The recent poor planning on the Center Leg/ 3rd Street Tunnel Air Rights Project ties directly into the disregard of popular opinion favoring extending I-395 to the northeast via a new tunnel.
Citizens favor I-395 tunnel.
Yet the U.S. National Capital Planning Commission alas, favors sticking heads into sand with unworkable parochialist-medievalist bias against outsides and automobiles- pretending that NYA does not connect MD route 50 freeway with I-395.
Failing to extend I-395 is NOT about saving neighborhoods, but rather about a parochialist mentality to instead continue to place a disproportionate traffic burden upon less affluent neighborhoods
The I-395 Capitol Crossing Air Rights Project assumes that the freeway will never be extended, failing to even discuss the matter and giving away 50% of its right of way, including pinching the median shoulders without mention to safety-operation ability of the freeway.
It acts as if there was no recent planing efforts to extend the freeway as a tunnel that would rescue the urban neighborhoods around and along New York Avenue from the freeway levels of traffic using that Avenue from 4th Street eastward as the de-facto freeway- neglecting that it connects to the Route 50 freeway that heads to Annapolis, and its interchange with the Baltimore Washington Parkway.
1996 I-395 New York Avenue Tunnel proposal to 7th Street NE
Extending I-395 to the northeast was not simply an idea abandoned during the mass 1970s freeway de-mappings - despite such freeways having been massively re-routed and re-designed to meet criticisms of earlier planning.
It's an idea that was revived during the 1990s under the direction of the D.C. Office of the Mayor, when the Mayor was Marion Barry, who had got much of his political start from being involved with the organized opposition to the official freeway planning during the 1960s with the group ECTC, serving as one of its Vice Chairmen.
The plans in place just prior to the de-mappings, for a cut and cover tunnel alongside New York Avenue, would have displaced (and replaced) about 600 Victorian townhouses in the area just north of New York Avenue between 4th Street NW and North Capital Street (including a one block row on New York Avenue's north side eastward to Ist Street NE town down during the administration of DC Mayor Anthony Williams).
1971 DeLeuw, Cather, Weese
Tunnel alongside New York Avenue
The 1971 design for a cut and cover tunnel alongside New York Avenue would have been 10 lanes (2x5) wide. Of these, 6 (2x3) would connect with the 8 lane Center Leg; 4 (2x2) with the 6 lane I-66 K Street Tunnel; and 2 (2x1) connecting the Center Leg and the K Street Tunnel.
The Center Leg as then built was designed for 8 lanes (2x4), plus extra space in the northbound carriageway for a lane westward to the I-66 K Street.- with its construction started started in 1975 before the de-mappings of the connecting highway links. Today it only appears as a 2x2 lane structure due to the addition of a set of non-load-bearing tunnel walls with the 1983-1986 finishing project, which could thus be removed without compromising the structure.
The tunnel design unveiled in 1996 with the New York Avenue Development Report for the further extension to the north-east, extends not alongside but rather directly beneath New York Avenue, with a curved transition to the Center Leg wrapping behind the rear of the Bibleway Church complex, using existing open space, hence requiring no building displacement. Thus, in contrast to the '1971' plan that would have displaced and replaced 600+ dwellings, it would displace 0 dwellings.
That would avoid the likely criticism of the 1971's building displacement.
But it would contain a trade-off, with the curved tunnel transition to and from the Center Leg that would wrap behind the rear of the Bibleway Church complex with geometrically inferior geometry- perhaps 30 rather than 50mph- somewhat deficient for an interstate highway.
Perhaps that's the reason why the report refrains from calling this tunnel an extension of I-395.
1996 New York Avenue Development Report
"Long" Tunnel beneath New York Avenue
The 1996 cut and cover tunnel design would have been 4 lanes (2x2) wide, with each lane 12 feet wide, with or without shoulders, continuing from the Center Leg.
It would include a set of cut and cover tunnel segments connecting westerly, not to an I-66 K Street tunnel but rather as an underground connection to the new Convention Center. Although the report included no detailed drawings, it is apparent that this extension would have required demolishing the non-load-bearing wall at least in the northbound Center Leg Tunnel, bringing it to 3 lanes. northbound.
1996 NYA Tunnel- western connection to Convention Center
While the 1996 New York Avenue Tunnel was designed to fit entirely within the 134 foot wide right of way of New York Avenue in order to displace no buildings, no reason was given why it was shown with only 4 (2x2) rather than 6 (2x3) lanes, as that right of way is 130 feet between building lines.
