Roads that Don’t Have to be Plowed

On September 9, 1969, President Nixon’s transportation secretary ordered work on the Three Sisters Bridge to begin…

As construction began, near Foxhall and Canal Roads, just west of Georgetown, demonstrators lay down in front of bulldozers and tied themselves to trees that were slated to be chopped down. Opponents paddled a canoe out to the Three Sisters — the three boulders siting in mid-river — and hung a banner on the rocks that read: “Stop the Bridge.”

Arrests took place daily. But work was halted by a temporary restraining order issued that October. In August 1970, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court ordered work on the bridge halted.

His opinion said that proper planning procedures had not been followed and local voices had not been adequately heard. (Washington Post)

Not long ago, I promised to detail the Washington highways that might have been, but thankfully are not.

Our city was spared these depredations, thanks largely to ‘Washingtonian of the Year,’ 1972: Peter Craig.

Here is a brief outline of the city-choking asphalt that would have been laid:

A. I-66 would have crossed into Washington over the Three Sisters Bridge. Then it would have split into two freeways:

1. The Potomac Freeway would have channeled traffic from the Three Sisters Bridge along the Georgetown waterfront and onto a newly tunneled K Street. (It would have been eight lanes wide, double the size of the existing Whitehurst Freeway.) The K Street Freeway would have tunneled from Foggy Bottom to Seventh Street NW. (The approach lanes and exit ramps that now sit near the Kennedy Center would have been the western terminus of this freeway.)

2. The Palisades Parkway, four lanes wide, would have gone northwest from the Three Sisters Bridge to the Capital Beltway in Cabin John, along the Maryland side of the Potomac.

B. What is now the Metro Red Line from Union Station to Silver Spring would have been the ten-lane North Central Freeway. It would have met the Beltway just west of Georgia Avenue.

C. The Northeast Freeway would have allowed I-95 to continue through Prince George’s County and into the District, where it would have joined the North Central near what is now the Fort Totten Metro station. Ten lanes would have gone through Langley Park and Takoma Park.

D. The Industrial Freeway, would have run in six lanes from I-395 just north of the Capitol to Kenilworth Avenue in Maryland, along the New York Avenue corridor.

Glover Archbold Park
E. Most Appalling: There were to have been an “inner Beltway!” The South Leg of this ‘Inner Loop’ would have tunneled under the Mall, beginning beneath the Lincoln Memorial, running below the Tidal Basin and emerging between the 14th Street Bridge and the Jefferson Memorial (in one early rendering, it would have been trenched through the Mall, not tunneled).

Dear readers, I know that some of you are in far-flung places. It might be hard for you to visualize clearly the horror of what could have happened to the most splendid city on earth.

Suffice it to say that there ought to be a statue of Peter Craig in at least one of the beautiful, well-treed parks which he saved from the bulldozers.

4 thoughts on “Roads that Don’t Have to be Plowed

  1. Oh, what might have been. My trip from Montgomery County to downtown or to Southern Maryland would be so much easier!

  2. No, Fr. LaHood, your commute would be so much harder. There would be so many more cars, and traffic would be infinitely worse than it is now.

  3. Wow, Fr. White, thanks be to God for Peter Craig’s tenacity! We live very close to the Three Sisters Islands and the area adjacent to it is not only beautiful, but provides numerous recreational opportunities. I could not agree with you more!

  4. No, most appalling was the perversion of JFK’s proposal of a B&O RR Route North Central Freeway tightly along that existing well established railroad; please see:

    http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/05/1964-north-central-freeway-routing_08.html

    The South Leg, with options cut and cover tunneling beneath the Lincoln Memorial traffic circle (and not the monument itself) would have actually improved the area by placing the heavy traffic underground making the surface more pedestrian friendly. The diagonal tunnel option enjoyed favor but was not built in order to save a row of trees along the Reflecting Pool that apparently would be replaced anyway.

    http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/03/i-695-south-leg_18.html

    The idea of preserving Glover Park is extremely sensible as a rarity of a wooded urban corridor.

    So is the idea of the I-66 K Street Tunnel of better utilizing existing right of ways,

    http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/03/i-66-north-leg-west-k-street-tunnel.html

    Further suggested reading:

    http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/search/label/Alexandria%20Orb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s