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Designs for a Southeast Boulevard look like the freeway it's replacing

Last night, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) presented several concepts for replacing the end of the Southeast Freeway with a boulevard. While it's supposed to reconnect Hill East to the Anacostia River, all of the designs presented prioritize through traffic instead.

Photo by Eric Fidler on Flickr.

The Southeast Freeway has been a barrier between the neighborhood and the river, but the new 11th Street bridges mean that the spur between 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE is no longer needed. DDOT would like to replace it with a surface street, called "Southeast Boulevard," connecting the freeway at 11th Street to Barney Circle.

A standing-room only crowd packed the Payne Elementary School auditorium for DDOT's public meeting on the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Transportation Planning Study. At the meeting, required as part of an environmental assessment of the project under the National Environmental Protection Act, transportation planners shared design concepts for the project and gathered community feedback.

Map of Concept 2. Images from DDOT.

Alternatives for Southeast Boulevard and Barney Circle vary slightly

DDOT planners presented six different options they're studying for the new street, including a "No Build" option (Concept 1) required as part of the NEPA process that would keep everything as it is today.

Concept 2 puts Southeast Boulevard on an elevated structure midway between L Street SE and the existing CSX railroad tracks. The boulevard would be on the same level as L Street, with green space acting as a buffer. Pedestrians and cyclists could access the waterfront by crossing the boulevard at 14th Street SE. DDOT would also build a "multi-modal" parking facility underneath the raised boulevard, with ramps off of the boulevard providing bus and car access to the parking facility.

Concept 2.

In Concept 3A, Southeast Boulevard would be at grade, below the level of L Street, with surface parking and green space next to it. There would be a foot and bike bridge over the boulevard and another surface lot to provide access to the waterfront.

Concept 3A.

Concept 3B is similar to 3A, except the boulevard is on the same level as L Street. In this case, pedestrians and cyclists would have to cross directly over the 4-lane boulevard and surface parking lot to access the waterfront.

Concept 3B.

Concept 4A places the Southeast Boulevard closer to the railroad tracks and away from L Street, with a parking lot in between. The boulevard and parking would be at grade below the level of L Street. Pedestrians and cyclists would access the waterfront via a pedestrian bridge over the parking lots and boulevard.

Concept 4A.

Concept 4B is the same, except the boulevard is at the same level as L Street, and pedestrians and cyclists would cross the parking lots and boulevard at 14th Street.

Concept 4B.

Planners also presented two options on the Barney Circle project, both of which would place traffic signals at the circle.

Option 1 would connect 17th Street, Kentucky Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, and Southeast Boulevard directly to the circle. Kentucky Avenue would stay a two-way street south of Freedom Way and one-way north of it. K Street would not be connected to the circle, but you could still reach it via Pennsylvania Avenue.

In Option 2, 17th, Pennsylvania, and Southeast Boulevard would connect to Barney Circle, while Kentucky Avenue would become a one-way southbound street from H Street to the circle. H Street would become a two-way street, with all-way stop signs installed at 17th & H and 16th, Kentucky, and H. K Street would remain one-way, but would connect directly to the circle.

Option 1.

These options prioritize through traffic over local connections

All of DDOT's concepts for Southeast Boulevard have three things in common: they all include a four-lane boulevard, have no connections to local streets, and include some parking element. The agency's traffic analysis determined that the new street was necessary, connections to local strets would increase cut-through traffic and that there's a significant need for parking.

The result is concepts that simply recreate what DDOT and the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative are trying to eliminate: a freeway that separates the neighborhood from the waterfront. The extra lanes, lack of signals and additional parking will just attract more drivers to the neighborhood during rush hour.

The designs are especially harmful to 17th Street, where Hill East residents have fought for years to reduce traffic volume and speed. DDOT proposes making 17th Street the only access point to Southeast Boulevard via Barney Circle, making it an alternative for drivers trying to avoid 295 and the 11th Street bridge.

