Sunday, March 18, 2007

Georgetown's Waterfront Freeway Corridor & Connections

Georgetown Waterfront, Glover-Archibold Park, and portion of Canal Road
Image produced by National Capital Planning Commission for the Washington Geographic Information System. Distributed by VARGIS LLC of Herndon, VA.
This consists of the Whitehurst Freeway along the downtown Georgetown waterfront to K Street, and its various proposed upgrades and extensions proposed to go to the north, northwest:, and west: aka, the Glover-Archibold Parkway, the George Washington Memorial Parkway (to Maryland's Clara Barton Parkway and the I-495 Capital Beltway); and the Three Sisters Bridge.

Generally, the focus is solely upon the Whitehurst, despite its short length and its disconnect with the freeway system symbolized by its northern ending in the vicinity of the staircase near Georgetown University famous to many people for its appearance in the1973 movie "The Exorcist."

The Whitehurst Freeway:

Built late 1940s, prior to the 1956 U.S. Interstate Highway Act, hence the Whitehurst is built to a lower standard of design relative to the later highways designed as interstates.

According to Steve Anderson's Whitehurst Freeway entry in D.C. Roads:
H.C. Whitehurst, who was director of the District Highway Department, conceived the skyway that eventually bore his name. He designed the K Street Skyway as the first piece of a long-range, district-wide plan to build freeways through Washington and its neighboring suburbs. Whitehurst, who was an early booster of the Interstate highway system as chairman of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), died while the freeway was under construction. The Whitehurst Freeway was named for the former highway chief after his death.

The District awarded the construction contract to Archibald Alexander, a pioneering black engineer who worked his way up at Marsh Engineering on projects such as the Tidal Basin Bridge and seawall during the 1910's and 1920's. Alexander eventually founded his own firm specializing in bridge design and construction, which carried out the contract.

ALONG THE POTOMAC, WASHINGTON'S FIRST FREEWAY GOES UP: The Whitehurst Freeway was built to what were contemporary standards in the 1940's, but far short of Interstate standards. The four-lane freeway was built without shoulders and had a design speed of only 30 MPH. Exit ramps also were of substandard design. Because the freeway was to be built directly above K Street, very little demolition work was necessary. However, there was one notable exception - the home of Francis Scott Key, the author of the poem that became the Star-Spangled Banner - that was torn down for the western terminus of the freeway.
The corridor is subsequently considered to be upgraded and extended to interstate highway specifications in a number of studies, including the1957 North West Freeway study "A Report of the study on the location of Interstate U.S. Route 240 Washington, D.C. which considered 3 options of which a portion would utilize this corridor:

Route A: Palisades trolley alignment to Inner Loop via expanded elevated Whitehurst Freeway: 4.57 miles
Route A-2: variant of Route A Palisades trolley alignment with narrower footprint north of ChainBridge to Inner Loop via an expanded elevated Whitehurst Freeway: 4.57 miles
Route C: Wisconsin Avenue corridor to Glover Archbold Park to Inner Loop via expanded elevated Whitehurst Freeway: 5.65 miles
The subsequent 1959 North West Freeway proposal had a separate inland connection to the Inner Loop for I-70S to supplement a Glover Archibold Parkway: both if which were effectively canceled by 1962.

The Glover-Archibold Parkway

This appears in 1952, as a parkway that would not allow trucks.
The 1957 North West Freeway study includes the option of an interstate highway version to connect to an interchange at the foot of Glover-Archibold Park next to Georgetown University with an expanded extended Whitehurst Freeway.
Illustrations from 1957 publication "Should Glover-Archibold Park Be Destroyed"

1959 Mass Transportation Plan
The 1959 Mass Transportation Plan has the Glover-Archibold Parkway serve as both a radial to and from I-70S at a split to the south of Tenley Circle, and as a segment of the circumferential Fort Drive Intermediate Beltway.
1939 Fort Drive
The Clara Barton/George Washington Memorial/Canal Road Parkway
The George Washington Memorial Parkway was planned to run along both sides of the Potomac River to and from the I-495 Capital Beltway, yet was completed only on the Virginia side.
The segment in Maryland connecting to the Capital Beltway was constructed continuously with 2 lanes in each direction to a point where it transitions to a single 2 lane roadway, and then to a brief 4 lane divided segment before again reverting to a single lane in each direction near the Maryland/District line.
The Three Sisters Bridge
This bridge, named for the trio of rocks in the river, would have connected Virginia and Washington, D.C. respectively at the foot of Spout Run and Glover-Archibold Park. It appears in the 1959 Mass Transportation Plan. As an extension from the Glover-Archibold Parkway that would connect to inside the beltway I-70S at a split to the south of Tenley Circle, it would serve to facilitate traffic from I-70S and the circumferential Fort Drive Intermediate Beltway to and from Virginia.

It disappears, along with the Glover-Archibold Parkway and the entire NW segment of the Intermediate Loop in the Administration of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's November 1, 1962 "Recommendations for Transportation in the National Capital Region; A Report to the President for transmittal to Congress by the National Capital Transportation Agency."

The Three Sisters Bridge would subsequently reappear as part of an I-266 project connecting I-66 in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
It had more then one study.

Proposed I-266 Three Sisters Bridge looking from Virginia to Washington, D.C. with Georgetown University at upper right.

The plans from the 1950s would have had an inland continuation of a Glover-Archibold Parkway. via that swath of green of Glover-Archibold Park to the left of Georgetown University.

Under such plans, the Glover-Archibold Parkway and the Three Sisters Bridge were to be a part of Washington, D.C.'s Intermediate Beltway/ Fort Drive Parkway.

From Scott Kozel's Roads to the Future:
A construction contract was begun in 1972 for the Three Sisters Bridge substructure, but the contract was suspended by a court injunction several months later, and then cancelled a few months later by DC DPW. That happened at the same time that a court injunction stopped the design process on the I-66 extension in Virginia from the I-495 Capital Beltway to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. The design process for I-266 never restarted, while a revised 4-lane version of I-66 was placed under construction in 1977 and opened in 1982. Details are on my I-66 article Interstate 66 and Metrorail Vienna Route. See Mike Hale's article Interstate 266 Unbuilt.

The Three Sisters Bridge became colorfully protested, with protesters that camped out on the three sisters to thwart the construction.

The law suit would be handled by Covington & Burling, which later sued against a 12 lane Woodrow Wilson Bridge (and in other suits, against the North Central Freeway, the East Leg to East Capitol Street, and the later Barney Circle Connector), with the assistance at various times with the Georgetown Law Center (Georgetown University Law School), and the D.C. Sierra Club.

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