Thursday, July 17, 2008

A New I-395 Gateway- If It's Coordinated With New Development

A big "if" ...

New 14th Street Bridges
with tunneled vehicular connections to 14th Street and I-395

New I-395 tunnel segment to come with replacement of the existing 14th Street Bridges. Employs virtually the same alignment that I have proposed, though with a somewhat sharper curved transition to the existing SW Freeway then necessary.

Idea of revised ramp connections to 9th Street appears to require demolition of existing building at L'Enfant Plaza, which is consistent with desire to remove the "brutalist" 1960s-70s era architecture, and which would likely be eased by removal of the row of 28 townhouses that were irresponsibly placed only 16 1/2 feet from the existing SW Freeway retaining wall in 1999-2000 as the northern edge of the "Capital Square" residential project by EYI Associates between 0th and 7th Streets. With this occurring within sight of the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation, why did not these agencies object?

Beyond the sharper curved transition to the existing SW Freeway alignment, this NCPC plan differs from my conceptualization by lacking a split to a supplemental I-395 tunnel beneath G Street SW to ease constructibility (e.g. routing traffic- particularly during constructing the new connection to the existing SE Freeway alignment at 7th Street SW), while permanently providing additional capacity with a gentler curved connection to the north-south Center Leg (3rd Street Tunnel): easing a traffic bottleneck that customarily extends into Virginia.

The surface treatment differs with its lack of an extension of G Street SW towards the Jefferson Memorial providing some additional landfill to more integrate the area, and of a traffic circle at the 14th Street location of the I-395 tunnel portal. As I envision it, this new bridge/tunnel segment would be located on the extended axis of Louisiana Avenue.

This proposal also includes a new more literal "14th Street" Bridge -- together with the above mentioned new I-395 bridge -- crossing the Potomac River, with both having tunneled segment respectively to 14h Street and the SW Freeway. It also includes burying the railroad, preserving the existing railroad corridor but at a lower elevation accommodating a newly restored Maryland Avenue.

New development proposal by Hoffman-Struever Waterfront LLC

Yet will the authorities be able to control themselves to preserve the necessary easement for the new segment of tunneled I-395?

Or shall they place buildings directly in the path?

Boondoggles as "Capital Square", the "Golden Rule" apartment house, and a bit of the rush of development along the South Capitol Street corridor suggest the latter.

Final Approval for DC financing of Waterfront passed- SWDC Blog

A busy day for NCPC- Greater Greater Washington

National Capital Framework Plan- Continuing The Legacy


Unknown said...

How about doing nothing but maintain the existing road? Your ideas look great in pictures. Then again, L'Enfant Plaza looked great in pictures. They leveled an entire section of DC (SW) in the late '50s to build L'Enfant Plaza. It's been totally dead since the day it opened. It doesn't fit in with the city at all and most don't know it exists.
Careful when you knock things over. It seldom turns out like it does in the architect's picture.

Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

How many buildings would get knocked over but perhaps those irresponsibly placed 28 townhouses wedged along the south side of the SW Freeway in 1999-2000?

Unknown said...

irresponsible? What's more important? Places for people to live, or asphalt for cars? I think it's a fundamental question of values that our society is in the process of reevaluating. From WWII until this decade, it was clear that asphalt for cars was way more important than housing for people.
We're reaching the end of that. Gas isn't getting any cheaper. The costs of maintaing the infrastructure that is devoted to cars is spiraling ever higher as oil (one of the main components of asphalt) becomes an increasingly scarce and precious commodity.
Perhaps more importantly, this decade, our nation decided that cities are worth something. They aren't an old toy to be thrown out in favor of the new. Walkable cities and towns are fundamentally sustainable human settlments. The concept of bulldozing cities to make way for freeways will be relegated to the scrap heap of the History of Bad Ideas. It's impossible to have vibrant walkable spaces when it's criscrossed by freeways. Our experience with the second half of the twentieth century demonstrates this. I think it is hardly coincidental that Washington, D.C. came back as a center of culture and economics and life this decade with the completion of the Metro system and lack of freeways destroying the urban grid and human scale of the L'Enfant city. Freeways, in addition to destroying neighborhoods, salt the earth around them because no one wants to live next to one, and drive up the demand for parking on surface streets by dumping more cars on the roads. Our region has a Metro. It was designed to get people from the periphery to the core, and around the core. Freeways have no place in the city and have been proven to be highly damaging to urban life.

Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

They all do fine with being underground.

You can't conceive of the difference in the WMATA subway system and those gigantic railroad divided in DC NE?

Earlier societies only had surface roads.

More advanced ones began placing things underground, with trains and with vehicular roads.

Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

There was no justification for the 28 townhouses; consider measurable numbers, Capital Square should have been more urban with actually larger buildings then the more sububanesque townhouses- hence providing the same or even a greater number of new dwellings.

Unknown said...

I agree with you on your last argument. More would have been better.
As for the Red Line in NE up to Silver Spring, that rail viaduct predates all those communities. Brookland, Takoma, and Silver Spring all developed because of they were stops on the railroad, not the other way around.
When the Metro was planned, the planners simply saw an opportunity to use a century old right of way (and save some money in the process). It didn't cut the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods grew up around the preexisting viaduct.

Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

I imagined that area with buildings say the size of a Beaux Arts Paris apartment house- far greater capacity and with street front retail.

As for the Red Line, imagine that berm brought down, the transport network with more, placed below in box tunnels, beneath a new linear park.