Posts about Anacostia River
This week, celebrate spring by helping clean up the Anacostia River and learning about trees in urban environments. You can also talk about bicycling in Montgomery County, bus technology, and safer streets in DC.
Clean up the Anacostia: On Saturday, April 5, the Anacostia Watershed Society is organizing clean-up events in DC, Montgomery, and Prince George's. Organizers will talk to volunteers about the river and its watershed, and then volunteers will help remove trash from neighborhoods, streams, and the river.
The cleanup activities run from 9 am to noon at 20 sites Volunteers of all ages are welcome. You can register here. At noon, join other volunteers at RFK Stadium for free food, drink, music, and speakers for a post-cleanup celebration.
Montgomery County bicycle summit: Discuss the future of biking in Montgomery County at a bicycle summit on Saturday, April 5. The summit includes a family bike ride, presentations from local bike groups and the Montgomery County DOT, and a panel discussion. It will be at the Jane Lawton Recreation Center (4301 Willow Lane) in Chevy Chase from 9:15 am to noon.
Bus hack night: On Thursday, April 3, find out if data visualizations can make buses sexy (hint: ART and WMATA think so). Speakers from WMATA, ART, and Conveyal, a consulting group, will talk about ways to use data from bus GPS devices to improve service. ART and WMATA have provided data to discuss at this event.
The discussion will run from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Mobility Lab, 1501 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1100, Arlington. You can RSVP here.
Florida Ave transit study: DDOT is holding a public meeting on Wednesday, April 2 to discuss the Florida Avenue Multimodal Transportation Study. This study is evaluating traffic safety, streetscape enhancements, and operational improvements for the section of Florida Ave NE from New York Ave to H Street and Benning Road and surrounding roads.
Tony Goodman has written about the options DDOT will present at the meeting, which will take place at the Two Rivers Public Charter Middle School (1234 4th Street NE) from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.
Learn about urban arboreta: Nate Heavers, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at Virginia Tech, and Ray Mims, of the US Botanic Garden and Sustainable Sites Initiative, will give a presentation on the history of planting trees in public spaces in DC and Alexandria.
After the talk there will be a Q&A session and a reception. This free event takes place on Tuesday, April 1 from 7:00 to 9:30 pm at 1021 Prince Street in Alexandria. You can RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who hears opinions on public projects?: Many of you share your thoughts on public projects on social media, but that doesn't mean agencies making decisions see it. The National Capital Planning Commission is having a panel discussion about how public agencies handle official versus unofficial feedback and resident input that comes in using newer technology.
NCPC's William Herbig will moderate a conversation with Greater Greater Washington's David Alpert, Cheryl Cort of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Don Edwards from Justice and Sustainability Associates, and NBC4 reporter Tom Sherwood. The event is Wednesday, April 9, 7:00-8:30 pm at NCPC, 401 9th St NW, Suite 500.
Washington has long turned its back on the Anacostia River, and in turn the neighborhoods east of the river. The 11th Street Bridge Park could become one of the city's most distinctive places, turning disused bridge structures into a connector and destination. With a design competition now underway, all that's left to do is design and build it.
That's a tall order, but the project was born out of ingenuity. The proposed park takes advantage of foundations left over from one of the 1960s highway bridges. Rather than connect Capitol Hill to Anacostia, the highways isolated both.
Originally intended to feed the inner loop freeway, the old bridges were great for driving through the riverfront neighborhoods on the way to something else. When the city rebuilt the bridges in 2012, the city was left with an obsolete, but not totally useless, bridge next to the new local span.
The possibility of doing something with the remnants stuck in the mind of Scott Kratz, who at the time worked at the National Building Museum. At a meeting with then-Office of Planning director Harriet Tregoning, he brought up the concept of reusing the bridge. To his surprise, she immediately thought it was a great idea.
Since then, Kratz has been figuring out the details and building support for the Bridge Park, now working full-time on this project at THEARC in Congress Heights. That organization has held 195 meetings on both sides of the river to find out what the bridge would need to be, with a focus on reaching out to residents who often feel ignored in efforts to improve the city.
