Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Semi-secret plans


Photo by Mr. T in DC.
Whitehurst teardown back?: Foggy Bottom Association President Asher Corson says COG is again studying removing the Whitehurst Freeway. FBA opposes the idea, as it did last time.

Secret plan to fix Metro today: Today's WMATA Board meeting will include David Gunn's assessment of the problems with Metro, but given in secret as we discussed earlier. Some Board members say they hope to be able to share Gunn's findings following the report. (Get There)

Even more bike lane details: The Post gets more details on the Pennsylvania Avenue and I and L bike lanes: On I and L, cyclists will mix with left-turning traffic near intersections; on Penn, cyclists will turn on green while drivers will wait for left arrows. Thankfully, the Post assigned Ashley Halsey and not Lisa Rein to write the article, yielding many facts and little alarmism.

Know any great candidates?: The Montgomery County Council has extended the application deadline to try to get more candidates for Planning Board chairman. Know anyone? Joe Alfandre, Planning Board member and New Urbanist Kentlands developer, has been good on the Board so far and did apply. (Post)

Gaithersbungle looms: Decision time is coming up for Gaithersburg West. Johns Hopkins released renderings of their plans, and opponents are ramping up. The cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg both oppose the plan as presented. To recap, it has way too many grade-separated interchanges and dubious transit mode share in a "neverland" fake-city that won't really be walkable. (WBJ, Examiner, MPW)

2 hours isn't enough: John Kelly's readers are finding 2-hour parking limits problematic as DC extends meter hours into the evening. That's a good argument for a real performance parking system instead of arbitrary limits. Kelly also gets on board with more credit card meters. (Post, Michael P)

More food for all: There's going to be a new community garden in Shaw, behind Bread for the City. They're looking for volunteers to help prepare the land on Saturday. (DC Food For All)

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Two hours really isn't enough, certainly not in the evenings if you are having a nice dinner somewhere. Maybe have a three hour limit after 6?

by NikolasM on Mar 11, 2010 9:25 am • linkreport

As David implied, true performance parking would have no time limits, just increasing rates. Let people park for as long as they want, but start charging a couple bucks an hour. Of course this approach won't be acceptable until we have credit card meters everywhere.

by Reid on Mar 11, 2010 9:31 am • linkreport

I still like the idea of turning the Whitehurst Freeway into DC's own version of the High Line

by JTS on Mar 11, 2010 9:52 am • linkreport

Pennsylvania Ave sounds just like the new Allen/Pike St center median bike path in NY, down to the signalization.

by Mike on Mar 11, 2010 10:04 am • linkreport

If they demolish the Whitehurst Freeway, could they extend the K Street transitway on the new road beneath it, or could they reserve an easement for subway construction below?

by Steve S. on Mar 11, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

I'm really of 2 minds when it comes to the Whitehurst. Part of me really really loves driving down it and taking in views to which I am otherwise not privvy. Especially, if this is as the sun is setting and the surrounding river and TR Island are graying out as the peaks of the modern buildings on the other side of the freeway are still a bit lit. It really is a beautiful scene ... made no less so by the scerentiy of being freed from traffic woes ... even if for so brief a moment as the 2 miles takes to drive.

But another part of me recognizes that it really does disconnect the city (the city of Georgtown in this case) from its river, its roots. Additionally, from a traffic and aesthetics perspective, a grand, more-slow-moving boulevard at the lower ground level near the river would make much more sense. I don't give much sympathy to the folks who complain that it'll take longer to get 'there' if the freeway is gone. We're only talking a distance less than a mile ... and the multi-laned riverside boulevard/parkway meant to replace it isn't exactly the choked up M Street which these commuters would otherwise have to drive through. And if some folks coming from Va. choose to continue on down the GW rather than cross the river at the Key Bridge to use the Whitehurst ... well, let them ...

by Lance on Mar 11, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

I just got dinged for a parking ticket last night. Forgot about the extended hours at 24 and L and parked on metered side of the street.

