A "scar." A "blight on the urban landscape." A project that "tore the Capitol Hill neighborhood from its moorings." City and development officials had all sorts of descriptions this morning for the I-395 tunnel that ripped through downtown D.C. in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But they all could agree on one descriptor: not much longer for this world.
City leaders and developers gathered this morning by the freeway gash to celebrate its imminent demise. The road won't actually disappear, of course; it'll just vanish from the sight of people on the streets above, decked over to create a major new mixed-use development called Capitol Crossing. The project has been nine years in the making, and construction is already underway on the freeway. Today marked the official groundbreaking, a symbolic moment that provided a chance for officials to heap their bile on the urban-planning mistake that brought us here and their praise on the development that will supplant it.
A promotional video from the developer, Property Group Partners, calls Capitol Crossing "one of the great projects of our time." The company's founder and president, Jeff Sussman, hailed the groundbreaking as "a great day for Washington, D.C. and a great day for us." His colleague Bob Braunohler labeled it "an urban planner's dream for over 50 years." Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton painted it as a victory for the District over the suburbs, which have historically subordinated D.C.'s priorities.
"395 is about the region," she said. "You hear all that noise? That's more about them than about us." Capitol Crossing, she continued, "gives us back a neighborhood, a whole section of our city that was lost to us."