Posts about Jefferson Memorial
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.
Bicycling to and from the 14th Street bridge on the DC side is not a pleasant experience. Cyclists must choose between harrowing high-speed roadways, too-narrow sidewalks, or long detours. The 14th Street Bridge EIS doesn't address this connection, but it needs to, immediately.
The Mount Vernon Trail, along the Potomac River in Virginia, has a few faults but it provides a safe and well-used bicycle route. It connects to a bike and pedestrian path on the George Mason bridge (the northernmost of the 3 road bridges) which is 8 feet wide, narrower than what AASHTO recommends. Still, many use this path even though it's adjacent to highway traffic.
In DC, there are some excellent bicycle facilities like the 15th Street bike lane, but it doesn't go any farther south than Pennsylvania Avenue. The Mall is also fairly bicycle-friendly for east-west travel.
The problem is getting from 15th and Pennsylvania, or the Mall, to the Mason Bridge.
Someone riding south on the 15th Street lane has to merge into busy traffic and then cross the Mall either by riding on the sidewalk, which is often quite crowded with tourists and joggers, or in the road, where cars expect to drive fast and not encounter cyclists. The last time David rode there, a DC taxi pulled up right behind and started honking, even though there was another, mostly empty lane it could switch into. It eventually did, honking even more.
It gets worse around Maine Avenue and Ohio Drive, near the Tidal Basin. Not only is the pavement in this area in horrible condition, but those roads are configured like highways with cars speeding along the winding curves. The sidewalks are extremely narrow and packed with pedestrians, especially during warm, sunny weather and in Cherry Blossom season.
The pedestrians deserve to use that space, but what do cyclists do? Riding in the road is only an option for southbound bicyclists, and it's a harrowing experience with the curved yet high-speed roads and drivers traveling very fast.
In the other direction, there isn't really a choice. From the path over the Mason Bridge, a cyclist has to ride on the sidewalks around the Tidal Basin, go the long way around west of the Tidal Basin toward the Lincoln Memorial, or take a long detour through East Potomac Park to get to the eastern side Ohio Drive and then head back up through the Maine Avenue area.
From Southwest DC, there's a path along the Case Bridge, which carries I-395 over the Washington Channel, but to get to it you have to navigate across and around highway-style ramps in Banneker Park, then 2 narrow switchbacks which force dismounting.
On the East Potomac Park side, the path turns into a narrow sidewalk along the on-ramp from the Park Police headquarters. Riders have to travel though the NPS parking lot (or go farther out of the way), then ride along the western Ohio Drive past the George Mason Memorial to get to the path.
On the Virginia side, the Mount Vernon Trail connects to many trails, but has no direct connection from the 14th Street bridge area to Pentagon City right across the freeways. Someone riding there has to either head north through Lady Bird Johnson Park and then wind around the Pentagon parking lots, or go south to the airport and then backtrack through Crystal City.
Alternatives improve Virginia connections
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement suggests 3 alternatives. The most ambitious, Alternative 2, proposes a new bridge from western Ohio Drive across the Potomac along side the Long Bridge (the CSX and VRE tracks) and then over the GW Parkway, with access to both the Mount Vernon Trail and Long Bridge Park.
The connection in Virginia seems great, but dumping cyclists in East Potomac Park isn't that useful. It's a little closer to the Case Bridge path, but not much, and getting to downtown or the Mall is worse than today's existing bridge.
The DEIS also contains 2 other, smaller bicycle proposals. Alternative 1 slightly widens and makes some changes to the approaches to the Mason Bridge path on each side, connecting to the Mount Vernon Trail and to the Jefferson Memorial. An earlier version also proposed widening the bike/ped path on the George Mason Bridge, but this bridge widening was removed from the alternative for "technical complexity." The final EIS ought to reconsider this option.
Alternative 3 has two parts. One would create better and more consistent wayfinding signage on both sides of the river. The second part proposes new trail connections to the Pentagon and in Pentagon City.
Around the Pentagon, a new connection would extend the half-built trail under the Humpback Bridge over to Boundary Channel Drive, providing a more direct connection between the 14th Street Bridge and the Pentagon. In Pentagon City, it would create a better bike connection from the north end of Crystal City (12th and Clark) west along Army-Navy Drive, under I-395, and along the south edge of the Pentagon Reservation to Columbia Pike and the Washington Blvd trail.