The PP people like to quote 85% usage; at 8 PM it was fairly full but by 9 it was empty. I'd like to see a rollback of the areas with paid evening parking -- covers far too many areas and it is hurting business. I took my shopping elsewhere after the ticket, so DC lost about $3 in taxes.

The removal of the whitehurst freeway is like the attack of zombie traffic planners. The only people who would benefit is a few millionaires who own condos there.

by charlie on Mar 11, 2010 10:09 am • linkreport

Just a tidbit from last night's Dupont ANC meeting. I was surprised to hear CM Evans chastising Virginians for not wanting to raise taxes to fill budget gaps. Wasn't it the District whose budget grew by something like 50% over the course of something like 4 years ... during the last housing boom in the mid 2000s ... when the property transfer taxes were rolling in? I can't imagine my personal budget expanding by 50% in so short a time! What is the District doing with all this extra money? Can't at least half of it be cut back to close the budget gaps? While no one wants to see budget shortfalls, you actually have to applaud the Virignian taxpayers for saying "enough is enough ... quit raising our taxes ... just stop increasing your spending ... and live within your means Mr. Government."

by Lance on Mar 11, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

Lance - you must not drive the Whitehurst Fwy at rush-hour. It's hardly free of traffic woes. It would be great if it could be reengineered not to block views (of $million condos or otherwise), but turning it into another M street won't make things better for anyone. At least now pedestrians can get to the waterfront without having to get across all that traffic.

by ah on Mar 11, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

Two hours is too short in general, but especially at night when going out for dinner, a game or a movie.

The city of Amsterdam charges €6 an hour. Everywhere. (That's an advantage of being a very socialistic/communistic city where all public parking is owned and operated by the city). Amsterdam has about as many people as DC: 604k. Parking is hell, and the Greens in the city council are more than happy to keep it that way and jack up parking rates as much as they can get away with.

In the city elections last week, they went from 13.7% to 15.1% of the vote, although that did not change their position in council seats [Elections are proportional and at large, not first-past-the-post per district]. In Utrecht, the fourth city in the Netherlands, the Greens are now the largest party with 20% of the vote.

From their election website:
http://amsterdam.groenlinks.nl/autoluw

Car-poor City

Following other European cities, the Greens want to assign parts of the city where cars will be limited. Congested parts downtown, but also in new suburbs. Areas will be closed to non-essential car traffic [everybody but police and emergency services] to improve the livability and economy. Less cars means more space for walking, green areas, playing and a large garden.

The Greens wants a livable and clean city. Traffic needs to flow well and people need to be able to get around. In a growing city, that's only possible when car ownership and usage are decreased and remaining traffic becomes cleaner. Policy of the last couple of years has shown this is possible. Parking policy and the blocking of large trucks reduced and cleaned motorized traffic. This policy will be continued and advanced.

Autoluwe stad
Maandag 1 februari 2010, 00:32u -

In navolging van vele andere Europese steden wil GroenLinks in Amsterdam gebieden aanwijzen die autoluw worden. In de overbelaste binnenstad, maar ook in nieuwe woonwijken. Gebieden worden afgesloten voor niet noodzakelijk autoverkeer, om zo de
leefbaarheid en de economie te bevorderen. Minder autoÂ’s betekent meer ruimte voor wandelen, groen, spelen of een groter terras.

GroenLinks wil een leefbare en schone stad. Doorstroming van het verkeer is van belang en de stad moet goed bereikbaar blijven. Dat kan in een groeiende stad alleen als autobezit en autogebruik verder afnemen en het overblijvende verkeer schoner wordt. Het beleid van de afgelopen jaren laat zien dat dit mogelijk is. Door het parkeerbeleid en de milieuzone voor vrachtverkeer is het gemotoriseerd verkeer verminderd en schoner geworden. Dat beleid wordt geïntensiveerd.

by Jasper on Mar 11, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

@ Whitehurst Freeway: So the folks in Foggy Bottom are worried about tearing down an eyesore that is not in their neighborhood. Nice neighborship. Block everything in your own neighborhood, but promote crap for your neighbors.