Now, THEARC and its appropriately named parent organization, Building Bridges Across the River, are looking to open the dialogue to everyone who benefits from the Anacostia. Since the park will likely be privately funded but publicly owned, raising the $35 million required to build and endow the bridge park will be a major goal. The other key part will be a design competition.
The Bridge Park must be more than a park
Given the precarious site and high cost, this project is risky. Getting the design right can make all of the difference between a world-class park and a white elephant, as Dan Malouff has previously noted.
Rather than stage an ostentatious open competition where flashy, iconic images predominate, Kratz went to the communities first. Some of those 195 meetings were charrettes, design meetings where stakeholders identified what was missing from their neighborhoods and how the bridge could fix them. When professionals do get involved later this month, they'll be screened based on their experience working with communities as much as design skill.
Participants in the outreach meetings have focused on a few ideas for the park again and again. Because the East of the River neighborhoods face high obesity and hypertension rates, active recreation figures prominently in visions for the park. This includes playgrounds, as well as conventional sports areas, since there isn't one in Anacostia proper. In a similar vein, the Bridge Park staff are interested in introducing urban agriculture to the bridge, possibly fruit trees.
Encouraging residents to interact with the river is another goal. This might mean a dock as much as a environmental education center. Artistic output forms the final side: an outdoor performance space, or even a facility for an arts nonprofit could be part of the project. In general, Kratz sees art as crucial to letting the community take ownership of the park when it opens.
Turning the site's challenges into opportunities
I would like to see programs that take advantage of the elevated site. Since it's not an automobile bridge, the Bridge Park doesn't need to be flat, symmetrical, or even the same width all the way across. A skate park might suit the site perfectly. It's a loud activity that needs uneven terrain to play up its acrobatic elements.
Urban agriculture, on the other hand, seems counterintuitive. Planting beds would require importing large volumes of dirt and building a heavy-duty structure to support it. There are sites in Anacostia on actual land that seem more obvious for a farm.
The main challenge the site faces is its isolation from busy streets. The first piers of the Bridge Park are ¼ mile from Good Hope Road on one side. On the other side, M Street SE is a long walk along the Navy Yard's fences and a highway viaduct.
Kratz realizes this problem, so he worked with students from Virginia Tech to find every possible connection, especially to the Anacostia Riverfront Trail. They proposed lighting and community art to enliven the sidewalks to M Street and Good Hope Road. Arriving with a gym bag might still present an obstacle, so Kratz is working with DDOT to install a stop for the Anacostia streetcar, which will run over the new bridge.
Streetcar access will be the most important factor in drawing residents to the active recreation sites. For casual recreation, how the designers locate activity areas could make those walks easier. With major attractions at either abutment of the bridge, visitors would come to pick up their kid from an event and kill time by talking a walk down to see the great view downriver.
Bridge Park needs to feel like a place to succeed
These designers will face a site pretty much unlike any other. Journalists frequently compare the Bridge Park to New York's High Line, but there are several crucial differences. For one, the High Line runs for 1.45 miles through dense neighborhoods, well connected to the streets below.
Reusing the entire structure of an old railroad viaduct, the High Line was stuck with relatively tight dimensions, ranging from 30 to 88 feet. That's about size of a tennis court. The 11th Street Bridge Park has the potential to stand 160 feet wide and 800 feet long, around the size of three professional football fields end-to-end.
And pedestrian bridges sometimes have places to rest, but they rarely are destinations by themselves. There are a few unbuilt parallels, like Thomas Heatherwick's Garden Bridge in London, or OMA's
There is one project that has actually gets beyond the transportation deck: a pedestrian bridge in Providence. Reusing the piers of what had been a highway bridge right through the center of town, the new bridge connects two sections of a greenway.
Architect inForm and engineer Buro Happold created a structure that varies width and height: In one place, a delicate bridge, while on the other, it's grassy steps down to the river. With all of this three-dimensional variation, the designers were able to put a café in the middle.