Although not explicitly called an I-395 extension, the 1996 design is here shown with 8 foot right hand shoulders, each with a 3 foot wide 1 1/2 wide barrier separated walkway, with 2 travel lanes in each direction, but with no left hand shoulders, with a median of a center wall with jersey barriers together measuring 5 feet- all flanked by 2 1/2 foot wide outer walls= and 83 foot wide tunnel box.
As U.S. FHWA specifications for interstate highways require 3 meter (9.84252 foot) outer shoulders and 1.5 meter (4.92 feet) inner shoulders for tunnel segment, this design would not qualify- needing essentially a 5 foot wide set of inner shoulders plus nearly another 2 feet for each o the outer shoulders- all in all adding another 14 feet to the 83 foot given width: 97 feet for an interstate tunnel with 4 travel lanes or 121 feet for one with 6.
Both versions with or without right hand shoulders would be shown with the option of a 'short' (2,100 foot) length, with it eastern portal between North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue.
The version with the 8 foot right shoulders would be also shown with a 'long' (4,400 foot) length, emerging east of the B&O/Red Line railroad at 6th Street NE.
The costs given for the 2,100 foot long, no shoulder and 4,400 long, with 8 foot right shoulders versions, were $340 and $600 million respectively.
1996 "I-395" Tunnel beneath New York Avenue 2x2 lanes plus shoulders
Note drafting dimension lines at left drawn as if to suggest a 2x3 lanes version
This 1996 design New York Avenue Tunnel was designed to share this right of way with a concurrent or future addition of an underground WMATA rail line.
The option of constructing the highway tunnel first would include extra deep wall extensions allowing subsequent construction below, here shown as the addition of a drilled WMATA tunnel.
Such a WMATA rail line could be built as a covered tunnel within the ample rail corridor paralleling the north side of New York Avenue to the east of the existing B&O/Red Line railroad corridor.
So could an eastern extension of the highway tunnel.
Both ideas are combinable with the idea of decking over the rail properties, with a new linear park along new York Avenue and an extension of the street grid supporting lots of new development and ending the railroad bisection.
However the report and the subsequent official planning would give little if any discussion to any of that.
This "New York Avenue Development Report" dated November 1996, was largely crafted by Ron Linton, and is often referred as the "Ron Linton report".
1996 'short' tunnel emerging between North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue
1996 'long' tunnel emerging at 6th Street NE
1996 'long' tunnel emerging at 6th Street NE
It was followed with a 1998 proposal for an even longer version extending further east to emerge at Montana Avenue.
Doing that would leave only the intersection with Blandensburg Road before New York Avenue flows into the Route 50 freeway physically standing between a full traffic light free road link between I-395 and Route 50, with its interchange with the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
Public sentiment by any indication favored the longest tunnel feasible. That would separate regional and local traffic, with the former comprising the bulk of the traffic into tunnel, allowing surface new York Avenue to become less of a highway and more as a city street.
New York Avenue carries roughly 77,000 vehicles daily.
A tunnel would accommodate this traffic and even more - particularly with 6 rather than the artificially contained 4 - while giving the local neighborhoods the avenue back as a local street or boulevard.
But as was already plainly obvious with the artificial restriction to only 2 lanes in each direction connecting to a Center Leg designed for twice that number- the official planning was being steered elsewhere- to the idea that if we just don't build the freeway facility that the traffic will just 'go-away'
Such a facility it would be argued, either because it was 'too expensive' or because we just should not accommodate people from outside the neighborhood- never mind that such an attitude was directly contrary to the sentiment of the locals seeking to make New York Avenue itself as more of a boulevard and less of a de factor expressway!
Such a facility would cost in the low billions, serve as the gateway to what is the Nation's Capitol, and serve as a basis for significant new air right development atop locally divisive railroad and rail yards, and even be funded in part by tolling made all the more practical by non stop easy pass electronic tolling.
Nonetheless, the planning would be steered to a dogma against building any new urban freeways regardless of design or tunneled or not: an attitude that may not be consistent with local urban opinion against 1950s style elevated highways, but which is being deeply propagandized into professional "urbanist" thinking that would better be labeled new or neo-medievalists.
Such is what occurred the two main subsequent planning studies by the District Department of Transportation, the other by U.S.National Capital Planning Commission, with officials back-tracking by too quickly dismissing tunnel as 'too expensive' while neglecting ideas making such more practical.
The DDOT study was officially named the "New York Avenue Corridor Study".
