Georgetown task force all in for Metro station. And how about a gondola river crossing?


Georgetown is both a destination for shoppers and a commuting thoroughfare, often creating a glut on M Street. The closest Metro station is in Foggy Bottom. (Bill O'Leary/Washington Post)

Georgetown is going all in for a Metro station, and it isn’t stopping there.

A task force of Georgetown business owners, civic leaders and residents proposed a list of 75 changes Wednesday that they say could make the tony neighborhood more accessible and lively while maintaining its historic character.

At the top of the list is a Metro station that would connect to Rosslyn through a new tunnel beneath the Potomac River, but other ideas include a gondola river crossing, a streetcar line and a pedestrian bridge connecting the Georgetown waterfront and Theodore Roosevelt Island.

The proposals are a reflection that Georgetown, once the go-to place for young Washingtonians, has since been joined by dozens of vibrant neighborhoods, said Tom Birch, 68, a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission who served on the task force.

“I think it’s obvious that Georgetown at one time was the main attraction. We share that now with other sections of the city,” he said.

With other neighborhoods quickly adding new restaurants, shops and attractions, Birch said Georgetown needs to evolve. “We want to continue to be vibrant. We want to be able to serve the generations ahead of us. And I think it’s important to use this whole process not so much to think about how to take care of me right now, but how to take care of people who are in their 20s and early 30s and their families,” he said.

Many of the problems afflicting Georgetown originate from its dual role as a shopping destination and a commuter thoroughfare for workers going to or from Northern Virginia.

For all of Georgetown’s popularity, congestion was hindering the ability of building owners to attract businesses, said task force co-chair Bruce Baschuk of the real estate firm J Street Cos.

“There is a whole slew of tenants you can’t even ask [about moving to Georgetown] because of the lack of transportation. So it’s a trade-off between being accessible for the retailers and being able to get through there,” he said.

The Georgetown 2028 task force was organized by the Georgetown Business Improvement District, funded by commercial property owners. Joe Sternlieb, chief executive of the BID, said that although there is disagreement about whether Georgetown residents wanted Metro when the system was being constructed, nearly everyone there is now united in an effort to get a station. “It is widely endorsed by every group,” he said.

Metro’s $26 billion strategic plan proposes a second tunnel under the Potomac to Arlington County, in large part to relieve a choke point at the Rosslyn station that is likely to worsen when the Silver Line begins service in Fairfax County early next year.

Whether or not Georgetown gets a Metro station, other transportation improvements are likely to arrive sooner. Connecting Georgetown and Union Station by streetcar is a priority, Sternlieb said, and he added that he has emphasized to city officials the need for a speedy system that does not get bogged down in crosstown traffic. “You have to be able to get to Union Station in less time than it takes to get to Baltimore by car,” he said.

The BID plans to study two other innovative ideas to cross the Potomac without having to dig underground. A ride on a gondola lift from M Street to Arlington, Sternlieb said, would likely take only four minutes, and he said he hoped that the District Department of Transportation would split the cost of a feasibility study.

Another idea Sternlieb plans to study — a biking and pedestrian bridge linking the Georgetown waterfront and Theodore Roosevelt Island, a national park and memorial, would allow bicycle commuters to access trails on the Virginia side. The task force also endorsed improved biking connections along M Street and the C&O Canal.

Some of the proposals call for operational changes, including usurping street parking spaces for pedestrian traffic on weekends and reconfiguring traffic patterns to give drivers better access to Rock Creek Parkway. Sternlieb is also trying to acquire a building on Wisconsin Avenue in hopes of enticing the owners of the Politics & Prose bookstore to open a branch there.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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