Greater Greater Washington

Boulevardize the SE/SW Freeway

Ballpark and Beyond brings up the on-again, off-again idea of replacing the Southeast-Southwest Freeway with a boulevard. Its hulking form makes people feel unsafe walking from the Capitol South Metro to the ballpark. A wide Virginia Avenue with timed lights wouldn't be so much worse for drivers and much better for everyone else.
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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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SESW freeway is a hulking mess, and needs to be rethought. However, my office is right by it and the volume day and night is pretty heavy, so a street conversion would just make it a nightmare.

by TJ on Mar 9, 2008 1:36 pm • linkreport

We'd need some real serious traffic studies before boulevardizing a freeway, of course, but people have made the same argument about every freeway that's been removed, like San Francisco's Central Freeway, and traffic Armageddon hasn't resulted. Traffic demand is more elastic than you might think. I should post this in more detail - I'll do a full post soon.

by David Alpert on Mar 10, 2008 9:10 am • linkreport

True, I also wonder what the effect the completion of the WW bridge will have on volume once the bridge, since the SWSE freeway is acting like a default detour. The difference between the Central Freeway and SWSE freeway is that decision to remove it was forced upon them by the 1989 earthquake. The question wasn’t to remove or keep, but more of a question of to rebuild or not, it was coming down one way or another. Fortunately for DC, the SWSE is not at the point; however it most likely going to need something equivalent to get the needed jurisdictions into serious discussions about its future. Hell, they are still discussing the future Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle, even after it has been deemed seismically vulnerable; in all honestly this is a no brainer.

by TJ on Mar 10, 2008 9:57 am • linkreport

I believe we spent a lot of money to rebuild the SWSE Freeway recently, unfortunately. And you're right that freeways falling down or being unsafe does seem to crystallize the mind and open up possibilities. For example, despite very light use, New York can't get consensus to demap the Sheridan Expressway.

As for SF, while the Loma Prieta Earthquake did damage the Central Freeway, unlike the Embarcadero Freeway it was more feasible to fix it though still expensive. Fortunately, San Francisco made a better choice.

by David Alpert on Mar 10, 2008 10:08 am • linkreport

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