Big Plans For South Capitol Street

By Jacqueline Dupree
Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ballpark and Beyond is adapted from Jacqueline Dupree's blog on development in Near Southeast, an area between Capitol Hill and the Anacostia River that is being transformed by the construction of the Nationals baseball stadium.

The city's ideas for reconfiguring much of South Capitol Street from south of Firth Sterling Avenue north to the Southeast-Southwest Freeway are now posted at http://SouthCapitolEIS.com and are on display at a number of public libraries in Southeast and Southwest.

The plans, spelled out in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, center on a new Frederick Douglass Bridge that would be built southwest of the existing bridge. It would still be a drawbridge but would be lower than the current bridge. It would also have one additional lane in each direction, along with 20-foot-wide sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists. Four designs are under consideration.

At the northern end of South Capitol Street, the ramp to the Southwest Freeway that begins at I Street would be replaced with an intersection underneath the freeway, with two left-turn lanes to a new ramp.

The M Street intersection could remain in its current overpass/underpass configuration or be rebuilt without the tunnel, bringing all north-south traffic through a signal at M. And South Capitol's intersection with Potomac Avenue could become a large traffic oval.

On the east side of the river, a traffic circle could be built at South Capitol Street and the Suitland Parkway. The parkway's interchange with Interstate 295 could be upgraded as well.

Depending on which alternative and which bridge design are chosen, the Draft EIS puts the estimated cost for this project in 2007 dollars at $508 million to $781 million, not including demolition and environmental remediation.

Two public meetings are scheduled to discuss the plans: on March 4 at Birney Elementary School, 2501 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, and on March 5 at Amidon Elementary School, 401 I St. SW. Both will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The public comment period ends on March 31.

Metro to Leave Garage

Last Thursday, Metro's Finance, Administration and Oversight Committee voted to approve a plan to close down the Southeastern Bus Garage at Half and M streets SE, which sits across from the Navy Yard subway station entrance that is likely to be heavily used by fans going to the ballpark.

Because the $69 million sale of the garage site to Akridge has not been finalized, Metro plans to move $1.39 million from another account to pay for relocating the buses to other garages around the area. The District would cover the additional relocation costs if necessary until the sale is completed.

The plan is expected to be given final approval by the full Metro board next Thursday.

There has been much interest in closing the garage, not only because trying to run the garage while surrounded by pedestrians on their way to and from the stadium could be a disaster waiting to happen, but also because the Nationals will then have access to a couple hundred more parking spaces at the garage site and three nearby parking lots also owned by Metro.

It's anticipated that Akridge will redevelop the garage site, but no plans have been announced.

Hearing on Surface Parking

The Zoning Commission is having a public hearing today on a proposal to allow temporary surface parking lots on eight blocks in Southwest, south of P Street. A temporary version of this text amendment was passed with little discussion in October; tonight's hearing is about making it valid for five years.

A similar amendment covering about 10 blocks on the east side of South Capitol Street was passed in July, and four of those blocks have surface lots under construction. No more than 3,775 parking spaces can be built on all the blocks covered in both amendments without additional zoning approvals, and the zoning rules state that traffic to these lots may not be routed on any Southwest streets other than I, P and Fourth.

At its Feb. 12 meeting, ANC 6D unanimously passed a resolution opposing this new amendment, citing the "threat to the health, safety and well-being" of Southwest residents as a result of increased traffic. The resolution also decries the lack of any traffic management plans to prevent stadium-going drivers from using streets in Southwest other than the routes approved in the zoning amendments.

The hearing is at 6:30 p.m. at 441 Fourth Street NW, Suite 220 South, and can be watched on a live webcast at http://dcoz.dc.gov.

Nationals Job Fair Is Today

The second job fair for part-time and seasonal positions at the new ballpark is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, at King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N St. SW. Employers are looking to fill positions in sales, hospitality, food service, security, guest services and other areas. Applicants must be 18 or older.

Dupree, a Post staff member, has been tracking the neighborhood's changes since 2003. For additional information and photos, visithttp://JDLand.com.

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