What's nice about the Providence project is that it looks a lot like a street: it has the multi-layered activity that happens when people are passing by, relaxing, working, and working out. To be successful, the Anacostia Bridge Park needs to sustain this kind of activity. The design of the project, from how the activities are arranged to the way it interprets the river artistically is what will do that.
The designers' test will be to take the communities' desires and layer them within architecture that connects the mundane to something bigger in the context. In other words, the park should make a basketball game feel as connected to MLK Boulevard as to the flow of water underneath. The players should sense that they're playing 20 feet in the air and a mile from the Capitol.
The bridge park can't solve that many problems. But it can create a place of confluence between the city's different constituencies. If everyone feels they own this park, it can be part of a more inclusive revitalization of Washington.
To find out more about the Bridge Park, please visit bridgepark.org. The design competition will be announced on March 20th.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is proposing a new Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge that will not connect to the Suitland Parkway Trail through Anacostia. The Suitland Parkway Trail's trailhead is only one mile from the proposed bridge.
DDOT will invest $600 million in a new South Capitol Street / Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge across the Anacostia River. This is the largest capital investment project in the DDOT's history and represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the design right for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Bridge engineers have been listening to the concerns of bicycling community over the last two years, and DDOT has made improvements to the bridge design for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The new span will have two 18-foot-wide multi-use trails, one on each side of the roadway. The sidepath space will be divided into an 8-foot sidewalk and a 10-foot-wide bicycle path. There will be direct connections from the bridge, around the traffic circles, to the street grid and existing or planned trail networks.
But there is a glaring exception: There is no direct connection to the Suitland Parkway Trail from the bridge. The Suitland Parkway Trail is a multi-use path that extends two miles east from Anacostia to the District's border with Maryland. Prince George's County is beginning plans to extend the trail another 3.5 miles east to the Branch Ave Metro Station. It is a preferred route for bicyclists because the trail is steady uphill grade; many nearby residential streets have very quick and steep climbs.
Bicyclists wishing to travel from the bridge to the trail will follow one of two routes. The first, on the south side of the bridge, follows the traffic circle around counterclockwise, underneath I-295, and ends at the intersection of Firth Sterling and the Suitland Parkway. This route crosses roads eight times, including two high speed interstate ramps. The second route begins on the north side of the bridge, follows the traffic circle around clockwise, and ends on Howard Road. Engineers would then paint bike lanes on Howard Road. Neither route ends anywhere near the Suitland Parkway Trail.
Residents who live just up the Anacostia River experience a similar roadway design every day. The unpleasant walk or bike ride from the Pennsylvania Ave Bridge underneath the freeway to Minnesota Avenue SE is nearly the same layout. Pedestrians and bicyclists must navigate a sea of crosswalks, high speed interstate highway ramps and numerous traffic lights. It's unsafe, unpleasant, and intimidating. DDOT should not repeat the same mistake.
DDOT engineers need to propose a direct connection from the new bridge to the trail. This connection should aim to keep pedestrians and bicyclists separated from car traffic, minimize crosswalks, and prioritize grade separated trail crossings. Trail users should not have to cross high-speed freeway ramps. The design should prioritize the experience of bicyclists and pedestrians. Most importantly, the trail connection should keep kids, adults, and seniors safe and be a direct, safe, and convenient connection of communities.
WABA has created a petition asking DDOT to design and build a safe trail connection from the South Capitol Street Bridge to the Suitland Parkway Trail.
Ghosts of DC posted an 1892 Map of Rural Anacostia earlier this week. I've made it into a graphic illustrating some of the other physical changes to the neighborhood and its surroundings in the last 120 years.
What first struck me about the map when I saw it was how close the banks of the Anacostia River were to the neighborhood. My knowledge of DC history is minimal, so I did not know that between 1882 and 1927 the tidal marshes along the edge of the Anacostia were filled in, creating what would today appear on a map as Poplar Point.
Clusters of single family homes were developed and remain intact in places such as north of today's Good Hope Road (in the Fairlawn neighborhood) and around Morris Road. In the next ring of development, south and east of here, small apartment buildings become the predominant land use. And over time (as early as 1900 with the development of the Nichols School, which is now the Thurgood Marshall Academy), larger footprint buildings sprouted up on and around today's Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road.
