Under-appreciated Matters of Sound
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ARE NOT BEING ADEQUATELY ADDRESSED FOR THE LOCAL AREA, whether as a 10 or 12 lane facility; both would place major highway approach only 10-30 feet away from what would be the nearest Hunting Apartment Tower, whether the now northernmost tower, or the middle tower, made into the northern tower by the first tower's demolition.
Design decisions concerning the Washington Street Urban Deck are compromising its utility for much needed mitigation in southern Alexandria. Recent decision to maintain Church Street exit ramp in its current location has been followed by apparent decision to delete the canted western edge (from the northwest corner of the Hunting Terrace parking lot to Alfred Street) with a straight edge (or curved variant) with a loss of up to 44,000 square feet of potential landscaped green open space (200' length X 440' width of deck divided by 2)! See DRAFT SEIS Figure 4-13 "Carbon Monoxide Modeling Locations Urban Deck- West Exit Portal" (canted edge can be discerned from the disappearance of the black lines that indicate the eastern portion of the proposed Route 1 interchange).
This is not the first decision to reduce the benefits of the proposed Washington Street Urban Deck: note the inexplicable failure to extend the deck fully to the east of Hunting Towers; initially the deck was to extend just past Hunting Towers, yet a decision made around 1994 was made to truncate the deck just east of the northern *wing* of the nearest Hunting Tower, thus leaving that tower's eastern wing in close proximity to the noise and pollution of the 10-12 lane I-495 approach, some 80 feet away: a deletion of at least 30,000 square feet of potential landscaped green open space (100' length X 300' width). My initial questions to the officials at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Design and Study Center were met with answers about the fact that this portion of the deck would have a slope of 5%-6%, and result in a higher visual profile.
These following questions to the officials on this matter would be met with silence.
a) that so truncating the deck would instead place a highway with a %5-6% slope in close proximity to Hunting Towers (as if that were locally preferable to a landscaped park!),
b) that the issues of vertical height makes little sense when this portion of the project is likely to receive vertical sound walls (see DRAFT SEIS Figure 4-15 " Current Design Alternative 4A Potential Noise Barrier Locations)
c) that this is a highly questionable decision considering the obvious need for sound barriers that address noise that travels upwards. See:
They add that [standard vertical sound wall] barriers are designed for ground floors only; upper floors receive little or no benefit. "It all depends on location," says Martin Palmer, Assistant Environmental Program Manager for the Washington Dept. of Transportation. "The reduction is heard only by the residents closest to the wall." He adds that benefits are variable, at best.
Highway encasement of the deck could provide effective noise mitigation. Indeed, this very concept of the covering of freeways with decks, caps or lids as they are known in the western U.S. is environmentally popular. Please see:
d) that such a sloped deck is a key design feature of a proposed covered highway project in New York along Manhattan's upper west side between 72nd and 57th Streets, see:
by Parsons Brinckerhoff, the firm that is currently coordinating the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Replacement Project!
e) That decision half a decade ago to deny the benefits of this potential highway encasement to the eastern *wing* of what would be the northernmost Hunting Tower, is being apparently supplemented with a NEW decision for an additional 200 foot deletion of decking at the eastern end, ending the deck fully west of the northernmost surviving Hunting Tower, and exposing the entire northern side of that tower the benefits of the potential landscaped green park space, placing that building 10-30 feet away from 10-12 lanes of Beltway traffic. See:
DRAFT SEIS Figures 2-5 "Washington Street Urban Deck Conceptual Mitigation Plan" and "A-1 "Preliminary Interchange Design Key Plan".
This deletion of 60,000 square feet of landscaped open green park space (200' length X 300' width) would effectively reduce the size of the Washington Street Urban Deck, east of Washington Street, by approximately 50%. It would in effect take away about half the area of the playing field illustrated in the upper left quadrant of the cover illustration of the official publication, "The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Improvement Study: A Summary" Summer, 1997; under the revised deck plans, about half of the area of the recreation field would be deleted, and with the remaining area made into a small park (DRAFT SEIS Figure 2-5.) As this document shows the earlier configuration (with the canted western edge deleted in the area of the Church Street exit ramp) with regard to Figures 4-13 "Carbon Monoxide Modeling Locations Urban Deck- West Exit Portal" and 4-14 "Carbon Monoxide Modeling Locations Urban Deck- East Exit Portal", it is not entirely clear which deck configuration is the final design.
It would appear that, in addition to the demolition of the northernmost Hunting Tower, that the planners might be writing off the currently middle Hunting Tower, at least as a place of residence.
NO alternative designs have been considered for the Route 1 interchange, particularly the approach of the citizen's alternative Alexandria Orb proposal.
The official design with local and express roadways, though offering the potential space for the concurrent or future rail transit, is flawed in two regards:
a) Assigning BOTH tasks of serving as an HOV lane and as a future transit lane places these two modes in direct conflict, possibly threatening the eventual addition of Metro Rail by motorists groups that would not want to relinquish the HOV lane. Rail deserves a physically separate right of way that by its very design, would not be susceptible by possible future demands for maintaining or functionally expanding highway capacity, such as a simple 12 general purpose lane bridge designation. Would the planners of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement project argue that inside the Beltway I-66 should have been constructed WITHOUT either Metro or a dedicated separate railway right of way- leaving the promise of future rail transit vulnerable to future politics.
b) The construction of ramps that conflict with the future addition of rail, whether in the median, or in the shoulder space between the local and express lanes. As officially configured, the Route 1 interchange in alternative 4A provides access to and from the east for the I-495 express roadway, with left hand ramps, which would need to be demolished for future rail transit conversion of the HOV lane (and which the official design does not provide an alternative location for ramps between the I-495 express lanes to and from the east and Route 1). Conversely, the official design provides a right hand on-ramp to the I-495 eastbound roadway, which would conflict with the addition of Metro rail transit via conversion of the shoulder space between the local and express lanes.
A FURTHER POINT: JUST HOW FORTHCOMING HAVE THE AUTHORITIES BEEN AT SHOWING THE PUBLIC RENDERINGS OF THE FINISHED PRODUCT?
Has the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement project been as forthcoming with renderings of the proposed project to the degree of other important highway infrastructure projects in the United States? For instance, projects such as New York's canceled Westway project, as well of Boston's current Central Artery Tunnel Project, were featured in models that were placed upon public display; indeed, the public design process for this project's northern portion, the Charles River Bridge, led to a design process where the numerous proposals, including the initially chosen "Scheme Z", where displayed three dimensionally with models. (See the book "Rescuing Prometheus" by Thomas P. Hughes at www.barnesandnoble.com). Yet, asides from one or two small scale cardboard models with little detail that have been seen in the past at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Design and Study Center, the only model otherwise seen there is one of the existing bridge.
While numerous renderings have been so presented of the replacement bridge, none have been provided that show the area of its abuutement/approach in the tightly settled area between St.Mary's Cemetery and Hunting Towers, nor that of the Route I interchange (which is illustrated only in a direct overhead view).
Douglas A. Willinger
Takoma Park Highway Design Studio