City Desk

D.C. Makes Infrastructural Shame List

Watch out, area commuters–there's a do-gooder nonprofit that wants to mess with your route.

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) has released a list of the country's Top 10 "Freeways Without Futures." These are the spots, according to the CNU, where "the opportunity is greatest to stimulate valuable revitalization by replacing aging urban highways with boulevards and other cost-saving urban alternatives."

In other words: For city dwellers, a better place to live; for drivers, gridlock.

Anyhow, the list is topped by Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct and includes Route 34 in New Haven and Route 81 in Syracuse.

D.C. just barely makes the cut, with its 11th Street bridges and Southeast Freeway. Let CNU take the argument from there:

The Southeast Freeway is a 1.39-mile stretch of freeway running through Washington D.C. built in the late 1960s. It connects Interstate 395 to Interstate 295 at the 11th Street Bridges and was prevented from continuing west due to local opposition at the time. To address congestion and traffic routing problems at the interchange connecting the Southeast/Southwest Freeway and the Anacostia Freeway (I-295) over the Anacostia River, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) began investigating how to reconstruct and reconfigure the interchange at the 11th Street Bridges.

The Concerned Citizens of Eastern Washington, the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, some of whom were involved with the freeway revolt in the 1960s, began investigating the FHWA's preferred alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Assessment. Working with the transportation engineering firm Smart Mobility, Inc., the Capitol Hill Restoration Society discovered that, while the DC Department of Transportation states that there will not be an increase in capacity, the “preferred alternative … will result in a 50% increase of freeway capacity into central DC, even though this is contrary to the DC Comprehensive Plan.” This project has renewed discussions about improving surface-street and pedestrian connections in the near southeastern section of the district by removing the Southeast Freeway — what the DC Office of Planning refers to as a “formidable psychological barrier.”

Anyone out there want to make the case that this slice of the local highway system is actually a freeway with a splendid future?

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  • Tom

    I've been involved, with community groups, in looking at the issue of how best to reconstruct this bridge. DC has decided on an alternative which expands its capacity and thus increases daily traffic over the bridge by about 50,000 vehicles daily. It will cost DC taxpayers about $450 million, provided costs don't escalate. The bridge has to be repaired or rebuilt, probably rebuilt, but if it weren't redesigned to have 50% more lanes, and thus considerably more traffic -- which will inevitably just shift congestion around as more vehicles enter the city -- it could be considerably cheaper, and bring with it less added congestion and pollution. Just my two cents.

    Tom

  • http://cos-mobile.blogspot.com Douglas Willinger

    The eastern portion of the SE Freeway should be decked over and extended as such to East Capitol Street with a low speed, low capacity boulevard atop.

    Why no attention to the fact that the 11th Street Bridge is being rebuilt with extensive elevated approaches for the sake of crossing a heavy RR that's envisioned to be removed?

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