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Last week DDOT released its Southeast Blvd. Feasibility Study, in which the agency "evaluated the feasibility of transitioning a segment of the former Southeast Freeway from 11th Street to Barney Circle into an urban boulevard more consistent with the expected travel demand and the character of the adjacent neighborhood."
This study was a follow-on to the Office of Planning's Southeast Blvd. Planning Study, which came about after residents expressed displeasure with the initial efforts seen in the Barney Circle-Southeast Blvd. Transportation Planning Study.
And what does the feasibility study say? DDOT's report determines that changing the current Southeast Blvd. from the limited-access quick route between 11th Street SE and Barney Circle to a street with connections to its north and south and development along the footprint is feasible, but the transformation "would be neither inexpensive nor quick."
The study then goes through the issues that make clear this would not be a snap-the-fingers-and-make-it-so proposition:
*Ownership: There are two small parcels within the study area owned by the National Park Service--and we know quickly either arranging for a change in ownership or "coordinating" with NPS can go. The study refers to it as being clear "that there would be significant process requirements and challenges to disposing the NPS and incorporating them into private development." That the process to "surplus" any excess land along the footprint not needed for the road(s) itself is governed by the Federal Highway Administration would also not point to a lightning-quick resolution.
* Transit Garages: The inclusion of some location that would allow for the parking of tour buses, transit buses and streetcars {cough}--a big part of DDOT's wishes for the area but something that residents are not particularly keen on--"could be provided at Southeast Boulevard that takes advantage of the location and topography of the site to minimize visual impacts to surrounding neighborhoods and so that vehicles accessing the facility would not use residential neighborhood streets."
* Cost: The study's "cursory assessment" says that constructing the transportation elements of the project would cost around $120 million, with a transit garage adding about $65-70 million in costs (in 2015 dollars). This includes reconfiguring Barney Circle into an at-grade signalized traffic circle, raising Southeast Boulevard to the same level as L Street, and constructing a four-lane street that includes sidewalks, bike facilities, and traffic signals. Plus some contingency costs built in.
* Schedule: The graphic at right breaks out a not-short ballpark timeline of 10 years for both the "transportation" portion of the project and the land redevelopment project.
With all of that, DDOT says that the first step forward is to restart the Barney Circle and Southeast Blvd. Transportation Planning Study begun in 2013, though even that now has a road block, that this Environmental Assessment now can't be completed "until a financial plan for project implementation is identified and included in the regional Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP)." DDOT advises interested groups "to continue discussions with a broad spectrum of stakeholders during the EA to confirm community support for the project, engage with AWI Signatories, and evaluate project costs and funding options."
This final draft was presented to ANC 6B's Transportation Committee on Jan. 6, and Capitol Hill Corner reports that DDOT's representative told the committee that there were no "fatal flaws" in any of the Office of Planning's three concepts for reimagining the road--but that it will be "up to ANC 6B to push the project forward" by requesting the environmental assessment.
I am skimming it all, so if this project is of interest to you, be sure to read the feasibility report, and perhaps attend ANC 6B's meeting on Jan. 12, at which a draft letter will apparently be considered to support going ahead with the EA.
You can also wander through my posts on the subject from the past few years, especially on the completion of the OP study back in July and the three general concepts advanced for how to remake this stretch of land that currently serves as such a barrier between Capitol Hill/Hill East and the Anacostia River.
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dude says: (1/11/16 7:42 AM)
Seems like an awful lot of money for what it achieves.


jdc says: (1/11/16 8:32 AM)
To me this is sort of a 'no brainer' in terms of spreading around - and linking to - the massive redevelopment going on in near SE. From the city's perspective, more development = more taxes.


202_cyclist says: (1/11/16 8:56 AM)
@jdc:

Exactly right-- someone posted a comment on the Capitol Hill Corner blog estimating the expected future tax revenue of creating an entirely new neighborhood: link

Additionally, there are other benefits, such as linking neighborhoods and allowing more people to live in a walkable neighborhood and near transit, including the Potomac Ave station.


monkeyrotica says: (1/11/16 10:22 AM)
More roads = more congestion. Why does this "boulevard" even exist? Instead of spending $120 mil (which will eventually bloat to $200+ mil) just sell the land, build residential/retail, and re-open the north/south streets.


conngs0 says: (1/11/16 11:01 AM)
Agree with jdc. Doesn't the status quo risk maintaining a barrier between the planned development in Hill East by Stadium Armory and the 11th Street Bridge Park and the rest of the Navy Yard area? It sure seems like this would help maximize the returns on those other investments.


jdc says: (1/11/16 12:03 PM)
My fantasy - yes, I may need help - is that the explosive growth and interest in SE, then SW, and then 'eco district' they're building around L'Enfant, will lead to financial incentives sometime in my lifetime to tunneling and locating 695/SE-SE Freeway underground. Basically, selling air rights. It's about 5 miles as configured, and I wonder if that figure could be cut down if it took a more direct route. Yes, everyone will think of the "Big Dig" mess - but, a recent piece sort of exonerated the project and I bet in another 10-20 years it will be an accepted piece of US infrastructure. Plus, the lessons learned and the advancement in drilling will make this an easier project in all likelihood.


conngs0 says: (1/11/16 2:05 PM)
Even in the case of the Big Dig, I don't think it's the project itself that needs exoneration - it's the execution of the project. One of the reasons why the people of Boston were so against hosting the Olympics was that, based on the cost overruns and delays, they had zero faith that their local government could properly execute such a huge expenditure. After all, it's not that hosting an Olympics has to cripple the local economy; it's that hosting an Olympics typical cripples the local economy because the host country/city does such a poor job of planning the games.

I have a similar opinion of your fantasy regarding putting the SE Freeway underground. Would it benefit the neighborhood and the city (and commuters)? Could it be a worthwhile project? Absolutely. But you have to have faith in the execution.

An even better example of this phenomenon is the Metro 2040 plan. link This would undoubtedly be fantastic for the city. It'll never happen though because the people responsible for implementing such a plan will certainly mess it up!

Let's see how the Capitol Crossing project pans out. If that winds up being a success, perhaps there will be more support for significant infrastructure improvement along the lines you have in mind.

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1300 4TH ST SE 1001   
02/22/21 
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