WMATA Once Again Lays Out Plan to Bring Metro to Georgetown

You may have heard the buzz recently that WMATA has put out plans that would finally include the construction of a Georgetown metro stop. Long time readers, however, will know that this is not the first time WMATA has put out such plans. GM’s been writing about such missives for over ten years now. And the new plans don’t really vary a whole lot from other plans that have been put out over the years. But an inch forward is still an inch closer to the finish line!

So here’s what WMATA is now proposing:

A Split Blue (or Silver) Line

The key theme throughout these plans is that WMATA is not proposing a Georgetown metro station simply to have a Georgetown metro station. It’s more of a happy byproduct of the need to create a new tunnel under the Potomac river to ease train congestion between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom. Right now this tunnel cannot accommodate more train traffic than it already handles (well, what it was handling in the pre-Covid era). This situation only got worse with the opening of the first phase of the Silver line, and will just continue to get worse once the rest of the Silver line opens and starts ferrying more workers back and forth (not to mention airline passengers to and from Dulles).

The solution that has been floated since the 90s is to split the Blue and Orange lines between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom. The Blue line then would run through a new Potomac tunnel and then travel beneath M St. as it makes its way across downtown DC.

Doing so would open the possibility of a Georgetown station, but it’s not the primary objective.

Variability on the Margins

These plans don’t vary much in the way they handle the new tunnel once it leaves Rosslyn and goes across town. Having it go from Georgetown to Union Station has been a consistent plan over the years. And that’s what WMATA is proposing yet again.

But what the line does outside the core has varied quite a bit. And that variation remains on display with this new plan.

One possibility is that the Blue line heads northeast from Union Station and eventually hooks up with the Green line in College Park:

This would have the benefit of bringing Metro to the booming neighborhoods of Union Market and Ivy City. (Although it should be noted that even an optimistic timeline of financing and construction wouldn’t bring this plan to fruition for decades)

Another option would bring the line south from Union Station to National Harbor in Prince Georges County and over the river back to Alexandria:

This would have the benefit of bringing better transit to some fairly transit-starved areas. And it would create the first circle line for Metro.

The final plan doesn’t use the Blue line at all, but rather the Silver:

The line would travel largely the same east of Georgetown as the first one does. But the trains would head out on the Silver line tracks west of Arlington. There’s also a possibility of express service on this line between Falls Church and Rosslyn. (GM personally prefers this proposal.)

So What About the Georgetown Stop?

Where would the Georgetown stop even be? This plan doesn’t say. In the past, some proposals appeared to put the station at M and Wisconsin. Where specifically though? GM threw out some possibilities a long, long time ago:

But there’s no guarantee that WMATA would choose such a structurally challenging spot for the station. A more likely spot has emerged recently with the planned purchase by DC of the former Key Bridge Exxon property.

GM has not seen detailed schematics for this plan but has heard general ideas for it. The plan would put one entrance right at M St. next to the Car Barn. But to better service the University, it would call for fast elevator service to bring passengers right up to Prospect St. (Some of these ideas would also be incorporated into a gondola, were it ever to be built…)

The final wildcard is the possibility that Georgetown would get not one, but two stations. This possibility was floated just a few years ago when WMATA put out a different set of proposals. It would put a station both at the Exxon location and a station at M and Wisconsin (or possibly further east). On the one hand, this would seem to put the stations too close together for efficient service. But on the other, this would put the stations no less than 2,100 feet apart, which is roughly comparable to the space between Farragut North and Dupont Circle. So it’s not completely silly.

But one thing you should take away from this is that while these would be great plans, so were the dozen or so other ones that have been floated over the last 20 years or so. And they didn’t come to fruition. Hope springs eternal, but GM wouldn’t hold his breath…

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