After four years and almost 50 public meetings, the proposed master plan for the future growth of Congress on Capitol Hill is about to go to the printers -- and to Congress itself.
After Congress reviews the plan, public hearings will be held on its recommendations, according to George M. White, architect of the Capitol.
The plan, which projects expansion and development of the congressional complex over the next 50 to 75 years, calls for less massive House and Senate office buildings and for 6,000 fewer parking spaces than proposed in a preliminary plan three years ago.
The master plan was the work of White's staff and a panel of architects and consultants.
The latest master plan has won praise from many Capitol Hill residents for its extensive landscaping improvements and for its concern with preserving the Hill's historic and residential neighborhoods.
"You've come a long way since (the 1977 version of the master plan called) Phase II," said Hill resident Larry Monaco.
Monaco was one of 125 people attending a public meeting on the plan, held Monday night in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Major long-range proposals that still appear to worry area residents include the southern expansion of the Capitol grounds for future House office buildings.
Some residents also object to a proposal to acquire residential front yards east of the Capitol, along the east side of Second Street, in order to create a landscaped border for the Capitol grounds outside the front fences.
But one large-scale change in the plan since 1977 is a proposal to eliminate as many automobiles as possible from the Capitol grounds, according to White's executive assistant, Elliott Carroll.
White expects that the number of federal employes now working on the Hill -- including Supreme Court and Library of Congress employes -- will double by the year 2050, from the current 21,000 to about 40,000.
He recommends that 10,281 parking spaces be provided for them, 1,069 more than today.
Three years ago the preliminary plan called for adding another 7,400 parking spaces on the Hill.
In the current plan, parking facilities would be reshuffled. New office buildings would be built over existing garages and four new garages would be built.
In addition, many new spaces could be created in existing garages, Carroll said, because today's cars are smaller. For congressional employes, Carroll added, the proportion of parking spaces would decrease from the current two employes per parking space to three employes per space.
Among the parking proposals appears to be a concession to Capitol Hill residents, some of whom two years ago suggested that future House and Senate office buildings be constructed over underground garages south of the Rayburn office building.
White said at the time he thought that probably could not be done, but it is now an integral part of his revised master plan.
The architect's office recommends an end to most outdoor parking on the Capitol grounds, on nearby streets and in open parking lots on Capitol Hill. This includes a ban on motor vehicles in the East Plaza of the Capitol -- now a giant parking lot and truck-delivery entrance.
The plaza would be returned to fountains and park land, as conceived in the late 1800s in the Pierre L'Enfant and Frederick Law Olmsted plans. i
A three-story underground garage and delivery tunnel for trucks, taxis and cars would be built under the plaza. Badly needed House-Senate conference rooms also would be built into the underground complex.
The first priority in White's recommendations to Congress is a shuttle-bus system to connect the Capitol with two Metro subway stations, Capitol South and Union Station.
There are no cost extimates listed for any of the current expansion or development projects described in the plan.
Congress has yet to see or comment officially on the plan. In addition to hearings set for early next year. White said public hearings also would be held for each expansion or building project in the plan that Congress authorizes.
Carroll added that environmental reviews will be conducted on all major Capitol Hill undertakings.