Replace the freeway with a new street grid

If a new street is necessary, a better option is to extend the neighborhood grid by connecting the local streets, 13th, 14th, and 15th, to a two-lane boulevard with stoplights at each intersection. This would make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to cross at multiple locations and make the boulevard a local street, rather than a freeway.

A two-lane road with multiple signals would attract less traffic, easing but not eliminating some of the pressure on 17th Street SE. Green space could provide a buffer between L Street and the two-lane boulevard. And forget the unneeded parking lots.

On Barney Circle, Option 1 appears to be preferable to Option 2, assuming that DDOT can implement traffic calming measures on Kentucky Ave SE. Option 2 exacerbates current traffic volume problems by attracting more vehicles to 16th, 17th, and H streets. Without changes to the Southeast Boulevard portion of the project, both Barney Circle options make the neighborhood worse off.

If the goal of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative is really "to reduce barriers between neighborhoods and the waterfront parks" and "provide continuous pedestrian and bicycle access along the entire waterfront," than we need an option that replaces the Southeast Freeway with a new street grid that prioritizes local connections.

What do you think about the proposals? You can send your comments directly to DDOT at

Brian Flahaven is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner representing Barney Circle and portions of Hill East (6B09).  


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Thanks for writing this up, Brian.

Of the Southeast Boulevard options, really only option 2 should be considered. Building a surface parking lot has to be a non-starter. And I get the need for tour bus parking in the city and if it has to be somewhere, at least do it correct here. Electric hookups, bathrooms, and a small lounge for the drivers. There were also mentions of a streetcar ban/maintenance facility which could also work in the underground portion. I hate the whole concept of building the parking in the first place, but if we're going to do it, do it right, and concept 2 comes closest to that.

I was at the meeting and the thing that struck me was the constant mention of federal money. I talked to Sanjay Kumar, the project manager from DDOT, and he said that any plan that didn't replace the traffic flow from the old stub of the freeway wasn't going to happen. I asked this in the context of the option of simply replacing and connecting the grid and making more city. Also, a rep from CH2M Hill said that replacing the old freeway with all green space wasn't an option because of the federal highway money they would lose. I get that these projects are expensive and federal money helps, but at some point we as a city have to make decisions that are best for the city and if that means passing on federal money than so be it.

by Corey H. on Nov 22, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

I always thought that a great way to handle this would be to relocate the freight rail tracks closer to L Street so that they could be capped underground through Barney Circle, eliminating one barrier to the river right there. I'm for the tour bus lot, but there is no reason it should be surface parking. Put it underground with the train tracks.

However you align and program the boulevard itself, 13th, 14th, and 15th should all connect across it, ideally all the way to M Street. Potomac Avenue Station is four blocks from the river. put that connection in there so that those marinas can be more of a destination. It will activate the Anacostia River trail more as well. The economy and safety of the entire neighborhood will improve with those connections.

by Dave Murphy on Nov 22, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

If the new 11th street bridges are meant to replace a lot of the traffic coming through here then why the desire to keep so much ROW? I'm just eyeballing but it looks like you could extend the grid for a four lane road (if that's absolutely necessary) and still have room to fit buildings.

DDOT should just say that if you don't want to deal with city traffic then don't drive on city streets and stick to the highway they just added to significantly right there.

by drumz on Nov 22, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

The fundamental problem that I told anyone who would listen last night (and in the past regarding this project) is that this entire thing is being run completely by traffic engineers.

There are no city planners involved and no real citizen participation, outside of the small drop of "here's what we came up with, what do you think?" that comes at these poster presentations.

I would love to hear what Harriet Tregoning and OP think about this entire mess. Unfortunately, they're not in the loop on this thanks to a quirk introduced during the Williams era, and carried through the Fenty and Gray mayoralties.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. These traffic engineers wield one tool.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Nov 22, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

@Corey I couldn't attend the meeting but this is exactly the option I wanted to hear about:

" I asked this in the context of the option of simply replacing and connecting the grid and making more city."