I live on R Street NE. I think the best solution to the NY Avenue traffic nightmare is to build a tunnel from the BW Parkway to the 395 tunnel. that's all that is needed to fix the problem. 95 percent of the NY Avenue traffic simply wants to get to Virgina and Maryland. they're aren't interested in DC- they don't want to stop.
Every day I ride my bicycle to work along NY Avenue headed south and "no one" continues past the 395 turnoff- no one is going into DC. Every night coming home it is gridlock- cars stick on NY Avenue. Make these people pay for changes.
All these "one person in a vehicle environmental destroyers come from Maryland and Virgina- why not make them pay for the improvement? If the city had been charging rush hour commuters a quarter each way for the past 5 years you would have a billion dollars for the upgrade now- $32 million per year.
Every day we have 175, 00 cars sitting in gridlock, destroying our environment and chocking our air- all because of outdated planning.
If we leave the existing roads for local traffic there is no need to change them. plat trees don the center of NY and Florida avenue. Plant trees elsewhere. Let all the through traffic go underground. That way we don't have to see or smell them! The amount of pollution and gridlock is disgusting and our neighborhood is suffering because of it. the arteries need to be unblocked and new trees planted.
Once the tunnel is complete and we have only have local traffic to deal with, we should bring the neighborhood back to the way it was designed by reinstating the beautiful traffic circles and adding a new one at NY and Florida.
A bridge over Florida Avenue- ridiculous.
And don't tell me you can't put a tunnel under railroad tracks
237 R Street NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
Rick, I reviewed your meeting notes from the final public meeting and I thought that your representative of our viewpoint regarding the NY/FLA Avenue Bridge was fairly accurate however, in responding to the cost comparisons between the bridge vs the extended tunnel option, I think that you should have mentioned the possibility that the land and development space gained form an extended tunnel option could have additional possible economic impacts for District, and these impacts would reduce the $300-$400 million dollar cost between the two alternatives- Mike
Designing the tunnel to be easier to construct and to support new development was a set of major ideas neglected by the officials involved with this planning.
Placing the tunnel directly beneath New York Avenue was to avoid displacing buildings, yet costlier than one alongside.
Yet why would this planning subvert the idea of a longer version extending east of the B&O/Red Line that would be easier to construct and easier to accommodate new development particularly via decking over the chasm of railroads?
Rather than extending the tunnel east directly under New York avenue, why not instead alongside via the existing of a clear strip of under utilized parking lots there between the Avenue and the adjoining enormous railroad corridor.
Constructing the tunnel there would not only be immensely less complicated and thus less expensive than beneath the Avenue, and easier for not conflicting with traffic, but would provide the start for a decking over of the adjacent railroad that would create large amounts of new land for a new linear park with new surface development via extending the street grid to eliminate the existing railroad bisection. After all we hear so much about the need for new urban infill development. And we hear about how grade separated roads divide cities- with highways anyway, but not vast rail yards- go figure. Yet the official planning would remain weirdly obtuse to that idea.
Instead, post 2000 official planning would steer greater attention upon 'short' tunnel options that would emerge between North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue, with an emphasis upon an idea that would not be popularly received, of an elevated viaduct to carry the express lanes of New York Avenue to cross over Florida Avenue.
To its credit the DDOT study included an interesting short tunnel for the New York Avenue express lanes to cross beneath Bladensburg Avenue.
As this 1996+ planning artificially constrained itself with the obtuseness towards placing the tunnel east of the B&O alongside New York Avenue, and in constricting the width to avoid interstate spec shoulders and to throw away the additional 50% capacity despite the available building-free right of way beneath the Avenue and within the northern Center Leg Tunnel hidden by the non-load-bearing add on walls, no other tunnel designs were considered.
Despite that, and the added factors of:
- short term disturbance to traffic of constructing a cut and cover tunnel beneath the heavily traveled New York Avenue approach to the existing I-395 truncation, and
- the permanent poor geometry of the 'Ron Linton' design curved transition tunnel behind the Bibleway Church complex,
I was told that my idea of a gently arcing tunnel beneath the intersection of New Jersey and and N Street and then a double stack under O Street could not receive any considered because it would displace some 33 or so dwellings (a 95% reduction from the 600+ of the 1971 design), because the project somehow had to displace zero dwellings. Thus, that idea appeared nowhere in this formal planning process.
Fascinating- a study that neglects the potential of a traffic tunnel to make a corridor actually more conducive to development, let along the option of routing it alongside New York Avenue that would make it less complicated and less expensive to construct.
Noting the levels of traffic, along with the numerous citizen's comments, the DDOT report endorses the idea of an I-395 extension via a tunnel.
