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Washington from the sky: Google updates aerial photos

What were you doing on Sunday, August 29, 2010? If you were outside shortly after 1 pm, chances are Google Maps caught you on camera from a satellite.

Google recently updated its satellite imagery of the Washington area and the new photos illustrate just how much the region has changed. In just a few clicks, you can see all the projects we've discussed or mentioned over the past few years.

Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes.

In a thread of 41 emails of meticulous sleuthing, GGW contributors have pinned down the image capture to the early afternoon (between 1:00 and 1:35) of Sunday, August 29, 2010. For an exact time, check out the National Sundial.

One of the clues to the date and time included Metro trackwork between College Park and Greenbelt. According to our handy Disruption Calendar, the only recent scheduled trackwork in that area was the weekend of August 28/29 and Saturday, September 11.

We were able to exclude September 11 because the Crystal City bikeshare station, which was installed on the 31st, is not present. And it can't be Saturday, August 28, either. For one, the Glen Beck rally on the Mall would be taking place. Also, Sunday farmers markets in Dupont Circle and Greenbelt are visible.

Here are some, but certainly not all, of the visible highlights that have changed since the last set of photos.


Yards Park almost finished

Benning Road streetcar tracks

Constitution Square's green roof

"Dave Thomas Circle" construction

Plaza at Fourteenth Street and Park Road in Columbia Heights

Eleventh Street Bridge construction

U.S. Institute of Peace construction

Rhode Island Avenue TOD construction

Ninth Street Bridge over the Ivy City rail yard

Georgetown's waterfront park

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial site

East Plaza of the Capitol finally finished

Road Tattoo on Vermont Avenue

Bike box at Sixteenth Street, U Street, and New Hampshire Avenue

Metropolitan Branch Trail


ICC Construction

Metropolitan Grove TOD

National Harbor

DC Streetcars hibernating at the Greenbelt Rail Yard

Silver Spring Civic Building & Veterans' Plaza

Silver Spring Transit Center


HOT Lane construction on the Beltway

MetroWest construction at the Vienna Metro Station

Fourth runway at Dulles (far left)

Construction of the last segment of the Fairfax County Parkway

Construction of Long Bridge Park
Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 


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i submit the temporary park/plaza in rosslyn at the central place construction site as a new google maps satellite image capture.

by Andrew D on Sep 30, 2010 9:08 am • linkreport

Pretty cool sleuthing!

by Fritz on Sep 30, 2010 9:08 am • linkreport

What? The reopening of 4th St SW between M and I doesn't make the list?

by Steven Yates on Sep 30, 2010 9:08 am • linkreport

Very cool! I noticed the day before yesterday and even found my car. And yes, I'm a map geek

by JessMan on Sep 30, 2010 9:10 am • linkreport

Why are the White House, Capitol and Naval Observatory at full resolution? Previous versions had them at a lower resolution.

by Tim on Sep 30, 2010 9:15 am • linkreport

Looks like they might have photoshopped an earlier version of the white house in, you can see a differentiation in color in a line running east to west just north of the white house.

by Paul C on Sep 30, 2010 9:19 am • linkreport

If you look at Gilbert's Corner in Loudoun County you can see the edge of the image. Two roundabouts are in the image, the other two don't show up.

by Mario on Sep 30, 2010 9:19 am • linkreport

Cool they caught the Nats game in the 1rst or 2nd inning.

by RJ on Sep 30, 2010 9:20 am • linkreport

I was playing softball on Ohio Drive. can't quite make out the shirt colors or inning but the furthest east game was us.

by Redline SOS on Sep 30, 2010 9:32 am • linkreport

Barnes Dance in Chinatown.

by Scott on Sep 30, 2010 9:37 am • linkreport

Silver Line Construction...long long way to go.

by RJ on Sep 30, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

You could've narrowed it down to 8/29/2010 right off the bat simply by looking at Google Earth, which shows the date of a given image.

by Froggie on Sep 30, 2010 9:43 am • linkreport

Froggie: Yeah, but what fun is that?

by Alex B. on Sep 30, 2010 9:47 am • linkreport

Redevelopment around Friendship Heights is nice to finally see as much of it was a construction site in the last version (for the Giant & luxury stores). Those have been done for years and this version's timing was perfect to capture the relatively recently completed complex around the new Bloomingdale's on the other side of Wisconsin Ave.