DC needs better bike connections as well
The Virginia connections would significantly improve access to the bridges, but there are no comparable bike connections proposed on the DC side of the river. This is the most glaring missing piece in the DEIS. The team should study and propose a better connection to 15th Street.
Drivers have direct connections in all directions here, even having too many ramps to too many roads. Cyclists, meanwhile, have one bad connection southbound from downtown and none at all northbound, and poor and winding connections to other directions.
This isn't just a recreational amenity. Many already use the bridge for commuting. Many more likely would for both commuting and general transportation if there were a clear, direct, and safe connection.
Ideally, we could find a way to extend the 15th Street cycle track from Pennsylvania down through the Mall, then past or through the Maine Avenue/ WashCycle suggests extending the new bridge along the railroad tracks across East Potomac Park to the east side, where it's a lot closer to the mainland. Another option is to convert 1 lane on East Basin Drive (the 2-lane road from Maine Avenue to I-395 South and the Jefferson Memorial) into a 2-way bicycle facility up to Maine Avenue, and eventually connect through the Mall to the 15th Street lanes.
What do you think is the best way to create a connection between the Mall and downtown across the Potomac?
WashCycle suggests extending the new bridge along the railroad tracks across East Potomac Park to the east side, where it's a lot closer to the mainland. Another option is to convert 1 lane on East Basin Drive (the 2-lane road from Maine Avenue to I-395 South and the Jefferson Memorial) into a 2-way bicycle facility up to Maine Avenue, and eventually connect through the Mall to the 15th Street lanes.
What do you think is the best way to create a connection between the Mall and downtown across the Potomac?
On Saturday, in the temple to America's greatest defender of freedom, Thomas Jefferson, the US Park Police arrested several people who had gathered to quietly dance.
In 2008, Mary Oberwetter and some other people gathered to silently dance to celebrate Jefferson's birthday one night. Park Police told them to stop, and when Oberwetter refused, she was arrested. A federal district court judge dismissed her lawsuit alleging this violated her First Amendment rights, and this month an appeals court agreed.
A number of individuals went to the memorial Saturday to protest the decision by dancing some more. Police told them they would be arrested if they chose to dance, then immediately did arrest one couple who appear to have broken off from the group and started dancing anyway.
That video excerpts from a longer one that shows the officers telling people they'd be arrested without further warning if anyone danced, then turning around and arresting a couple who had started very subtly shuffling back and forth while embracing in a somewhat dance-like way.
You also can see the officers roughing up and even choking a few people during the arrests. However, the man being choked did appear to be resisting arrest. As Don of We Love DC points out, the physical force started once one protestor tried to pull another one away from an officer trying to arrest him.
Like Don, I agree with the protestors' mission. It's ridiculous to preventing quiet dancing at the memorial under the argument that it should be reserved for "quiet contemplation," especially since schoolkids are often quite rowdy. The government has an interest in stopping loud protests that might disrupt others, but to arrest that couple who are silently swaying back and forth in an embrace looks ridiculous. But protestors who physically fight the officers don't help the cause.
An NCPC staff report on a security perimeter at the Jefferson Memorial contains a fascinating before and after photo set of the area:
For the security perimeter itself, NPS is considering three options: A fence right along the roadway, which is the NCPC staff's and CFA's preferred choice, a meandering wall along the middle of the Memorial grounds, and a formal circular wall making another concentric ring outside the memorial.
The street option has the least visual intrusion, since it's along an existing street, and avoids cutting up the landscaped space. Unfortunately, it also requires removing the most trees. (I'm sure security experts can explain why a barrier has to involve cutting down trees, instead of just running alongside or incorporating the already-strong trees into the barrier.)
All options would incorporate some benches into the wall, including around the tour bus loading area and new handicapped parking along the roadway to the west of the entrance. A food kiosk would also be reloacted to that area. NCPC staff suggests incorporating some of the more informal seating designs of the meandering wall or circular wall into the street fence option.
The National Coalition to Save Our Mall also submitted comments asking NPS to add some short-term parking at the Jefferson Memorial. It's hard to get there except by bike or long walk, and the Coalition says, "We have heard from many people over the past 7 years that they no longer visit the memorial because access is so limited to this remote location which lacks any public transportation. The only parking on Ohio Drive is a considerable walk."
The most important solution to this problem is for NPS to allow Circulator buses to run on the Mall and connect memorials cheaply and conveniently. The Circulator could also stop at the existing parking lots.
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