Report Recommendation:Not leaving well enough alone, U.S. National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) chimed in with its 2006 "New York Avenue-Florida Avenue Charrette" consisting not of citizens but rather of a selected group of paid consultants.
It would be highly desirable to separate regional and local traffic in this area.
The study recommends that I-395 be extended by means of a tunnel under New York Avenue from its current terminus at 4th Street NW to east of North Capitol Street.
With regional traffic corridor (thought to be half the traffic currently on New York Avenue in that area) removed, the cross section of New York Avenue could be modified to remove one lane of traffic in each direction. This would allow for extensive street-scape improvements and permit on street parking.
Howards Decker FAIAThis considered 3 options. All included a tunneled extension from the I-395 Center Leg following the 1996 Ron Linton routing wrapping behind the rear of Bibleway, and continuing beneath New York Avenue, and eliminating the existing North Capitol Street underpass:
Project Directer Ehrenkranytz Eckstut & Kuhn, Washington DC
Louis J Slade PE TOE
Vice President and Principle
Antia B Morrison MPP
Principle Bay Area Economics
Silver Spring MD
Raymlond E. Peloquin AIA CARB Associates
Don Stull FAIA NCARB
President and Principal, Stull & Lee Inc Boston MA
Major Bridge Specialists Leader US Federal Highway Administration Washington DC
- "Bridge Alternative": short tunnel with portal just east of North Capitol Street than arising to bridge atop Florida AvenueNoting the traffic counts indicating a high percentage of a regional nature, continuing from the Route 50 freeway and the Baltimore Washington Parkway to the I-395 Center Leg or visa versa, they note the benefits of a tunnel to provide significantly reduced surface traffic levels upon its parallel segment of New York Avenue
- "At Grade Alternative" : short tunnel with portal just east of North Capitol Street
- "Tunnel Alternative" : longer tunnel with portal emerging east of the B&O railroad.
Nonetheless, despite the local urban support for a tunnel, particularly the concept of one significantly longer, the NCPC "charrette" (charade) consultants overwhelmingly chose to disregard that in favor of such points as these:
- the DC street network exists to serve District residents and neighborhoods first and those who work in the District second. Give much less priority to accommodating regional interstate traffic. Decker, Morrison, Peloquin, Slade, Stull
- Focus on moving people- not cars Encourage a bias against the automobile.
Decker, Morrison and Slade
- removal of the current regional through traffic-volumes would create opportunities for mixed use development Decker, Morrison, Peloquin, Slade, Stull
- To discourage use of New York Avenue/I-395 for regional through traffic Decker, Slade
- consider tolls or congestion pricing Decker, Slade
- Consider truncating I-395 at Massachusetts Avenue Decker
- Consider pairing the New York Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue ramps: off only at New York and on-only at Massachusetts. Decker
- Use the opportunity of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and I-295 improvement to discourage use by regional pass-through traffic on New York Avenue. Decker, Sade
Consultants Decker, Slade, Morrison, Peloquin and Stull all criticize all three as encouraging through traffic.
Move people not cars?
People in cities move in cars unless on foot or bicycles- ridiculous ideology useless except for distracting from the economic exploitation for shirt term profit
The only consultant to refrain from so disgracing himself is Benjamin Tang.
All of the other consultants, Decker, Slade, Morrison, Peloquin and Stull subscribe to the parochialism-medievalism plaguing our Nation's Capital.
Thus, years of official planning with local citizen sentiment overwhelmingly favoring a longer tunnel would be subjugated to a new medievalism that claims to favor local neighborhoods while actually disregarding them.
Most of the popular local opinion was pro tunnel, specifically pro-longer tunnel, and even pro development given the ample railroad related brown-fields.
Yet while such was the sentiment of the urban people, the 'urbanist' professionals here would pay lip service to an idea that only local residents mattered; and that outsiders should have to take a longer route- and one through the less affluent southeast.
Never mind the reality that New York Avenue is the direct extension of the Route 50 freeway and that a tunnel could be fund-able by tolls and rail-yards air rights development.
The paid consultants here would primarily take positions against such city residents support for a tunnel for regional traffic in order to accommodate the more broad goals of accommodating regional traffic and local neighborhood concerns, in favor of a dogmatic parochialism acting oblivious to the fact that city residents and the trucks delivering goods have to travel through other areas to reach the city (and not in tunnels to shield those areas from the traffic noise. etc.)- best called 'new or neo-medievalism.
Such "planning" is what has preceded the developer giveaway of half of the I-395 Center Leg right of way via the "Capitol Crossing" Air Rights Project.