The Ripple Effect
Altman points to dozens of small and large projects that are completed, funded or underway in a mix of public and private development. He predicts that in the next five years these investments will produce 4,637 new residences, 613,000 square feet of retail, 3.2 million square feet of offices and 32 acres of new public parks.
Wow. Those are substantial numbers. And now tune in to Dan Tangherlini, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation. Within five years, he says, there will be the beginnings of a light-rail system. This first stage, he explains, will take over an abandoned railroad right-of-way on the east side of the river, running from the Sousa Bridge south to Bolling Air Force Base, slightly more than 1.5 miles.
Double wow. To anyone who has listened for years to politicians and planners talk about "light rail" -- meaning, basically, tracks that aren't buried or fenced off -- hearing someone predict the appearance of a real train in real time seems wildly rash. And thunderously refreshing.
Taking a careful look at this plan can have the same effect. Spread over 20 to 25 years, it projects a giddy list of benefits.
• An expanded light-rail system connecting the east and west sides of the river all the way from Minnesota Avenue NE to the Southwest waterfront.
• Twenty miles of connected walking, jogging and bike trails along both sides of the river.
• Lots of new places to dock or rent boats or to slip your own craft into the river. More and better rowing facilities. Water taxis, too.
• More than 15,000 new housing units and 20 million square feet of new office development. Thriving new mixed-use neighborhoods east and west of the river.
• A broad urban boulevard at grade, replacing the disgraceful mess that dares to call itself South Capitol Street.
• And bridges. A beautiful new South Capitol Street Bridge with a tunnel to siphon off commuter traffic from the new grand boulevard.
• Two "reconstructed" spans at 11th Street, transforming pedestrian-hostile crossovers into accessible connections to riverside parks.
• Three new pedestrian crossings linking river walks on both sides of the Anacostia.
• And parks. One hundred acres of new parkland, including important riverfront parks at the Southwest waterfront and New Jersey Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue and Poplar Point in Southeast.
• Substantial improvements for much of the 1,700 acres of parkland that currently exist.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company