I'm sorry to hear the response you got. The idea of replacing the capacity of the old freeway is ridiculous. The new ramps to the 11th st bridge provide continuous freeway access from 295 to 395 so the old freeway stub has already been replaced.

by jonglix on Nov 22, 2013 3:08 pm • linkreport

And why are we designing brand new circles without bike lanes? (or some other infrastructure for SERIOUS cyclists)

I don't want to ride on the @#$%@ sidewalk!

At least provide ramps that continuously lead from the shoulder to the paths, rather than having to conflict with pedestrians at crosswalks. DC might be trying to add bike infrastructure, but they have no clue how to design it.

by Joey on Nov 22, 2013 3:09 pm • linkreport

Extend the Barney Circle Lid-Tunnel in both directions, with boulevard atop an underground freeway.

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Nov 22, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

Nice post. I think you are absolutely right. This area is desperately calling out for reconneciton to the streetgrid and access. I understand we need regional transportation corridors but there are three separate bridges that are well connected on both sides of the river, they dont need to be linked directly to eachother.

by BTA on Nov 22, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

Gotta love graphics. All that lovely green you see? That will not be lovely green. In reality, that will be trash and concrete.

by Matt Newburn on Nov 22, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

Seriously, the whole plan for this area need to be scrapped nd started from scratch. All three Options are awful. Also, the traffic analysis seems ridiculous. If traffic was going to be terrible without this new road, it would be terrible now, but it's not terrible. Traffic has adjusted and things are mostly fine. If you build what is basically a new limited access road in this urban area you're just going to induce a lot of new car trips a cut people off from parks once more. The "parks" alongside the road are a joke, as is the median. Who wants to relax alongside what is basically a highway. Moreover, a big grassy road is not what this area needs. It needs more housing and better connections to the waterfront. This roadway, as proposed is a travesty and would be a stain on the city for many decades to come. I thought DC was better than this.

by TransitSnob on Nov 22, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

I am disappointed with all proposals. I understood this project was premised on the idea the roadway would be converted to an urban boulevard. These proposals come up far short. Would have loved to see a vision that included new housing, retail, connections to the existing grid and really an urban boulevard. Against my better nature, I half believe DDOT threw in the proposal to have the highway below L Street with a pedestrian bridge as the 'throw away.' In other words, they presented something so off the mark that opposition will coalesce around this issue and in the end they throw a bone to get an agreement.

by Harrison Flakker on Nov 22, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

I need to look at this when my mind is more clear; first thing I was looking for future possibility of light rail lines (Pennsylvania Ave and/or along freeway (or underground next to CSX Tunnels). None!! If the city move on this project, and 20 years later, we will design an improvement with lightrail (or Metro) -- this will be costly because we have to tear everything up and start all over again.

In my opinion, we need to have long term transportation planning - DDOT failed us again. When we get new administration at next election; we need to fight (or demand) total replacement of DDOT folks who would do the long term transportation planning right way!!

by Dave on Nov 22, 2013 3:57 pm • linkreport

Very ugly designs. What can be done to get the feds to stop funding such unnecessary ugliness?

by Greenbelt on Nov 22, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

"Option 2 exacerbates current traffic volume problems by attracting more vehicles to 16th, 17th, and H streets. Without changes to the Southeast Boulevard portion of the project, both Barney Circle options make the neighborhood worse off. "

How would that be true of option 2 but not the others?

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Nov 22, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

I'm with reason why at least 13th and 14th couldn't connect at least to to boulevard (if not across it). I came up with this several months ago when I started my latest deployment...don't remember offhand why I didn't connect 15th to the Boulevard, but it could easily be done. I also think, with an extension of the CSX tunnel, that 13th could connect across the Boulevard to M Street. And putting the boulevard closer to the CSX tracks makes more land available for development (or parkland) between the boulevard and L Street.

by Froggie on Nov 22, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

Why does there even need to be a boulevard, at all? Restore the street grid. Cover over the tracks, perhaps with apartments. Make M Street a waterfront street, perhaps with businesses on the landward side. There already is an express route to Pennsylvania Avenue. It's the 11th Street Bridge and 295. Otherwise, people can get off at 6th Street. A new boulevard is not necessary.

by Steve on Nov 22, 2013 5:24 pm • linkreport

Steve: topography/grades combined with the CSX tracks would preclude restoring all of the street grid. You could probably throw a cap on the western part of it, but east of about 13th is likely out of the question. Would be a tough sell as it is to convince CSX just to extend the Virginia Ave Tunnel to 13th.

by Froggie on Nov 22, 2013 5:53 pm • linkreport

Very cute. Like a little bit of Clarksburg right in DC.

