ALL HANDS ON DECK in Georgetown, please, because the city government has yet another plan for that celebrated stretch of ugly waterfront now hiding in the shade of the old Whitehurst Freeway. The local planners are considering tearing down the freeway and replacing it with a surface-level boulevard along K Street NW. In addition-- just as the Status Quo Set has begun to cherish all that rubble under the freeway as preferable to a tasteful parkland-commercial-residential complex --city transportation director Thomas Downes is talking about cleaning up still more of the surroundings. Let all this happen and--poof--you could wind up with something uncharacteristically splendid and practical along the river.
But unless you believe in the tooth fairy and the Three Sisters Bridge you won't think such a decent result is likely to occur. For along the Georgetown waterfront, what goes up tends to stay up, and heaven help anyone who tries to put up anything else, especially anything that would destroy the "view." And the view has always included the Whitehurst sky-snake.
Over the decades there have been all sorts of proposals for different roads through this part of town--each one eventually turning into a boulevard of broken dreams alongside broken buildings, trash and impounded cars. One dream--or nightmare--was a plan, circa 1960, to double-deck the Whitehurst, as if one deck weren't lesson enough. After that came the Age of Doxiadis--Constantinos Doxiadis, who had a design that would have submerged the freeway in a tunnel and would have built over it a terraced pedestrian plaza linking town above with river below. But the plan, rather than the freeway, was deep-sixed, followed mercifully by the ultimate destruction of still other eons-old plans for a Three Sisters Bridge connection to Virginia.
Now Mr. Downes has the nerve to call the Whitehurst decrepit and "just plain ugly"--and he couldn't be more right. You can call it dangerous, outmoded and cost-inefficient, too. That is why the city should get on with the feasibility study Mr. Downes is urging, to see what it might cost or save in the long run. In the meantime, the city government already has plans to start clearing garbage trucks and impounded cars from the area. And in a few more weeks, a decision is expected on that parkland development plan--and that certainly deserves approval after all these years of round trips from the drawing board.