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.

Wake Up Call

Expergiscere, homo! It’s time for Christmas!

…Did Chris Wright score a game-high, career-high 34 points yesterday afternoon? Yes, he did!

Rich Chvotkin had the line of the day: “Whatever your were going to give Chris Wright for Christmas, double it.”

…Pope Benedict’s encyclical on hope is really a meditation on the following dialogue, which occurs before every Baptism:

PRIEST: What do you ask of God’s Church?

CANDIDATE/PARENT: Faith.

PRIEST: What does faith offer you?

CANDIDATE/PARENT: Eternal life.

The Pope explains:

The human being needs unconditional love. He needs certainty…Man’s great true hope, which holds firm in spite of all disappointments, can only be God–God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” (John 13:1) until all “is accomplished” (John 19:30).

…Washington is unlike other American cities. One of the ways it is different is this:

Back in the 1960’s, the big thing was to build super-highways THROUGH cities. The plan was to build big highways through Washington, just like there are big highways through Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, etc.

But people rebelled. One of them was Peter Craig, who died last month. There was a nice editorial about him yesterday.

Because of the resistance of local Washingtonians, we DO NOT have the big highways running through town that we were slated to have. This is an ENORMOUS blessing.

I am not familiar with all the projects which the editorial mentions. Nothing interests me more than things like this, so I am going to have to do some heavy-duty research to get a firm grip on all the details of what was to have been built, but thankfully was not.

If the Lord allows me the leisure and resources, you will read a nice, long description of it all here someday.

I acknowledge that this will be interesting only to Washington-geography nerds like myself, but I make no apologies. We will see what I can come up with.

In the meantime, merry Christmas, dear readers!