The case for rebuilding 11th Street Bridge in D.C.

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rebuilding the 11th Street Bridge will create a new transportation system over the Anacostia River that serves freeway and local traffic on separate spans. But Christopher Herman and some other city residents worry that too much of that traffic will wind up on their streets.

I asked the District Department of Transportation to respond to the critique by Herman that appeared in the column last Sunday.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Whether the 11th Street Bridge project were built or not, traffic through the corridor it serves will continue to increase over the next 20 years.

The project provides the District with the best options for managing that traffic.

Unfortunately, Mr. Herman's letter appears to misrepresent and take information about the 11th Street Bridge project out of context.

Contrary to his assertions, the project will benefit both D.C. residents and commuters. Key among these benefits are new connections between the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and D.C.-295/Anacostia Freeway, separation of freeway and local traffic, and improved alternate travel options.

The two new freeway bridges will have four lanes in each direction just as the current bridges do. However, improved connections and design will allow traffic that crosses them to flow more efficiently, with direct access to both directions of the two freeways without first having to travel on local streets such as Pennsylvania Avenue, Good Hope Road and Minnesota Avenue SE.

With two lanes in each direction and a 16-foot-wide shared bicycle and pedestrian path, the local bridge will serve as an extension of the local street grid. This will better connect District neighborhoods and improve safety by eliminating the current need for local traffic and transit buses to mix with freeway traffic to cross the river.

The installation of rails in the outer lane in each direction will provide the additional option of future streetcar connections.

As a result of these improvements, studies predict that almost 50,000 more vehicles per day will travel the three new bridges by 2030 than would have used the existing two. This equates to less than 10 additional vehicles per bridge lane per minute during peak travel hours. And the majority of these are vehicles that would otherwise have continued to use local streets to navigate between the freeways.

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