Friday, September 18, 2009

11th Street Bridge Under Troubled Wires

The 11th Street bridges that span the Anacostia in SE DC are one step closer to a transporation makeover, assuming government agencies can play nice. The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) recently reviewed the District Department of Transportation's (DDOT) design, which will replace the 40-year-old 11th Street bridges, improving traffic flow, connecting I-695 and I-295 and creating a pedestrian and bike-friendly addition to the I-295 bridge. The new bridges make accommodations for future street car use of the bridge, including features for (gasp) overhead wires. The bridges will get their makeover, but the street car may have to wait.

According to DDOT, the Southwest/Southeast Freeway (I-695) was originally planned as part of the "Inner Loop Freeway System," a highway system designed in the '50s and built in the '60s that was (thankfully) never fully completed. The portion at issue here was to connect the Inner Loop with the Anacostia Freeway (I-295/DC-295), a plan that was ultimately abandoned; to date motorists have no direct connection between the two highways north of the 11th street bridge complex. DDOT's plan suggests that this inconvenience leads to increased traffic on neighborhood streets like Martin Luther King Jr. Ave, Good Hope Road, Minnesota Ave and Pennsylvania Ave.

The current upstream bridge has four lanes headed north and the downstream bridge has four lanes headed south, for a total of eight lanes (we can add good); the new bridges will have a total of 12 lanes. The upstream bridge (I-695) will get an additional four lanes, or four in each direction, but two will be used as entrance and exit lanes. The downstream bridge (I-295) for local traffic will still have four lanes, two in each direction with the two outer lanes shared, in theory, by street cars and motor vehicles. The local traffic bridge will also include a 14 foot "shared use path" for pedestrians, runners and cyclists.

While the 11th Street Bridge plan does not directly provide for street cars, it does include the tracks, light posts, and overhead wires for the street cars that may eventually help bridge the chasm between the two sides of the Anacostia river. DDOT has been moving full speed ahead on the Anacostia street car program and is pretty excited about it (to anthropomorphize a bit), and weekly updates are now available online. The plan to install track lines in the new 11th street bridge is just another example of foresight by the transportation planning body.

But, DC being a jurisdictional hodge podge of government overlords, enter the turf battle. The NCPC Executive Director's recommendation stated that NCPC "does not support a street car system with overhead wires in the L'Enfant City" and encouraged DDOT "to pursue alternative propulsion technologies...that do not require overhead wires." The same issue was raised about the street car planned for the H Street corridor. The conflict is not going away any time soon.

If you paid attention to our NCPC crib notes last week, you'll remember that their authority over the historic Washington City means it will uphold federal law that prohibits overhead wires from obstructing view of landmarks.

DDOT and NCPC have clear mission statements and long-term plans, which often can work in unison to improve planning in the District. On this issue, however, it looks like we will see a showdown or at least some creative bargaining as the two agencies are pitted against one another in the what future generations will surely call the "Great Street Car Dilemma of L'Enfant City."


IMGoph on Sep 18, 2009, 4:46:00 PM said...

explain to me how overhead wires on the bridge will harm views of anything monumental within the l'enfant city?

sure, there might be a tiny spot you could stand in in anacostia where something would be blocked by one of these wire's poles. but that spot would be outside the l'enfant city, so that's outside of their purview, right?

otherwise, they could rule on things in arlington, since buildilngs built there block monumental views for people outside the l'enfant city.

point being, the whole NCPC position is just a tad on the crazy side of ridiculous.

Free DC said...

Well, then let's just vote the NCPC bums out of office! When is the next election!?

What? The members are appointed? DC residents have no input? One member is from SOUTH CAROLINA? Appointed by President Bush?

otavio on Sep 20, 2009, 1:20:00 PM said...

This issue will need to be resolved if we are to see streetcars and other forms of light rail in the L'Enfant City anytime soon. DC can lay all the tracks it wants, but vehicles won't be using them.

We can keep talking about it and how ridiculous we think NCPC or the ban is, but the standoff on the overhead wires isn't going away.

DC will need to either lobby for a change in the law (which there is no evidence that it is doing so) or find an alternative source of power.

Congresswoman Norton and the Mayor need to be at the forefront on this important issue (which they aren't).

Anonymous said...

-Commission Members-

The 12-member National Capital Planning Commission reflects the diverse local and federal interests and constituencies that shape planning in the nation's capital.

Presidential Appointees
The President appoints three citizens to the Commission. At least one of the appointees must be a resident of Maryland and one a resident of Virginia. On September 10, 2009 President Obama appointed L. Preston Bryant, Jr. as chair of the National Capital Planning Commission. He will replace Chairman John Cogbill, III. Read more in the agency's news release announcing the appointment.

John V. Cogbill, III, Chairman (Virginia)

John M. Hart (Maryland)

Herbert F. Ames (South Carolina)

Mayoral Appointees
The Mayor of the District of Columbia appoints two citizens. Both appointees must be residents of the District of Columbia.

Arrington Dixon

Stacie S. Turner

Ex Officio Members
Ex Officio members include the heads of Executive Branch agencies with significant land holdings in the region; the Chairmen of the U.S. House and Senate committees with D.C. oversight responsibility; the D.C. Mayor; and the Chairman of the D.C. City Council. Ex Officio members frequently delegate alternates to represent them on the Commission.

The Honorable Dr. Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
(View alternates)

The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
(View alternates)

The Honorable Paul F. Prouty
Acting Administrator of General Services
(View alternates)

The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
United States Senate
(View alternates)

The Honorable Edolphus Towns
Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
United States House of Representatives
(View alternates)

The Honorable Adrian M. Fenty
Mayor, District of Columbia
(View alternates)

The Honorable Vincent C. Gray
Chairman, Council of the District of Columbia
(Note: First Alternate Robert E. Miller
serves as the Commission's Vice Chairman)
(View alternates)

Anonymous said...

Tentative Agenda
October 1, 2009
12:30 p.m.

Unknown on Sep 28, 2009, 11:56:00 PM said...

Wonder if they if ever heard of cantenary-free (NO overhead wires) light rail.

Douglas Andrew Willinger on Dec 30, 2009, 3:56:00 PM said...

How about that redesign that has the southbound Anacostia Freeway upon a viaduct?

Did not anyone note that?

Won't that block views from south of Anacostia WAY MORE then any set of trolly wires?

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