I say tear down the thing. As M St is getting the street cars, perhaps M St can be turned into a transit road, while cars are directed to K St, that will get well programmed lights so that traffic flows efficiently.

by Jasper on Mar 11, 2010 10:31 am • linkreport

@ah, I drive it (sometimes) in an easterly direction during evening rush hour. It's an alternative to continuing on eastward I-66 (or the GW) down to the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge. Sometimes I still cross Key Bridge but rather than get on the Whitehurst, I take M St/ Q St to get to Dupont. It's a very different ride than the one down the Whitehurst, but equally enjoyable being able to see all of G'towns quaint streets. And the traffic flows. This is a city. In general even on our smaller streets traffic flows at a more even pace than in the burbs where you only have a few, albeit "big" streets to choose from. Going fast in short spurts only having to wait at a streetlight doesn't get you there any faster than going at a slower but more constant pace. Time the 5 minute lights you'll find in places like Herndon and you'll see what I mean. The proposed riverside boulevard won't get anyone "there" any slower than the Whitehurst does now. The Whitehurst is only maybe a mile long (probably less). And I don't buy into the 'millionaires view' argument. It's actually the pedestrians who suffer more by the current situation. Overheads like that pose a significant psychological barrier to pedestrians moving easily from one side to the other. A good example is the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Before the Embarcadero Freeway collapsed in the last earthquake (and was subsequently removed), the people there had become alienated from their waterfront. I know the only reason I'd go under that freeway with its barren lands was to catch a ferry at the terminal there to go home (when I lived in Marin). There was nothing on the water side of the overpass ... though it had been a thriving waterfront area once upon a time. Today, with that overhead freeway gone, the area has again become pedestrian friendly. The ferry terminal isn't a big building you just walk through to get to your boat, but instead a farmers market like our Eastern market. And there are nowadays lots of other boats leaving from that terminal including tourist boats ... pedestrian customer never would have ventured under the overhead beforehand. Yeah, I like the view from the Whitehurst, but the importance of giving Georgetown back its connection to the river seems more important than the views I'll not be able to see if the freeway gets torn down.

by Lance on Mar 11, 2010 10:38 am • linkreport

Uff, Lance, have you ever been on K st under the Whitehurst? It is already crowded. Between Mate, the Harbor, movie theaters you're packing people in. There isn't much opportunity to put anything else in because it is already developed. There is a few blocks down by the Key Bridge owned by the Feds you could develop, but that is in. The Georgetown waterfront is being used -- a lot.

by charlie on Mar 11, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

Isn't the issue the height difference between Canal Rd and K Street?

by NikolasM on Mar 11, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

I think the Gunn Report closed session violates Open Meetings laws in all three jurisdictions.

Can someone please file an injunction or FOIA request for the document?

And can we have the Board members fined for purposely violating state and DC laws?

by Redline SOS on Mar 11, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

I don't think that the Whitehurst FW does a whole heck of a lot to remove pedestrian access to the Georgetown waterfront. In some sense, it improves access because K street traffic underneath it becomes very sparse and lets people walk across easily. And you naturally walk downhill and right under it if you are coming from M street.

So in many respects, it's a lot different than some of the raised freeway examples. I think the SE Freeway provides a much better parallel to the Embarcadero (pointed out by Lance), and also the Big Dig project in Boston, which replaced a nasty elevated highway that cut off a waterfront area of town.

I would view it as an eyesore (and have no idea on whether it'd be better/worse than a normal street), but not necessarily an impediment to pedestrian access to the waterfront.

by Brian S. on Mar 11, 2010 10:51 am • linkreport

If the Whitehurst is demolished, are cars supposed to be catapulted from K Street onto M Street and paraglided from Key Bridge onto K Street?

The ones that keep reviving this idea are those living in the new Water and K Street condos that would rather look out onto the river, rather than at the Whitehurst. Fair enough. But it's not like the Whitehurst just popped up there overnight.