Push the road up to the existing buildings and connect the grid, drop the rail underneath, and sell off new waterfront lots with a build out requirement.

by Duncan on Nov 22, 2013 5:58 pm • linkreport

I sent my comments to Please do the same, or else we'll all be living with this bad decision for many decades to come.

by TransitSnob on Nov 22, 2013 6:24 pm • linkreport

There should be tolls.

If suburbanites want to cross DC to get between Maryland and Virginia we should toll them. It's not as controversial as say, tolling the Virginia bridges where there's few alternatives to get into town.

If nothing else there should at least be tolls to use the Center Leg Freeway to encourage people to use other routes. Mt. Vernon Square is horrible with that freeway entrance so heavily used.

by Tom Coumaris on Nov 22, 2013 6:52 pm • linkreport

Tolls actually make sense, provided the completion of continuous such free of traffic lights links. Would work on the Grand Arc and NYA corridors, as well as a cut and cover East Leg.

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Nov 22, 2013 7:01 pm • linkreport

Only Concept 4B makes any sense. The river is far too slow moving and toxic to fish or swim in so parking should be on the city side where it can be better monitored and accessed while the parkway should be as far from the city as possible. Underground parking here will be a security nightmare and lowering grade to the flood levels by sinking roads makes no sense.

by AndrewJ on Nov 23, 2013 8:07 am • linkreport

DDOT methodology
1) hire traffic engineers that live in the suburbs
2) assume everyone drives because you (the traffic engineer does)
3) project constant traffic growth out 20 years
4) state the "infallible traffic model" built on the assumptions (1-3 above) prove you need more lanes of traffic
5) develop multiple "alternatives" which all differ only in how the same number of traffic lanes are arranged to show public
6) get reamed by public
7) repeat steps 1-6

by Joe on Nov 23, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

So funny.. I have not seen here or on the listservs one positive comment.

Tolls are a great idea.

This project is built for today, which unfortunately does not reflect the trending. People are moving back to the city. The city is more sustainable than urban sprawl. Why are we building a road for commuters?? Trending shows that the commuter workforce is also the retiring workforce. Why build for people who will be retired and in Florida by the time it is complete?

Does anyone think we will get these questions answered? On the plus side this is both an election year for the city and for the ward. Maybe we can make this a good campaign issue.

by Sean on Nov 23, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

Thank you, Brian, for the terrific write-up. A few points:

I would like to remind those commenting that Washingtonians live on the other side of that bridge connected to Barney Circle, and I am one of them. The Anacostia River runs THROUGH the city, not AROUND it.

The 11th Street Bridge connects a completely different neighborhood east of the river to the Navy Yard. That local connection was not intended to be a replacement for the SE/SW freeway off ramp to Barney Circle. The closed road--which now requires that I interact with 295 south and Navy Yard traffic to get to 395--has added 20 minutes to my morning commute and 5-10 during off peak. It also has impacted traffic through Brian's neighborhood, as many east of the river commuters now cross the bridge and then hop on 395 from local Capitol Hill streets, rather than deal with the traffic on 295 and the crossover and exit at the Navy Yard.

I happen to think those railroad tracks, while indeed a barrier to the river, create an interesting urban aesthetic.

It is interesting to see how many comments focus on people being able to access the river with not a care for the homes, parks, businesses, and communities on the other side of the river. Once again, that is your city too.

by M.J. on Nov 23, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Am still awaiting that answer why is option 2 undesirable when the others are not.

