigation, while dismissing largely cut and cover existing right of way links into wealthier areas?

Neighborhood destruction?  It’s almost entirely existing right of way.   But for the final 1600 feet between its southern end and the District line, the PEPCO right of way is all of the 5.3 mile length from the beltway to the District line, with that final stretch consisting of retail strip properties.   What neighborhoods, asides from a portion of such along the north side of New Hampshire Avenue, primarily along a less than one block segment of Eastern and Rittenhouse, consisting of only 27 mid 1900s brick houses within the next 1,600 foot extension between the Maryland-District line and the B&O corridor.  Oh yes, the brand new Comstock town-house project ‘The Hampshires’ just erected in the past two years- based upon purjurous testimony by USNCPC that did not even mention the transportation corridor significance- consisting of 110 new dwellings- with inhabitants that should have known about from this blog by simply doing an internet search upon what they were buying into.  Whether the figure is 27 or 27 plus the bulk of that Comstock eminent domain special, the figure is a low number to connect a some 5 mile right of way with that railroad industrial corridor that only requires another 30 or so for a total of 59 for the entire highway from the Beltway to the confluence of the B&O and New York Avenue- plus whatever is now being built looking to make a quick profit off of new dwellings that should have never been approved.

I don't understand the hostility you have for the neighborhoods and institutions that have been in place for over 100 years. Why should anyone consider displacing CUA for a highway?

What hostility for neighborhoods in general?  I have written that I oppose the earlier plans such as I-66 via a new swath through thousands of dwellings along Florida Avenue and U Street, and versions of the North central freeway likewise along Georgia Avenue, along with the infamous 1964 routing on a longer route away from the railroad through Takoma Park in 1964.  And I have written not to simply revive the plans as evolved radically from the 1950s to the 1970s- compare the 1950s version of the I-66 North leg and the replacement K Street Tunnel  plans as an example- but rather take the design evolution further to reduce impacts and improve operation-ability – such as connections between the proposed K Street Tunnel and the effective center leg extension to the northeast, relocating cut and cover tunnel segments respectively partially and fully alongside New York Avenue displacing 148 and 600+ (or rather 550+ as Mayor Anthony Williams tore some down about 15 years ago) to respectively entirely under the avenue taking 0 for an independent continuation of the I-66 tunnel, and as few as 33 for I-395 (I-95) with a tunnel arcing beneath the intersection of new jersey Avenue and N Street transitioning to a double deck configuration beneath O street, providing a 95% reduction in displacement with a gentler-superior transition radii- vital in a curved tunnel segment.   


Nonetheless that alternative has gone entirely unconsidered in the 1996+ Ron Linton I-395 tunnel extension planning despite its inferior geometry.  If anyone is being hostile, it is your position with regard to SE of the Anacostia.

Not institutions but rather institution.  

It was JFK that radically reshaped the transportation planning after the 1959 Mass Transportation Plan, greatly increasing the proposed rail transit system and significantly reducing but not eliminating the proposed freeway system to greatly reduce the impacts.

A main point of that was the reduction of three separate northern freeways with a single 2 into 1 “Y” route via the route with the least impact from the November 1962 report:
"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."

1962 B&O Route 
with I-95 routed from the northeast via the Fort Drive routing 
connecting with that via Northwest branch in Maryland

That was a key point.  A study report on this was due sometime in the summer of 1963.  JFK and his wife meanwhile had an interest in urban planning; and he was likely aware of that at that time for the proposed Boston Inner Belt which featured proposed designs for partially encased box tunnel segments beneath new pedestrian promenades.    As JFK was from Boston and undoubtedly somewhat familiar with that area along with that alongside Catholic University of America (where the road there today is named after the 1962-1971 Speaker of the House, John William McCormick), I can wonder if he ever envisioned a design like that for alongside CUA.

 1963 Boston Inner Belt: park atop highway tunnel segment

1965 Boston Inner Belt: park atop highway tunnel segment

1966 D.C. I-95 North Central Freeway with cover alongside Catholic University of America

John W. McCormack

Whatever the case, no report upon that freeway would come out anytime in 1963.  The report that finally emerged in October 1964 was a mockery of the B&O route concept.  It had 37 routes all over the map.  Its recommended route #11 largely followed the B&O, but with serious deviations in Brookland and especially Takoma, creating a huge firestorm of controversy-opposition.   

 October 1964 North Central Freeway report




 1966 North Central Freeway

By November 1966 a ‘supplementary’ study report is released with a basic routing and design akin to the 1962 planning though little in the way of anything more exotic as the above mentioned promenade covered Inner belt box tunnels, though including one plate showing a potential decked over area alongside CUA and a little bit further south.  See the image captioned  “I-95 B&O North Central Freeway next to Catholic University of America” within: 

Then see what happened in 1967 after the controversy had died down only to be again inflamed by the then new UFHWA waffling between the infinity less opposed 1962/1966 planning and the infamous 1964 planning, as explained by this June 1, 1967 letter from Takoma Park resident Duncan Wall to Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew:
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.
Now- why would the planning so disregard that key point of the 1962 JFK plan?

