Soccer stadium plan raises travel questions about South Capitol St.


Many drivers would use South Capitol Street to reach the area around the proposed soccer stadium, southwest of Nationals Park. (Artist’s rendering courtesy of Gensler)

The District’s long-standing goal of rebuilding the South Capitol Street corridor has taken on added significance since the announcement of plans to build a new soccer stadium on isolated Buzzard Point on the west side of the corridor.

The District Department of Transportation plans to hold a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Capital Skyline Hotel, 10 I (Eye) St. SE to discuss the corridor project. This $908 million plan, the biggest transportation effort for D.C. so far in this century, was developed long before last week’s announcement of a preliminary agreement to build a soccer stadium nearby.

But it’s difficult to think of one without the other now. The corridor plan includes replacing South Capitol Street’s Douglass Bridge over the Anacostia River, creating traffic ovals on the north and south sides of the bridge, rebuilding the Suitland Parkway/Interstate 295 interchange and creating an at-grade intersection at M and South Capitol streets.

South Capitol Street, an unattractive approach to Capitol Hill, would become a grand boulevard. Right now, the grandest thing on that section of South Capitol is Nationals Park, which created many travel issues for fans and local residents.

Similar issues will arise as neighbors, soccer fans and commuters discuss the how a soccer stadium would fit in.

South Capitol and M streets, the Douglass Bridge, the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and the Navy Yard Metro station all are jammed around game times at Nationals Park. Besides driving and Metrorail, the other options for fans include Metrobus, D.C. Circulator bus, biking and walking.

All those options would be available to soccer fans, but  But the site of the soccer stadium is a bit more isolated than Nationals Park. Will many soccer fans walk the seven-tenths of a mile from Navy Yard station to the stadium on the south side of Potomac Avenue? (It’s three-tenths of a mile from Stadium-Armory Metro to the RFK Stadium entrance.)

Will there be new parking close to the soccer facility? Will the nearby streets be rebuilt to accommodate traffic?

How will the new traffic oval on the north side of the bridge factor into stadium access? Same question for the M Street/South Capitol Street intersection.

According to the terms of the preliminary deal:

  • D.C. United agrees to finance “any associated parking structures.”
  • In general, D.C. United shall be required to reimburse the District for the cost of additional services that are required on game days, including, but not necessarily limited to, police, traffic control officers and any additional fees charged by Metro.
  • The District’s obligations include the roads and sidewalks that serve as the perimeter of the stadium site, the roadway and sidewalks on Potomac Avenue from South Capitol Street to the stadium site and the traffic signals and signs “within a reasonable distance from the stadium.”
  • Nothing in the preliminary agreement obligates the District to guarantee any off-site parking.

The District could add an Anacostia-M Street-Buzzard Point streetcar to the transportation network. Such a service is part of the city’s plan for the first 22 miles of streetcar lines, and the agreement calls for the D.C. government to pursue it and possibly advance its construction.

But how many transportation changes would be justified for the sake of a 20,000-seat stadium with 24 home games and some other events?

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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