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Nov 23, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

Not sure what the ultimate plan should be - The comments about extending the city grid are quite interesting and I'll have to think about it some more. But I do want to emphasize that without the SE Blvd there is a lot of cut-through traffic going through the neighborhood on Potomac, I, and K during rush hour. Anyone who supports a no-build option needs to acknowledge that in fact traffic is *not* flowing well through the neighborhood. Things are not functioning just fine the way they are with no access between Barney Circle and 11th St. I live there and I know.

by OMH on Nov 23, 2013 6:12 pm • linkreport

How about a variant of option 2 with a 2x2 in one carriageway and an equivalent twin striped for parking, all beneath a reconstruction of the grid atop?

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Nov 23, 2013 7:25 pm • linkreport

I couldn't agree with Geoffery Hatchard's comment more. The project's fatal flaw is that it is being run by traffic engineers, not urban planners or any neighborhood stakeholders. Therefore, none of the very salient points made here and at the community meeting are going to be addressed outside of a traffic context, and are doomed to be ignored.

What can we do to reframe the issue, away from traffic, away from federal highway dollars, and toward community improvement and real, thoughtful planning for a future city that we want to live in, not pass through?

by Matthew Gore on Nov 24, 2013 11:49 am • linkreport

I can't think of a better way "to reconnect Hill East to the Anacostia River" than tolls.

by selxic on Nov 24, 2013 8:53 pm • linkreport

To be fair, 13th, 14th and 15th do connect, but just for cyclists and pedestrians. Windshield perspective hits GGW.

I live in the area. These aren't that bad. The parking is bad - though I think the idea is to make it bus parking, bringing up the question of where to put bus parking. I think we need a place near the mall for that. If not here, then where?

As for four lanes versus two, what are the expected traffic counts? I could see it justified, but they need to ruthlessly photo enforce it. Stop sign and stop lights should be used to make intersections safe, not as speed bumps, especially with speed cameras an option now.

There probably should be road connections to SE Blvd, but again I'm not sure how many people will use it.

Kentucky Avenue and all the roads near Barney Circle should become two-way though. That causes some of the traffic sewer issues around there.

by David C on Nov 24, 2013 8:59 pm • linkreport

MJ that is a non argument. There are two bridges less than a mile apart there. No one is cutting off any neighborhoods, please lets not makes this an east vs west thing.

by BTA on Nov 25, 2013 8:52 am • linkreport

As for four lanes versus two, what are the expected traffic counts? I could see it justified, but they need to ruthlessly photo enforce it. Stop sign and stop lights should be used to make intersections safe, not as speed bumps, especially with speed cameras an option now.

This is part of the problem with the engineering mindset, however. We need four lanes because of the projected traffic. Thus we design a four-lane, suburban-style road that will certainly attract that kind of traffic and those kinds of speeds.

Connections at 13th, 14th, and 15th are important, but I think the better way to sell the neighborhood on the idea is to ensure that the streets built are actually streets and not designed in a way that pretty much dictates that they become traffic sewers at best.

I absolutely agree about the stop signs and stop lights, that is essential to really making this a city street, rather than one long on-ramp.

There's also a lot of space in the area, it's disappointing that they've rejected the idea of simply extending the street grid and using that 'new' land for additional development.

The problem with just connecting the cross-streets for bikes and peds and not all vehicles is that it reduces the grid connectivity, and would thus reinforce the idea that SE Blvd is nothing but a slightly altered version of the old on-ramp that used to exist there.

by Alex B. on Nov 25, 2013 9:09 am • linkreport

I wrote an email to the address posted and shared this with as many friends as possible. We can do far better than this.

by TransitSnob on Nov 25, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

BTA: I would not call my various points an argument. Changing the nature of SE Boulevard is not only adding more traffic on Capitol Hill, but also in Fairlawn, historic Anacostia, and the Minnesota Avenue corridor. I am not sure why this neighborhood level traffic increase is any less problematic than that on Capitol Hill. There is a certain kind of urban provincialism and protectionism in thinking that all urban highways should be removed and I will double down on my concern that it appears that many see the Anacostia river as the city border rather than the actual border. Finally, if you do not see how changing SE Boulevard dramatically changes the nature of transit and access east of the river, then I am not sure any argument I might make would change such a position.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

I don't see how changing SE Boulevard dramatically changes the nature of transit and access east of the river. It sounds like you do. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

by David C on Nov 25, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

IIUC the question here is how many lanes to put on this blvd. I can see how taking away the blvd adds time for drivers from EOTR, and I can see how it might add through traffic to capital hill. I cannot see how it would mean more through traffic EOTR though - I assume the local lanes on the 11th street bridge are as congested as the through lanes?

