Housing Complex

Norton Aims to Explore Parking Under Mall; Congress Isn’t Interested


On April Fools Day weekend, the Washington Post ran an editorial promoting "a pretty sensible idea": building a giant garage under the National Mall. The proposal, it turned out, was not made in jest—and one influential Washingtonian is taking it very seriously.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced an amendment to a bill last night in the House Rules Committee that would have authorized a study of the feasibility of this idea, which would help with water management as well as providing parking. (Norton offered it as an amendment to a water resources bill.)

"The appeal of the facility, brought to Norton by constituents, is that the cost would be paid by parking fees and it would aid in flood management, which has become a major issue in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the 2006 flood that left portions of Federal Triangle and the National Mall underwater," Norton's office says in an email.

Alas, Norton's colleagues didn't see the appeal; the amendment didn't pass a vote to move to the House floor.

Renderings from savethemall.org

  • Thom Cat

    Eleanor, RETIRE!

  • Alf

    While I agree that Eleanor should have retired years ago, a parking garage under part of the Mall is not some crazy idea, particularly if it's planned for buses. Washington is inundated with tour buses carrying school and other groups and they all wind up at the Smithsonian museums and the Mall sooner or later. The buses double-park to unload or wait, circle endlessly and idle (illegally). The Washington Cathedral built a bus for tour buses a few years back and it greatly reduced similar problems. A garage could also provide needed visitor infrastructure like restrooms and maybe some underground space for special exhibitions. Well worth considering.

  • cheezy

    Good idea, but make it only for buses and emergency vehicles.

  • Will

    I doubt that parking fees would pay for the capital and operating costs. Likely it would just pay for operating. A couple things strike me:

    Where would you place the elevator banks and stairwells to bring thousands of people up from garage level?

    Where would you place the entry/exit ramps to access the garage from street level? They will need a 16' clearance for tour buses, and that's a pretty significant ramp distance from somewhere.

    How do you address security issues presented by the specter of a car bomb under the mall?

    Has EHN thought about how many 50 cu/yd dump trucks would be needed to hollow out this much dirt? The proper way to do it would be with a railroad or conveyor to a barge.

    It's not the worst plan I've ever seen, and I'd love to see buses moved away from Ohio drive and other places where they stop and idle. It would be great if a bus could come into the city on 14th St. Bridge, Indy, or Const, park centrally, discharge its passengers, and not idle somewhere with the AC on.

    Best way to do this without major grade change on street is use the 12th Street Expressway as the entrance and exit to the garage for most vehicles, with maybe an alternate entrance/exit off 14th Street, maybe where the grade changes naturally at the American History museum (exit) and somewhere by Holocaust museum (entrance).

  • MORE Parking??

    Just what the national mall needs, more traffic. Surely there is another way to improve water management there.

  • http://tsarchitect.nsflanagan.net/ цarьchitect

    I love the idea of replacing 395 with a garage. Wonderful re-use of misguided infrastructure.

  • Dead End

    There is already a parking garage under the Mall, almost - at the Air & Space Museum. It used to be open to the public but was closed early in the security clamp-down on the city. I have no doubt that a Mall garage would also end up closed, either with or without cause, for our own protection. Don't bother.

  • Typical DC BS

    @Dead End: Great observation. Don't forget the massive cost overruns that will occur with the feds running that construction job. They are the WORST at containing costs, because they just allocate more money when they constantly change the specs and drag out the process.

    The cost overruns at the Ronald Reagan building and the visitors center at Congress would have caused everyone involved to be fired in the private sector.

  • EHN Fan

    Just hire the Obamacare website contractors to build it. It will be on time, on budget, and work the first time. Promise.