Future development plans suggest that the next phase of growth will follow a similar trajectory, with moderate densification of the main commercial corridors and substantial expansion into previously undeveloped land, in this case Poplar Point.
A version of this post originally ran at R. U. Seriousing Me?
DC residents and business owners are footing the bill to fix the city's outdated stormwater infrastructure. Let's get green jobs in the bargain.
Stormwater runoff is a byproduct of our developing city. We've turned much of our land into paved streets, parking lots, sidewalks and rooftops; when it rains, millions of gallons of water rush into our antiquated storm-sewer system, which causes flooding and sends untreated sewage and other pollutants into area rivers.
The city entered into a legal agreement with the EPA in 2005 to end sewer overflows into the Potomac, Anacostia, and Rock Creek waterways by 2025. To meet this goal DC Water developed the $2.6 billion Clean Rivers Project, which will fix and replace the DC's outdated storm sewer system.
The project is being financed almost exclusively by DC residents, which means that by 2019 the average resident's monthly DC water bill will exceed $100. However, few DC residents are getting jobs as a result of this massive spending.
According to DC Water's most recent employment report, 85 employees on DC Water projects live in North Carolina, more than the 63 employees who live in Wards 7 and 8. It's time to seriously consider how we get the most bang for our collective buck: clean rivers and green jobs.
Reducing and ultimately eliminating sewage overflows into our rivers is the primary focus of the Clean Rivers Project, but it doesn't have to be the only return we see on this massive investment of ratepayer money. With political will and imagination, we could use these billions of dollars to create thousands of living wage green jobs and spur green neighborhood revitalization across the city as well.
Late last year, DC Water entered into a preliminary partnership agreement with the EPA to explore green infrastructure as an alternative to the current big-tunnel approach. Solutions could include rain gardens, green roofs, and pervious pavers, which unlike traditional pavement allows water to filter through to the ground below.
This could create thousands of living wage, career-track jobs digging rain gardens, planting trees and maintaining green roofs. Our initial research suggests that investing $40 million a year in green infrastructure could create more than 300 living wage jobs.
DC Water could divert hundreds of millions of dollars into green infrastructure over the next 12 years. These green jobs would go a long way to dealing with stubborn unemployment numbers in wards 5, 7, and 8 and create new tax revenue for the city.
However, these green jobs won't reach unemployed DC residents unless the leaders at DC Water make it a priority. We need an organized base of ratepayers, job-seekers, businesses and environmentalists holding city leaders accountable for training and preparing unemployed DC workers for these green jobs and holding contractors and DC Water and its contractors accountable for hiring them.
Focusing on green job creation in the Clean Rivers Project will also broaden public support for green infrastructure With political will, green infrastructure can be a viable solution to our stormwater problems. Our organization, the Washington Interfaith Network, a local citizen power organization made up of faith, labor and community based organizations, is building a citywide coalition supporting green infrastructure in the Clean Rivers Project. We would like it to include a clear comprehensive plan for green job creation and neighborhood revitalization along with river restoration.
On Earth Day 2013, we will gather 800 neighborhood leaders at Temple Sinai, next to Rock Creek Park, with officials from DC Water and City Council to make public commitments for creating such a plan in the next six months. With $2.6 billion in debt to pay back, we can't afford to do otherwise.
With political will, green infrastructure can be a viable solution to our stormwater problems. Our organization, the Washington Interfaith Network, a local citizen power organization made up of faith, labor and community based organizations, is building a citywide coalition supporting green infrastructure in the Clean Rivers Project. We would like it to include a clear comprehensive plan for green job creation and neighborhood revitalization along with river restoration.
On Earth Day 2013, we will gather 800 neighborhood leaders at Temple Sinai, next to Rock Creek Park, with officials from DC Water and City Council to make public commitments for creating such a plan in the next six months. With $2.6 billion in debt to pay back, we can't afford to do otherwise.