Note all that is with zero auto capacity on the blvd route right now. Adding even one lane in each direction should make that better.

Im not necessarily against adding more capacity than that, but the gains in access to the riverfront should be considered. Seems like there many possible intermediate solutions, including add the full number lanes proposed, but adding connectivity to the street network, more signals, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 25, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

Both the PA Ave and 11th St bridges connect to 295, this change shouldnt significantly change traffic patterns anywhere but the bridges and the immediate vicinty around K St and M st SE.

by BTA on Nov 25, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

Hi all,

Many drivers EOTR use 395 to get to upper northwest (395 to Main Avenue exit) and to points further east in Virginia. Before the boulevard was removed I took Minnesota Ave to Penn Ave over the bridge and it looped directly to 395. I did not interact with any interstate traffic. Now, without the road, there are three options: One must take the on-ramp to 295S on Penn Ave (EOTR), merge with 295S traffic (this on-ramp has a short merge/exit space and was not built to withstand so much use--accidents galore), and then interact with the 295N traffic and those going to the Navy Yard, in the crossover to 395. Due to traffic on those highways, many EOTR residents, as well as PG commuters coming in through Penn Ave SE, do the following: They leave the main arteries and drive on local EOTR streets to get to the 11th Street bridge and on to 395. This means traffic increases through Fairlawn, already congested historic Anacostia, Alabama Ave, and Minnesota Ave. Other drivers get to 395 by taking Penn Ave over the bridge and now that the road is closed to 395, they continue to 395 through Capitol Hill.

This of course is only part of the story in terms of transit. With development at St. Es, more tech and military jobs along the BW Parkway, etc. there is growing traffic on the east side of the city.

I live in Fairlawn and I work at American University. I once took the bus from S and Naylor Rd SE to Tenley Circle during rush hour to test if it was possible--it was a 1 3/4 hour bus ride. Add the shuttle or walk to main campus to that time frame. An all public transportation commute would mean the bus to the orange line, transfer to red line, and then take the shuttle from the metro to campus. Not ideal. That actually takes longer than the drive in bad traffic.

I have no problem with the road getting reworked in order to blend into the urban fabric better or to link it to the grid (though most residents of those streets will be unhappy with that). I suppose urban boulevards are the hip thing in transportation planning these days. However, as I indicated previously, it is important to note that our city does not stop at the Anacostia river.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

Umm, shall I draw a map and arrows? For those who continue to prefer a state of suspended reality, one could track down the traffic modeling projections before the ramp was closed last year.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

'I suppose urban boulevards are the hip thing in transportation planning these days.'

These seems unnecessarily derisive, or at least snarky. Is there any data to back this up?

For what it's worth, M.J. makes a good point - the interchange at Pennsylvania Avenue and DC295 needs to be reworked. The tight cloverleaves with short accel/de-accel lanes are dangerous, and there are missing movements. It should be rebuilt, and I'd wager it could be done in a way that would make things safer for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, as the current arrangement takes the latter two into account very much as an afterthought.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Nov 25, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

Hi Geoffrey,

Per my urban boulevards comment, I was thinking about the plan for South Capitol Street and both sides of that bridge. I recall another dialogue--I think on GGW--about that plan.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

The thing we need to remember about the 11th street bridges is that construction is not done and capacity will be added. Traffic has backed up in all directions because of the construction and it's mostly unrelated to the removal of the freeway stub from Barney Circle. It's from the forced lane changes on the 11th street bridge to get from DC 295 to the 695 flyover ramp. This unfortunately backs up the bridge and people seek alternatives. When complete, there will be another lane that goes to the freeway and should alleviate traffic. Dr. Gridlock even mentioned it today in his chat (

We spent hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the bridges, add connections, and take through traffic off local roads on both sides of the river. Unfortunately the timing of removing the Barney Circle freeway occurred before the rest of the project was complete. But until the bottleneck on the 11th street through bridge is alleviated, we can't really judge the impact on the local streets.