Such inflaming of opposition would be sufficient for two main entities necessary for approving the highway to reverse their long standing support for the freeway by the end of 1968. Thus, what we have was a manufactured opposition, to a freeway that had previously been not very controversial.     

Now which entity holding which property alongside the B&O route would be that with the motive and the ability to bring these events about, particularly for something that JFK had endorsed a year prior to his assassination and which was clearly botched and scuttled in the following years? 

Which entity as an example would likewise have the motive and ability with the scuttling of the 1990s USNCPC proposal for a South Capitol Mall, of which the only significant building in its path was St Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church?!  To read much more about that please see my companion blogs:

To see more history about the manipulation of the planning, see:

Consider the time-line, as well as the history of that medievalist entity, particularly its manipulations on a greater scale; see:

It is notable that manipulation of public opinion regarding DC I-95 is never mentioned as a possible motive for what happened to the last U.S. President to show such an interest in urban planning; perhaps that is why his best known quote remains: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.  No I never said that CUA should be displaced by a highway- instead it would run alongside in a cut and cover tunnel.  But given the histories, perhaps that charge of yours is some sort of Freudian slip of how the public would feel if they knew the hidden story?  Notably have we yet since had a U.S. President show such an interest in urban planning?

Do you have any idea what it would cost to put a highway and a railroad underground through DC? My offhand guess is that rebuilding the corridor in the manner you describe would cost upward of $20 billion. Likely more.

Perhaps, perhaps not.  But the benefit would be immense.  Not only would there be this highly useful highway for regional travel, additional highway benefits for locals with some extra ideas not included in any of the earlier planning- such as new linear surface roadways flanking the new linear park from Union Station northwards, plus a 410 East West Highway bypass around Takoma Park, via a set of lanes from where EWH crossing the PEPCO corridor southward and then northward along the B&O to a set of center loader tunnel ramps emerging past Georgia Avenue.  

Center loader ramps are an atypical design that I have seen only with the redesign of the southbound I-395  Center Leg on ramp with the current “Capitol Crossing” air rights project.  Center loader means that the access ramp to or from a freeway ramp is towards the center rather than off to one side of a surface street.  This eliminates the freeway related traffic conflict with pedestrians and cyclists by routing this heavy traffic towards the center of a road.  See:

The linear park would be essentially a northern extension of the national mall, and would provide a linear park in a part of the District denied such over a century ago by the initial construction of he railroad- which remember was built in a stream valley long paved over.   The linear park could even include a resurfacing of that stream the Tiber as a component.  

Yet somehow the USA is too poor to do that, as we ought to not question the 100s of millions wasted upon the war on drugs.

That was an idea in part established via the law firm associated with Peter S. Craig, of Covington & Burling.   Founded by a one time Congressman, Federal Judge and Georgetown University Law professor, the law firm of Covington & Burling played a major role in the political campaign to convince people that we could only fund transit by de-mapping the proposed freeway system, and just happens to be perhaps the largest legal representation for the very industries that thrive off such policies- Tobacco and Pharma:

I also take it that you've not been to NE any time recently. Do you live in DC? Or the region, at least? If not, I have nothing more to say to you than the following:

1. I certainly agree that DC being treated as a fiefdom (by Congress) is tiring. Maybe you should refocus your blog to advocating for DC Statehood so the District has true homerule. Or maybe you should just refocus your fantasies on wherever it is that you live. DC doesn't need you.

2. Whatever you do, don't quit your day job to become a highway engineer or transportation planner. You wouldn't last long, at least not in this century. I'm glad your hobby keeps you busy, though.

I first visited DC as an infant but my earliest memory is a family trip in 1972 when I first saw the I-95 stubs and was told by a hotel bellhop that was over opposition to ‘white mans road through black mans homes’ and found myself wondering about that wide power-line right of way: an early lesson about the intoxicating effects of simple slogans.

I lived in the area from 1991 to 2004.  I last visited the area in 2013.

You may see some of my highway planning efforts at this blog’s tag about the Alexandria Orb- designed to mitigate the effects of the de-mapping of DC I-95's impacts upon an area consequently receiving far more traffic- where I saw U.S. NCPC which adheres to that de-mapping turn their back, much like they do with the neighborhoods along the Anacostia Freeway in SE.

What happened with the scuttling of the JFK B&O D.C. I-95 and the South Capital Mall speaks volumes of the true nature of this fiefdom. 

By the way you failed to answer my previous question- are you connected with WMATA?

There's a WMATA Financial Officer with your name- Tim Winslow.

Both educated at St. John's.

If that's you, perhaps you shall be the one who ultimately signs the checks paying back the funds that were transferred during the 1970s?

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