Spring is here (or maybe it's just an early summer), and that means there's lots to do both inside and outside! Next week is an exciting Coalition for Smarter Growth forum on parking with guest Jeff Tumlin, and CSG has many great walking tours through June.
You can learn about DC's civil war forts, celebrate Earth Day on April 20 itself or at fairs before or after, go to happy hours and hear speakers on public space.
And if you can't wait to do something, tonight is a public meeting on the Union Station-Georgetown streetcar segment. DDOT will brief the public on its analysis of "premium transit" (i.e. streetcar) through downtown to Georgetown. DDOT director Terry Bellamy has also promised to update people on wireless technologies which can preserve clear viewsheds.
The meeting is tonight, Thursday, April 11 (or last night for those reading the daily email), 6-8 pm at the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square, L'Enfant Map Room.
Learn about forts: BF Cooling and Gary Thompson, founders of an effort to preserve DC's civil war circle of forts, will give a talk about the forts and their history on Monday, April 15, 7-8:45 pm at the Tenley-Friendship Library.
Get parking right: Next Wednesday, the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) is hosting national parking expert Jeff Tumlin to talk about ways cities are fix parking policy to match supply and demand and build a system that works better for everyone. Sam Zimbabwe, DDOT planning head, will talk about how DC might use Tumlin's ideas.
The forum is April 17 at the Center for American Progress, 1333 H St. NW. There are refreshments at 6 and then the program from 6:30-8:30. RSVP here before it fills up!
Be green around Earth Day: Saturday, April 20 is Earth Day, and there are a lot of great events to celebrate and learn more about how to help the environment. The Anacostia Watershed Society is having a cleanup and celebration, first helping clean up the river at 20 sites from 9 am to noon, followed by a celebration at Bladensburg Waterfront Park.
Be happy in Arlington: CSG and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization are cosponsoring a happy hour in Arlington on Monday, April 22 from 6:30-8:30 pm at William Jeffrey's Tavern, 2301 Columbia Pike. Ask questions about what's going on down the Pike or just meet people and have fun!
Improve the public realm: That same day, NCPC is hosting a speaker from London, Helen Marriage, to discuss ways that city is making its public spaces better. A panel afterward will talk about how some of the ideas could come to DC. That's also 6:30-8:30 pm on Monday, April 22 at NCPC, 401 9th Street NW, Suite 500 North.
The RAC is listening: The WMATA Riders' Advisory Council wants to hear from more riders, especially about how upcoming Silver Line service and changes to buses and trains will affect riders. To that end, they're holding listening sessions outside WMATA HQ, starting with one on April 24, 6:30 pm in the Charles Houston Rec Center, 901 Wythe Street in Alexandria near Braddock Road Metro.
Walk and tour: CSG's spring walking tour series kicks off April 27 with a tour of White Flint, followed by 14th Street, Fairfax's Route 1, Wheaton, and Fort Totten in May and June. Space is limited, so RSVP for your favorite tour now!
At least 17,000 people in the lower Anacostia watershed eat fish from the river every year. These fish spend years swimming in polluted water and resting and feeding amidst sediment contaminated with toxic chemicals.
This contamination is very likely ending up on people's dinner plates. In many cases, the people eating this fish have limited resources and few alternatives for safer food.
The Washington City Paper recently discussed these findings from a report, Addressing the Risk, the Anacostia Watershed Society, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, Chesapeake Bay Trust, and other local entities assisted in the report.
The team set out to understand how large the subsistence fishing population was, and how much they knew about the river pollution and the risk of eating fish from it. We did not expect to find so many people sharing the fish so widely.
How do you refuse an elderly neighbor on food stamps, when she asks you to bring back a fish? Or if you've been unemployed for a while, but need to feed your family, how do you resist a free, local meal? If you're hungry today, is it worth the risk that the chemicals in the fish might cause cancer in 20 years?
Many fishermen are in fact aware that the river is polluted and that the fish reflect that. They have informal methods for screening the fish, and many will throw back a fish with lesions, cloudy eyes, or other outward signs of sickness. But those methods are further evidence that the fishermen think the fish are only contaminated on the outside, and don't address the PCBs hiding in the fatty tissue within.