I understand in the meantime it's terrible. I live on the other side of the impact zone and have experienced the cut through impact as well as the spillover from the new on ramp at 11th/K. I wish I didn't have to do it, but I know it's not the long term state of affairs.

by Corey H. on Nov 25, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

Arterials roads such as Minnesota are there to accomodate local traffic and other traffic originating nearby. Seems like you are arguing that local traffic should just be shifted somewhere else which doesn't seem particularly fair either. Sorry you personally have a long commute, but that's not really a justification or appropriate mechanism for deciding how to plan roads in a city. A better question is why so many people feel the need to drive to downtown. If we had better transit service it wouldn't be necessary.

by BTA on Nov 25, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

The 11th Street Bridge connects a completely different neighborhood east of the river to the Navy Yard. That local connection was not intended to be a replacement for the SE/SW freeway off ramp to Barney Circle.

Actually, yes it was. The old 11th St bridges only connected to 295 south; part of the entire justification for the project was to add the connections to 295 north as well; thus enabling through-traffic on the highway to stay on the highway.

No, the local bridge was not intended to be the connection; but the new interchange between 695 and 295 was designed to do exactly that.

For more, see the FHWA on the project:

by Alex B. on Nov 25, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

Corey H. nails another big point here. DDOT made ZERO mention of the fact that the current traffic pattern is not finished due to ongoing construction of the 11th Street bridges replacement project.

To start analyzing the NEXT BIG CHANGE without even knowing how things are going to shake out at the end of the CURRENT BIG CHANGE seems like the traffic engineers are just tripping over themselves to come up with another set of drawings.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Nov 25, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport


You also raised a good point about the impact on pedestrians and cyclists. With so much traffic getting on and off 295 at Penn Ave, those crosswalks on Penn Ave are very dangerous. I have asked, more than once, for DDOT to address the issue. Cars do not stop for those in the crosswalks. At times a police car is positioned on the eastbound lane that was removed on Penn Ave under the bridge, but I don't know why as I never see any ticketing happening.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

Dear all,

My point in all of this is that there seems to be a kind of geographic centering when it comes to exploring who is impacted and how they are impacted by transportation policies. I simply want to remind people that Capitol Hill is not the center, nor is NW DC. I do not think that my experience or opinion is more valid for some reason, but the needs of those living EOTR are frequently not only dismissed, they are not even taken into consideration.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

So what's the problem with A: just taking the new 11th street bridges or B: cutting through city streets and (naturally) expecting city traffic?

by Drumz on Nov 25, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Drumz: See my earlier post. Also, people living on those side city streets are not very pleased with the increase in traffic in their neighborhoods. Whether on highways or city streets, there are also implications for air quality and emissions related to stop and go traffic.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

Alex: Thank you for providing the report. I see nowhere in the report that the 11th Street Bridge Project was intended to *be a replacement for the SE/SW freeway off ramp to Barney Circle* as you indicate in your post.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

"The purpose of the 11th Street Bridges Project is fourfold:

Reduce congestion and improve the mobility of traffic across the Anacostia River on the 11th Street Bridges and on the local streets in the area."

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 25, 2013 5:47 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity: Exactly. It was not intended to REPLACE another access point.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 5:51 pm • linkreport

So the argument is that now since people can't cut through Capitol Hill they now cut through EOTR, I kind of get it but A: that's not a good enough reason to keep the road here super wide by itself B: if traffic gets measurably worse EOTR then there are ways to mitigate that that don't need to make the new road wider than it needs to be.

by Drumz on Nov 25, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

I think implicitly it is.