by SWC on Sep 30, 2010 9:56 am • linkreport

I like seeing all of the construction on the Silver Line on the 66 spur. After driving by it so much interesting to see it from the air. I can also see my car in front of my house!

by Jawo on Sep 30, 2010 9:58 am • linkreport

The email thread was something to behold, I must say. When I checked the mail at the end of the day and saw a conversation with 35 emails I though it might have been that Google was finally giving Google Transit directions.

by Michael Perkins on Sep 30, 2010 10:04 am • linkreport

Disadvantage of the new photos is that there's a lot more tree cover. My house is just trees--used to be able to see a good part of the house and yard.

by ah on Sep 30, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

Ahh, mapgeek porn. I know I was on the Mall somewhere and I can see my car up in Shaw. I'll have to peruse through my photos' EXIF data to see if I can pinpoint myself down to the minute.

Some more projects:

- 355/Montrose/Randolph grade separation in White Flint
- Cleared land for TOD at White Flint Metro
- MD 124 widening near Montgomery County Airpark
- Grade-separation of CSX over MD 450 in Bladensburg
- Big changes in Hyatttsville's Arts District
- Beltway/MD 5 interchange finished
- The mine just east of Temple Hill Rd over the Beltway takes on a full spiral

...If only it was a couple weeks off, it'd have caught Eastern Avenue missing a bridge over Kenilworth/295.

by Bossi on Sep 30, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

Also note the two building Clarendon Center project in Arlington between Garfield and Highland Streets is photographed as mostly completed.

by Ryan Frazier on Sep 30, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

Another change -- the EYA development along Route 1 in Hyattsville, MD: west side is now complete in the imagery and the east side development is under way.

by T. Carter on Sep 30, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport

what about the completed Arena Stage!?

I'll certainly spend hours at google maps now. love checking out how stuff has changed.

by Patrick Swift on Sep 30, 2010 11:00 am • linkreport

For those who are interested, it's a fairly large area that was included in the new imagery:

- As far west as Leesburg and Gainesville
- As far south as Garrisonville, La Plata, and Prince Frederick
- As far east as the Bay, but only in Calvert County and southern Anne Arundel. Shady Side is included, but Beverly Beach isn't.
- As far north as Laytonsville and Olney, but not quite to Clarksville.
- The northeast "corner" is a jigsaw, with some "squares" included and others not. Howard County as a general rule isn't, though Burtonsville and most of Laurel is. Bowie is included, but the cutoff is just west of Crain Hwy.

by Froggie on Sep 30, 2010 11:11 am • linkreport

I opted out of Google Street View, and so when you zoom in on my home, it goes black.

by Bill on Sep 30, 2010 12:41 pm • linkreport

Get your shit together, Google. Neither the National Museum of Natural History nor Fox News is located at my address.

Quadrants: embrace them.

by Nichole on Sep 30, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

They finally show the long completed third N-S runway at Dulles. I flagged that numerous times for them. The map level is still wrong and high level sat data is still old.

by NikolasM on Sep 30, 2010 1:08 pm • linkreport

Are these really satellite images? I think they're vertical aerial photos.

Most of the imagery credited to USGS or USDA, for instance, comes from USGS Urban Areas or USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service aerial surveys. When I've looked into the sources of imagery attributed to states, the original surveys are almost always aircraft flights as well.

by David R. on Sep 30, 2010 2:19 pm • linkreport

I know this because sometimes I've had the public-source imagery open in one window, and Google Maps in the other, and they're visibly the same image.

by David R. on Sep 30, 2010 2:21 pm • linkreport

The shot must be around 1:30, since there's no trace of the Farmer's Market in the Elm Street parking lot in downtown Bethesda, which normally closes at 1:00 on Sundays.

by Matt on Sep 30, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

@David R.

You are correct - the close-up imagery is aerial photography.

by MLD on Sep 30, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

What about the new St. Elizabeths Hospital just completed next to Congress Heights metro.

by Rebekah on Oct 5, 2010 6:51 pm • linkreport

Another new one... the ped/bike bridge over Veirs Mill Rd near Aspen Hill Rd on the eastern edges of Rockville, linking into Rock Creek Trail.

by Bossi on Oct 6, 2010 12:56 pm • linkreport

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