And the reason Foggy Bottom is up in arms is because of all the traffic that would likely back up into the area if the Whitehurst was removed.

by Fritz on Mar 11, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

Lance,
I think the embarcadero compares more to the elevated sections of the SouthWest Freeway which truly cuts sections of dc from the river. About 10(+/-) years ago, when the SW Freeway needed major maintenance, there was a movement to create a street level boulevard and integrate it into the citys street grid, but it's an interstate (I395) and the FEDs wouldn't go for it.

I would love to see whitehurst removed, but only if K St/ Water St. was somehow connected to Key Bridge, Canal Road and Clara Barton... I doubt it could happen without involving park service land - so again the FEDs won't go for it.

by billof md on Mar 11, 2010 11:05 am • linkreport

Actually, after looking at Google Streetview, it looks like you could fairly easily get Canal Road down to K St ground level, but going from Key Bridge to K St would be very difficult. You could perhaps segregate the roads, with Key Bridge connecting to M St in the direction of downtown being close to exclusive routing choice and Canal St moving into K St exclusively (i.e. Canal Street would no longer connect with M St), with connections at Wisconsin Ave (and 31st to 29th) linking the two main streets. Drivers heading out of the city could make their choice at Washington Circle as to whether to take K St out to Maryland or Penn/M to Rosslyn-VA. Just thinking out loud here. I figure this should make M St a little more bearable and perhaps could then get a road diet so that there is a wee bit more sidewalk space for pedestrians.

by NikolasM on Mar 11, 2010 11:37 am • linkreport

Why can't drivers from Virginia just use the Roosevelt Bridge? I-66 takes you right to K Street, in fact at the end of the Whitehurst Freeway.

by Tim on Mar 11, 2010 11:43 am • linkreport

Tim:

Rooselvet Bridge route (from VA) can get crowded up. It is a bit longer (1 mile or so). Having a second option can make a huge difference.

Leaving from DC -- and yes, there are DC drivers, having WH gives you a lot more options.

And the biggest users of the WH are of course other DC residents coming in from Canal and McArthur.

by chARlie on Mar 11, 2010 11:51 am • linkreport

DDOT did a lengthy study of various WH alternatives a few years ago:

http://ddot.washingtondc.gov/ddot/cwp/view,a,1249,q,629716.asp

by ah on Mar 11, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

"If the Whitehurst is demolished, are cars supposed to be catapulted from K Street onto M Street and paraglided from Key Bridge onto K Street?"

Did you really mean M Street ... or maybe Canal Drive? You can access K Street from M Street simply by driving down Wisconsin or any of a few other north/south streets that connect the two. If you meant from Canal Street (as in coming from Fox Hall Road or the parkway), then you're making a false assumption. That road actually has to go "up" to connect with M Street ... and hence why you have a situation where the Whitehurst starts at M street level, then dips down below the Key Bridge and then back up. Connecting K to Canal Road would be easy. Actually, I'd bet that's what it used to do before the Whitehurst got built ...

Now, your connection from the Key Bridge to K St ... you're absolutely correct. But like I mentioned in my own post about driving home that way, their are alternatives to taking the Whitehurst on both sides of the river. And while anacedotal, my own usage tends to be toward those other alternatives much more frequently than through the Whitehurst ... Why? 'cause as nice as it is driving the Whitehurst, it's a real mess trying to get onto a smooth running street once you reach its eastern terminus ...

by Lance on Mar 11, 2010 12:17 pm • linkreport

"And the biggest users of the WH are of course other DC residents coming in from Canal and McArthur."