Even if they don't plan to eat the fish themselves, the pleas of a neighbor in need or a passing child are irresistible. The fishermen feel like they have helped in their generosity.
Obviously the long-term solution is to clean up the river. We should be able to paddle, fish, and even swim in the river without worrying about damaging our health. Cleaning up the six legacy toxic sites and reducing polluted stormwater runoff (which carries toxins from roads, parking lots, and other hard surfaces) will go a long way.
In the meantime, we need to do more to educate everyone, and particularly at-risk groups like women of childbearing age, about the condition of the river and the risks of consuming its fish. It is also incumbent on leaders in DC and Maryland to improve access to other healthy food. Generally speaking, fish is a very healthy protein. Could the DC area support aquaculture, perhaps in a community-supported model?
AWS and its partners will be holding a community meeting in Ward 7 in early December to answer questions about the research and begin the discussion of how we solve the problem. We hope councilmembers and community leaders will come and pledge to be part of the solution.
Washington's growing fleet of water taxis are useful as transportation, but they're also a fun and unique way to see the city. I used an American River Taxi to travel to a Nationals game a few weeks ago, and photographed the trip for posterity.
ART ferries sailing to the ballpark pick up passengers at Washington Harbor, in Georgetown. Boats pull directly up to the boardwalk, and passengers simply walk straight on.
Inside, the boats have a double row of seats and a crew of 2 or 3. There are no bathrooms, and no vending.
Shortly after casting off from Washington Harbor there are great views of Georgetown and Foggy Bottom.
Thanks to calm water and shoreline trails, the river and its banks are multi-modal.
The Roosevelt Bridge is the first of many that the ferry passes under.
Between Roosevelt and Memorial bridges, the monuments of the National Mall are visible.
Memorial Bridge is the most ornate of Washington's Potomac bridges.
Monuments continue to be visible as the ferry passes West Potomac Park.
The 14th Street Bridge looks very plain.
Metrorail's Yellow Line bridge is even plainer.
Last and oldest of the 14th Street Bridge cluster, the Long Bridge looks ancient compared to any other on the river.
After crossing below Long Bridge, East Potomac Park becomes visible on the east bank, while Crystal City and National Airport dominate the west bank.
Looking back upstream, Rosslyn, the National Cathedral, and the Washington Monument are prominent.
At Hains Point the ferry turns to go up the Anacostia River.
Looking up the Anacostia, the Frederick Douglass Bridge rises, and the baseball stadium comes into view.
Yards Park becomes visible beneath Douglass Bridge.
The stadium looms large above the river.
Finally, the ferry docks at Diamond Teague Park, just downstream from Navy Yard.
For even more photos of the ride, view the complete Flickr set.
Today at noon is our online Parking Think Tank with DDOT's Angelo Rao. Stop by from 12-1 to weigh in with your comments on parking in DC!
These and many other important events in the coming weeks are on the Greater Greater Washington calendar. Here's what's coming up that you might want to go to:
An afternoon panel will talk about how residents and communities are pushing back against VDOT to get better transportation choices. Greater Greater Washington readers can get a $10 discount on the $45 registration, which includes a reception Friday night as well. Register here and use code GGW.
Public hearings are Mon. 10/22 in Anacostia, Wed. 10/24 in Shirlington, Mon. 10/29 in New Carrollton and Falls Church, and 10/30 in Lamond-Riggs, all with an open house at 6 and then a presentation at 6:30. To speak, sign up by emailing email@example.com; or submit written testimony at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Federal board wants "dignified," dull Southwest Waterfront
- Fairfax's answer to neighbors' transit plans: Light rail, streetcars, and BRT
- The DC zoning update has already had triple the public input as the enormous 1958 zoning code. Enough is enough.
- Fruit stands abound within Paris Métro
- Downtown DC could have been more like L'Enfant Plaza
- MARC's chief engineer wants to allow bikes on some weekend trains
- Can you guess the Metro stations in this week's pictures?