Georgetown 2028 Effort Launches

1200 block of Wisconsin Ave.

 

While the report was finalized back in December, yesterday was the officially unveiling day for the critically important Georgetown 2028 recommendations.

This morning, GM linked to a few initial takes on the report. The initial focus is, as expected, on some of the bigger ticket recommendations, including the aerial gondola and the Metro, but the report is so much more than the flashier items.

In case you missed it during the holidays, GM will reprint his own summary of the vast report below:

Transportation Elements:

Clang Clang Clang Goes the Trolley

The District government is planning on building a 37 mile streetcar network. The first line is currently being constructed on H St. (in fact a car was just brought to the tracks the other day to begin testing). This line will ultimately snake through downtown and terminate in Georgetown.

The city considered different routes, but appears to have settled on having the streetcar come in to Georgetown on K St. The plan calls for the streetcar to travel on a new transit-only lane down K St. between Mt. Vernon Square to Washington Circle. Unfortunately the current plan calls for the streetcar to return to mixed traffic between Washington Circle and Georgetown.

The Georgetown 2028 transportation working group decided that this would cause unacceptable delays. Thus they concluded that the streetcar should continue to have its own lane west of Washington Circle. This would ensure that the streetcar offered fast and reliable service to and from Georgetown.

Georgetown University has also expressed an interest in the alignment of this line. They would like the line to ultimately connect to the campus. But if it comes in on K St., that goal will be tough to achieve without the demolition of the Whitehurst and the construction of a ramp from Canal down to Water St.

Alternatively, the streetcar could come in on the Whitehurst itself. Pedestrian access could be created via ramps or elevators. Then the streetcar could more easily continue on to the campus.

Either way, the recommendation from the report is just to make sure that the streetcar is fast and reliable all the way to Georgetown.

Clang Clang Clang Goes the Gondola?

As GM floated last February, the BID report is recommending the exploration of constructing an aerial gondola from Rosslyn to Georgetown. It would connect the Metro to M St. and the university.

The benefit of this admittedly unusual idea is that it is supposedly is a lot cheaper and quicker to build than Metro. It would provide a system similar to what you see at ski mountains. The cars would arrive constantly and it would guarantee a five minute ride from the Rosslyn metro to M St. and the university.

There are obviously a ton of hurdles such a project would have to clear, but it could be up an running in far less time than it will take to get a Metro here.

Bridge to Roosevelt Island

This is another idea GM has floated before. The report calls for the construction of a pedestrian/bike bridge to Roosevelt Island.

This has the potential to be a huge boon to bicyclists. As it is, Georgetown is the nexus of a bunch of high quality bike networks: the Capital Crescent trail, Rock Creek, the Custiss trail, and the Mt. Vernon trail. But they do not connect well to each other (particularly between the DC and Virginia trails). Constructing a bridge would achieve that. Plus it would finally mean DC residents could walk to Roosevelt Island, which is part of DC, without having to walk through another state first.

People that like this idea generally love it. But people who don’t like it tend to loathe it. Those who don’t like bikes generally don’t want to see bikes allowed on Roosevelt Island, even if it is just to pass through. Users of the park don’t want there to be more users of the park and are quite happy with the current arrangement (these people tend to be Virginians). The Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park hates the idea. Other people are afraid it will ruin the view of the island (somehow an 8-lane highway bisecting the island doesn’t ruin it, but a few bikes will).

So needless to say, this one has an uphill battle facing it, but you don’t get something if you don’t ask for it.

More Prosaic Matters

The items above are the eye-catchers, but the report recommends lot of more prosaic improvements like:

  • Permanently adding traffic control officers to M & Wisconsin and M & the Key Bridge
  • Opening up access to Rock Creek from K St. during rush hour
  • Doing more to promote parking apps to encourage more use of the underused garages
  • Explore building new bridges across the canal west of Wisconsin to enable bikes and emergency traffic to cross
  • Explore a free shuttle to move people north-south

A key individual behind these recommendations is the transportation director at the BID, Jonathon Kass. Or rather the former transportation director, because sadly we’ve lost Jonathon as he has decided to move to San Francisco to be closer to his family. GM would like to offer his heartfelt congratulations and good luck to Jonathon.

Public Space Elements:

The public space working group started from the simple notion that regardless of how one arrives at Georgetown, we’re all pedestrians once we get here. And as also mentioned yesterday, one of the underlying strategies of the report is to develop a “waterfront district” by bringing more commercial life K St. and the streets between K and M. And the public space recommendations address that head on by looking for ways to improve the streetscapes in the commercial sections of Georgetown.

The concepts put forward by the public space working group didn’t have the concreteness of the transportation working group recommendations. So some of these ideas are really just that: ideas. But they’re exciting nonetheless.

Gateways

One of the weaknesses identified by the report is the lack of a “gateway” at the entrances to Georgetown. There’s nothing really announcing that you’re here when you arrive. GM can’t tell you how many times he’s been stopped on the streets of Georgetown and asked by a tourist where Georgetown is.

The ideas pitched by the working group include more prominent signage at the main entrances to the commercial district. That could mean simply a freestanding sign, or a more radical approach like this on K St.:

gateway

(Again, this is just more of proposed concept, not a specifically proposed design)

Sidewalks

While GM would love to see permanently widened sidewalks on M and Wisconsin, that simply doesn’t have the support yet. But the report proposes the next best thing: temporary widenings. We saw this successfully done at the French Market last spring.

GM personally hopes this can provide proof of concept that the sidewalk should be widened at least every weekend, but even just occasional widenings would be a good start.

Another idea embraced by the report is parklets. This is another idea that has already been successfully experimented with in Georgetown. The idea is to take one or two parking spots off the main drag and use it for pedestrian purposes like this spot in front of Baked and Wired:

Photo by M.V. Jantzen.

Again, this could be the camel’s nose under the tent to lead to more permanent expansion of pedestrian space. This is particularly true for streets like Thomas Jefferson, which rarely are congested.

Alleys

Another idea embraced by the report is the improvement of alleyways. Throughout Georgetown–especially lower Georgetown–there are underutilized alleys and off-street passageways. The report recommends doing more to activate those spaces.

Some of the specific tools that could be used include adding public seating, installation art, or even small playspaces.

C & O Canal

The most ambitious and potentially important recommendations from the public space group involve the C & O Canal.

The canal is in bad shape. The walls are slowly collapsing. The boat is just waiting for the Park service to finally demolish it. The visitor center is barely used. It’s not a sustainable situation.

The report recommends a host of improvements for the canal. Some are prosaic, like shoring up the towpath and restoring it to its original width. Also the report suggests adding more seating and shade along the canal.

More ambitiously the report calls for the building of a new canal boat and the restoration and improvement of the visitors center. It also suggests exploring the idea of installing artwork and other fixed points of interest along the canal. It also suggests more lighting, both for safety and added nighttime interest.

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