I know we have used the barney circle route to get from NW alexandria to Md - now we would use the new 11th street bridge. I guess if you were going from Pa Avenue onto SE-SW the new route over 11th street is less desirable (though really until the bridge connections are all finished, can we really tell?) but I don't think thats everyone going from EOTR DC to I395, by any means. Their interest has to be weighed against the interest in complete streets and access in the barney hill/hill east neighborhoods (and similarly DDOT needs to do design to support communities EOTR as well)

For CH residents, I guess its cut through traffic vs access. is there really a groundswell in CH to maximize the capacity of the new blvd?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 25, 2013 5:57 pm • linkreport

Another odd result of closing SE Boulevard--and therefore an access point to RFK--to reconstruct the road was that DC United fans in VA were instructed to take 395 over the Anacostia River via the 11th Street Bridge (eastward) to 295 north and then back across the Anacostia River (westward) on East Capitol Street to get to RFK.

by M.J. on Nov 25, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

Irony check..

Every study I have seen says more lanes = more traffic. Not sure why everyone is stuck on lane widening. Again, why provide better access for VA/MD commuters?

I would be interested in using my tax dollars or contributing personal dollars with other residents to have a city planner look at this, vice the traffic planners the city has put forth. What say you, Tommy Wells?

by Sean on Nov 25, 2013 10:18 pm • linkreport

I see nowhere in the report that the 11th Street Bridge Project was intended to *be a replacement for the SE/SW freeway off ramp to Barney Circle* as you indicate in your post.

No, it's not meant to completely eliminate that link, it is quite clearly designed to take most of that traffic.

Remember that traffic under the old configuration used Barney Circle because that was the only way to get onto 395. The whole reason to re-build the 11th Street interchange with 295 was to remove that dependency on Barney Circle, allowing for Barney Circle and the planned SE Blvd to return to a more 'urban' street configuration, rather than a full-on highway.

The critique of the proposed SE Blvd designs isn't that they connect, it's that they're failing to live up to the promise of (and basic requirements of) an urban street.

by Alex B. on Nov 25, 2013 10:44 pm • linkreport


Here is the ddot page on SE Boulevard/Barney circle:

It says:
Southeast Freeway between 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue has been removed from the interstate system providing an opportunity to reinvest in the right of way to meet the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI) Transportation Planning Principles.

If you read the PDF linked in the post, it says much of the same: page:
The 11th Street Bridge Project, the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) largest project to date, is nearing the substantial completion of Phase 1 and beginning the Project Completion Phase (Phase 2). Phase 2 will further improve connections between the SE/SW Freeway and the new 11th Street Bridges, and reconnect local streets on the west side of the Anacostia River. It will also lay the groundwork for the replacement of the SE/SW Freeway with an at-grade boulevard between 8th Street, SE and Barney Circle.

The intention all along was to change SE Blvd from an onramp to something else, because the connections created by the new 11th Street Bridges allow that to happen. There is a lot out there that points to this connection, just searching for both "11th street bridge" and "southeast boulevard" will bring up plenty of pages that connect the two ideas.

Neighborhood traffic will get better when the 11th Street Bridge project is completely done and all the lanes are open. People will adjust, and I can't see how this can be a disaster for neighborhood traffic just because people have to mix with "interstate traffic" a mile before where they used to. People cutting through neighborhoods and using the 11th local bridge to connect to 395/695 will peter off as people learn the new traffic plan and as the 11th street project ends.

by MLD on Nov 26, 2013 8:30 am • linkreport

MLD: Thanks for all of the terrific information. It will take a while for me to look through everything. Indeed, commuters--whether on metro or in cars--are certainly not know for their flexibility and understanding. Also, please see my first post as my original concerns were somewhat different.

As an aside, if transportation engineers are reading... why are there so many dips in the new road on 395? Is this an engineering feature or a flaw in construction? I have noticed similar dips on the B/W Parkway (though they have installed signs to warn drivers).

by M.J. on Nov 26, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

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