One of the main stumbling blocks to removing the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown and establishing a ground-level boulevard on K Street ["Whitehurst Fight Splits Residents, D.C. Commuters; It's View vs. Convenience on Georgetown Riverfront," Metro, May 8] is how to handle the off-ramp from Key Bridge:

* If the ramp were extended down to the new boulevard, it would stretch all the way to Wisconsin Avenue, and one elevated freeway would have been replaced with another, albeit a sloping one.

* If the ramp were eliminated, all Key Bridge traffic would dump onto M Street, which must be at maximum capacity at rush hour now.

* If the ramp were directed through Francis Scott Key Park, it would prompt a justified revolt.

Another possibility is a spiral ramp independent of Key Bridge. "Stayed" or straight cables from a slender structural pylon would suspend a ramp curving under the first arch of the bridge that goes over water. That ramp would join those coming from Canal Road and go through the next arch of the bridge. Together they would descend to the new K Street boulevard.

Such a configuration might even lighten traffic on M Street. The tensile structure would not impose weight on Key Bridge, and it would not affect the river.




Any doubt as to the folly of abolishing the Whitehurst Freeway should have been removed last Saturday morning. A traverse of the freeway via Key Bridge turned into a half-hour-plus slog because of the closure of the freeway to accommodate the "Lawyers Have Heart" fundraising race.

With no warning to inbound traffic, bridge traffic was funneled into the quagmire of M Street; during peak traffic the "M" in the Georgetown segment of M Street stands for "molasses." Many traffic-light cycles elapsed in the effort to travel the few short blocks from Key Bridge to the Rock Creek overpass, normally a two- or three-minute drive on the freeway.

Fortunately, I was only late for a downtown church meeting. Pity the poor heart attack victim in an ambulance, or the restaurant or flower shop expecting a morning delivery, or even a casual Georgetown visitor attempting to access the many merchants along and near M Street.

Demolishing the Whitehurst is a bad idea -- at least until city and regional traffic planners provide alternative routes for outlying traffic to access downtown. Until more river crossings are built, the Whitehurst should stay up.


Falls Church