Agreed, I live in this area and the Whitehurst is my preferred route to the Mall area, Foggy Bottom, SW, or Capitol Hill. It is an invaluable commute option for people who live in areas of upper NW not served by Metro, especially federal workers. (By the way, it's not only millionaires who live in this area - rents are quite economical.)

by Phil on Mar 11, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

The Benning Road - Georgetown streetcar route ( http://ddot.washingtondc.gov/ddot/cwp/view,a,1250,q,648154,ddotNav_GID,1746,ddotNav,%7C34060%7C.asp#) will help to make Georgetown more accessible by transit and provide another option to driving and reducing the need for the Whitehurst Freeway. This accessibility would increase greatly if the terminus of the Georgetown streetcar route connected with a Wisconsin Avenue route from Friendship Heights.

Rosslyn has already bisected its downtown core from the Potomac waterfront by I-66. Georgetown residents shouldn't be forced to do the same with the Whitehurst Freeway so that commuters from Virginia who refuse to take transit could save two minutes per trip. Georgetown is already a great neighborhood but if it was more directly connected to the waterfront, with a streetcar along K Street, this could really be a grand entrance into the District.

by Ben on Mar 11, 2010 1:10 pm • linkreport

Long ago Canal ran straight into M street, as it does today. To get to Water (K) street, one went down one of various streets (34th, 35th, etc.) K street was connected to Georgetown by a modest bridge across Rock Creek, but the thoroughfare was Pennsylvania Avenue or M Street.

Without the Whitehurst now, the main problem would be for drivers from Palidsades and other nearby areas of DC, who would get "dumped" into Georgetown. Commuters from VA would certainly be able to take other routes to K Street, but it would be something of a mess for DC people. Which is presumably why Foggy Bottom likes the idea. Maybe they should just dynamite the end of K street instead.

by ah on Mar 11, 2010 1:12 pm • linkreport

That is why I suggested that Canal be rerouted down to the new boulevardized K St and essentially close the connection to M St (or make it insanely inconvenient or bus only) and make Key Bridge only connect to M St in the direction of Downtown. Connections between the two parallel streets begin with Wisconsin. Palisades peeps would still have a nice connection to downtown without being dumped into Georgetown. The only pain would be people on Canal trying to head south onto Key Bridge but I feel that is a small price to pay. DDOT looked at 18+ different options and didn't consider this.

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Washington,+DC&gl=us&ei=CE1gS76iNMvM8Qb83aydDA&ved=0CA4Q8gEwAA&hl=en&msa=0&msid=104231489843257225692.0004818910aaa2ddfe359&t=h&z=17

by NikolasM on Mar 11, 2010 1:21 pm • linkreport

@NikolasM -- I see your point and the sense in it. I suspect there's a problem building a ramp down, which would cross the canal and that boathouse. Even more challenging is the ramp going up, which would have to connect to Canal somehow involving an overpass, since an underpass would be almost below the water.

I don't see why M would be local access only--traffic could still go straight into Georgetown (and why cut off those commuters from heading into Georgetown this way?

by ah on Mar 11, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

ah, I don't quite follow. Canal to Whitehurst already happens, using that bridge over the canal and then ramping down to ground level is what I am suggesting. Streetview it. Commuters heading into Georgetown from Canal still have access to all of Georgetown, just via K/Water street and Wisconsin Ave. M St is a clusterfudge as is with far too much traffic. M wouldn't be 'local access only' save for that tiny stretch between Key and Canal's entrance to the Whitehurst onramp. M would still be the main thoroughfare for cars from Rosslyn over the Key bridge.

by NikolasM on Mar 11, 2010 1:55 pm • linkreport

ah/NikolasM, You're both trying to reinvent the Wheel. Take a look at the alternatives identified in transportation plans some years back. All the connection problems have already been solved. It's just a matter of getting the political will to convince the folks in upper northwest that their commute to downtown won't really be any worse without the Whitehurst. I'd actually argue that since people coming over from or going to Va. wouldn't have the Keybridge/Whitehurst option anymore, that the NWerners commute would be easier and not harder than it is today.

by Lance on Mar 11, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

Of course, there's also the problem that these Virginians who use the Whitehurst to commmute might ask their Congressmen and Senators to prevent its demolition..

