UNLIKE THE POLITICALLY explosive highway plans of the 1960s, the city's latest proposal for a new bridge across the Anacostia River and connections linking downtown and Northeast should win widespread support -- and with good reason. Anyone who has to commute between these points knows what an awful obstacle course the route is now. It includes the city's 10 worst accident locations and difficult approaches to existing bridges that combine to disrupt residential neighborhoods with rush-hour traffic.
The bridge would connect the Anacostia and Southwest-Southeast freeways and would not displace homes or businesses, the planners note -- which accounts for strong initial support from citizens' groups and the federal government. The federal interest in the project is a key to its success, too, because interstate highway funds would be used for most if not all of the project.
The commuter link would be built entirely on government land; though it would take up to 30 acres of the Anacostia Park, officials of the National Park Service so far have not opposed the plan. They point out that it would not go through the Langston Golf Course and the Arboretum, as called for in an earlier plan. In return for this arrangement, the park service might be provided with money to do some attractive landscaping along the Anacostia and perhaps even acquire additional parkland elsewhere in the area.
Speed is critical, though, because there are real deadlines: at this point the federal government is eliminating its interstate highway construction program. Environmental impact statements for all projects are due no later than next Sept. 30, and basic construction must be at least contracted for by Sept. 30, 1986. Given the series of public hearings and approvals necessary for this project, that is not much time.
It is not a matter of telling motorists to get out of their cars and take Metro, nor will this shortchange the District's commitment to the subway system. For that matter, the District already has turned over most of its alloted federal interstate highway funds -- a total of $1.9 billion -- for subway construction. The Anacostia crossing can be both financially and physically attractive, and the traffic relief it promises is too important to forfeit.