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Schrag on Kojo

The Great Society Subway author Zachary Schrag appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU last Wednesday, comparing Metro's current expansion debate with the debates when Metro was being built.

Tom Coburn comes off looking a lot like Congressman William Huston Natcher, the closest thing to a villain in the book. Natcher held up Metro funding for years because DC refused to build freeways like the Three Sisters Bridge (which would have generally conencted the Whitehurst to the Spout Run Parkway).

Schrag's answer was less satisfying when an anti-Purple Line caller (starting at 18:58) claimed that the line would "exacerbate class differences" and "wipe out small communities." Schrag claimed that's unavoidable in a "capitalist system", but missed a chance to discuss (perhaps because this is outside his field) how public investment in roads has created much greater class differences by causing disinvestment in cities or forcing working-class people to live far from their jobs. Maybe Kojo can get Christopher Leinberger on the show next; in the meantime, I encourage everyone to read The Option of Urbanism.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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My favorite quote from Schrag on the show: "The visionaries were right." People did indeed get out of their cars and ride the train once it became avialable.

by Bianchi on Jun 30, 2008 2:54 pm • linkreport

I'm downright offended when people make outlandish claims like the Purple Line will exacerbate class differences. Connecting communities together does just the opposite of that. I worry that what may be causing some of anti-Purple Line sentiment is the idea of hard working immigrants who talk funny being afforded the opportunity to venture out of their sequestered low income rental prisons and make a better living, bringing some of that economic viability back to Langley Park with them. Shame on that caller.

by Dave Murphy on Jun 30, 2008 4:16 pm • linkreport

Do we really need the Whitehurst freeway? How long is it, like two miles long? Demo that, then maybe we can connect a new better Kennedy Center back to the city.

by Boots on Jun 30, 2008 8:17 pm • linkreport

The Whitehurst is about ¾ of a mile. And yes, we should get rid of it, making K street beneath into a boulevard like San Francisco's Octavia Boulevard.

by David Alpert on Jun 30, 2008 8:24 pm • linkreport

Wednesday, June 25th was the broadcast.

by Steve on Jul 1, 2008 7:18 am • linkreport

I just had a chance to listen to the segment. I, too, and a little disappointed with Schrag's response to that NIMBY question about class differences. Not that he was wrong - but simply that the implication he left open was that this is solely a byproduct of transit investment.

Also, I never realized Schrag was also a professor of Art History.

by Alex B. on Jul 1, 2008 9:11 am • linkreport

You know, the Whitehurst Freeway creates a beautiful space underneath it., even though the structure itself is ugly. Rather than lose that, the space could be reused and beautified. Reduce the number of lanes to one each way and make it a BRT lane on one side to connect to Macarthur Boulevard via Canal and K Street. On the other side could be a planted bike and pedestrian route. Cut open the middle in an architecturally interesting way to let in more light and then redesign the structure superficially and it could become a real asset.

It could also just be a new park, with ramps and elevators to connect to the surroundings, with everything above except the bus lanes. Precedents for this already exist. Promenade Plantée and the High Line are great for their communities. The spaces underneath a well-designed viaduct, such as the Riverside Drive viaduct over 12th Avenue in New York can really create cool places.

by The King of Spain on Jul 1, 2008 11:02 am • linkreport

There's currently a big push on from the Ward 2 Councilmember, Jack Evans, to take down the Whitehurst and make a grand boulevard out of the underlying K/Water Street that would connect up to Canal Road. It's created lots of controversy from commuters who use it as a link into downtown. Evans though says that the boulevard could handle the increased traffic. From San Francisco's experience with Octavia Blvd., it sounds like he is on target.

Driving the Whitehurst affords one of the nicest views of the river, so in that sense the structure will be missed. However, there's no doubt that it does separate Georgetown from its waterfront and for that reason alone should be removed.

by Lance on Jul 1, 2008 5:35 pm • linkreport

The DC government just spent $500,000 on a study to see if it was feasible to remove the Whitehurst. They could not come up with a viable alternative.

The Whitehurst is a critical roadway that keeps more than 42,000 vehicles per day off of Georgetown's crowded streets. The congestion at the stoplights at either end of the Freeway occurs only at rush hour, but the vast majority of motorists use the Whitehurst at other times of the day.

Jack Evans initiated the study and likes to say that removing the Whitehurst is just a matter of lowering the roadway to ground level. It is not.

Traffic patterns would be altered so that vehicles coming across Key Bridge into DC would be forced onto M Street -- unless an unsightly and lengthy ramp is built. ( These vehicles currently have the option of bypassing Georgetown by taking a ramp directly from Key Bridge onto the Whitehurst.

A critical connection to the E Street Expressway would also be lost, and the vehicles that use this elevated ramp would end up on the streets of Foggy Bottom.

Even with widening, the road below the Whitehurst would be inadequate to handle the vehicles that use the Freeway along with the heavy traffic it now carries, especially on weekends.

It may seem that removing the Whitehurst would improve the appearance of the Georgetown waterfront, but the price we would pay in added traffic congestion makes removal impractical.

by Campaign to Save the Whitehurst on Jul 3, 2008 12:37 am • linkreport

Wouldn't it be great if all those motorists coming off the Key Bridge had the option of taking a tram or train instead?

by Bianchi on Jul 3, 2008 10:50 am • linkreport

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