by Phil on Mar 11, 2010 3:13 pm • linkreport

@ Ben: Georgetown is already a great neighborhood but if it was more directly connected to the waterfront

And who is exactly to blame for that? Is there anything that Georgetowners ever seriously wanted and didn't get?

by Jasper on Mar 11, 2010 3:41 pm • linkreport

NikolasM, I love your version making M St. the route to VA and K to canal,Foxhall/Palisades & MD. The two biggest problems will be:1. Park service won't give right of ways for any chages near the boathouse and canal. 2. Georgetown U will balk at their VA based students & faculty not being able to make a left from Key Bridge.

by billof md on Mar 11, 2010 3:51 pm • linkreport

"Is there anything that Georgetowners ever seriously wanted and didn't get?"

I'm pretty sure most Georgetowners have been seriously wanting a renovation of the decrepit Georgetown Park mall for several years now, but it probably won't happen in the near future. (Seriously, the place hasn't changed one bit since it featured in the movie True Lies back in 1994. The DMV office located there probably gets more customers than any actual business.)

There were some renovation proposals that looked promising and they were even talking about converting it into an open-air mall, but then the recession arrived.

by Phil on Mar 11, 2010 4:01 pm • linkreport

Phil--

DC Metrocentric had a posting the other week about the Georgetown Park Mall. There is a proposal to add residential units above it.

http://dcmetrocentric.com/2010/02/10/georgetown-park-update/

by Ben on Mar 11, 2010 4:05 pm • linkreport

@Lance - I'm not trying to reinvent it, just imagine it.

Anyway, I'm not sure you're entirely right about VA commuters. I think there's relatively little volume on the Key Bridge to Whitehurst Ramp. The backups occur, in my experience, in two places (in the morning): 1) Getting onto M street just before the Key bridge (that is VA traffic, but it wouldn't be displaced by eliminating the WH) and 2) at the eastern end of the WH where K street gets backed up; and in the evening 1) at the light at WH and M/Canal, where there's simply too much volume funneling from M street and WH onto Canal.

by ah on Mar 11, 2010 4:14 pm • linkreport

Ben, yeah I know about this proposal and it looks great, but it's all still just on paper and Bloomingdale's buy-in is very shaky. It wouldn't be the first false start on this project.

by Phil on Mar 11, 2010 4:34 pm • linkreport

@ Phil: So a pretty good looking, yet not frequented mall is the biggest thing you can come up with? You prove my point. I accept your apology

Tell me, why would anybody invest in a Mall that's not frequented by its own neighborhood? Let's be fair, the thing is not very attractive to get to for folks who don't live in Georgetown. A few more tourists? So who else is gonna show up there?

And please don't call that Mall decrepit. There are many communities that would kill for a mall like that. On my scale the Springfield mall isn't even decrepit. Crappy? Yes. Dangerous? Yes. In the middle of a plate of highway spaghetti? Yes. Decrepit? Nah.

by Jasper on Mar 11, 2010 4:49 pm • linkreport

Tearing down the Whitehurst is a solution looking for a problem.

by Dave on Mar 11, 2010 5:32 pm • linkreport

Any idea of removing or burying the Whitehurst Freeway must deal with the transition elevations at its western end, requiring either an elevated connection, or a tunneled extension to an upgraded Canal Road Parkway and or a tunnel into Virginia.

The simplist thing would be to make its undersides prettier. Because of its topography, it is far less of an eyssore than the old double decked Embarcadero Freeway, indeed that was the case IMHO with Seattle's similar 99 Viaduct, becaause it runs alongside a hill, making it obtrusive to fewer.

by Douglas A. Willinger on Mar 12, 2010 12:29 am • linkreport

Gaithersbungle looms????????

I believe there was a vote on that project already.....

Either way the project will be built out despite anti-growth Maryland hating special interest extremist groups that are trying many failing attempts to derail it because they fear that it will make Montgomery County more business competitive against Northern Virginia's business friendly Fairfax County and Loudon County..........

by tim on Mar 12, 2010 3:59 am • linkreport

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