Housing Complex

Downtown: Built Up, but Not Yet Fully Built Out

A map of projects coming to downtown

A map of projects coming to downtown

D.C.'s downtown has come a long way from the days of vast surface parking lots, and with the big CityCenterDC project nearing completion, it might appear as if downtown is just about at capacity (barring a change to the Height Act, that is). But Rich Bradley, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement District, says the next ten years could bring as much change to downtown as we've seen so far this millennium. According to his calculations, the coming decade will see $6 billion to $7 billion in new investment downtown.

And so the Downtown BID has put together an interactive timeline called Downtown 2020 to highlight the projects coming to the city's center. From the arrival of hotels and restaurants and theaters to the construction of new buildings and infrastructure improvements, the site serves as a one-stop shop for information on what's coming down the pike. (It's worth noting that the BID's core mission is to promote downtown as a place to do business, so its projections may serve that end.)

One thing that's likely coming is a streetcar with its own lane of traffic. As reported by Greater Greater Washington yesterday, the District Department of Transportation has settled on a proposal to build a streetcar on K Street NW that will be separated from car traffic by a median for most of its run between 10th and 21st streets. The streetcar line is still years off—even the initial H Street NE line, from which the K Street line will be extended, won't open until next year—but the Downtown BID has created a visualization that allows you to ride the line virtually:

Starting around 3:45, you can see the part of the route around Mt. Vernon Square. Here, Bradley says, the BID is considering a plan to extend the grassy square itself and run the streetcar tracks right on it, separated from traffic—much as you'd see in some European cities.

This is all still preliminary, but one thing is clear: Although downtown development has come a long way, it's not close to done yet.

Map via Downtown 2020

  • NE John

    That looks wonderful.

  • SEis4ME

    Although streetcars will likely have a minimal (if any) effect on relieving traffic congestion...I imagine running it along K street will look nice and I would board one from time to time..just because.

    But they would be foolish if they dedicated an entire lane for streetcars but not buses. If they don't, squash the idea altogether.

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  • Nick


    Why not use both streetcars and buses in the dedicated lanes? Also, won't a lot of the buses be phased out as the streetcar network expands?

  • SEis4ME

    Nick, using both in the lanes was the point I was making as it would make absolutely no sense otherwise.

    I think phasing out will work for some of the routes but I don't think there are many bus that have direct East/West routes in that corridor for which streetcars would be a better alternative.

    I'm for placing the SC's in areas that make sense..not just because it's someone's great multi-modal'ish idea. K street makes sense...

  • Andrew


    Buses will also use the dedicated lanes if they are lines which run along K St. It is a transitway, not a dedicated streetcar line. This project is good for all of the transit AND all of the traffic--no more of that frustrating service lane weaving.

  • Eponymous

    It's an exciting time to live in DC. I've been here for over a decade now, and still can't believe the transformation that has already taken place.

  • Richko

    Left out of this otherwise realistic video are bicycles running red lights and weaving around pedestrians on the downtown sidewalks!

  • Matt


    I'm sorry, but you're completely incorrect. Buses take up 4% of the traffic volume on L St but carry nearly 50% of commuters. Putting them (and street cars, of course) in their own dedicated lanes would dramatically reduce travel time for a large number of commuters. While the people who choose to drive into downtown DC would not see their commute nearly as dramatically impacted, they would still see some improvement. If they want more, they should get out of their cars.

  • Rebecca

    What's going on with the overhead wires and the streetcar's extendable/collapsible connector? Will the system use catenary wires in some sections but not in others?