Ward 2: Lessening Gridlock in Georgetown | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Ward 2: Lessening Gridlock in Georgetown

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A rendering of what K Street in Georgetown could look like with a streetcar.
Georgetown Business Improvement District
A rendering of what K Street in Georgetown could look like with a streetcar.

A few months ago, WMATA announced plans to finally bring Metro rail to Georgetown as part of the proposed 2040 Regional Transit System Plan, which aims to improve transportation in order to better serve the region’s growing population. But for some local residents and business owners, rail service is just the tip of the iceberg — and it can’t come soon enough.

The Georgetown 2028 task force, which was organized by the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID), released a 15-year action plan back in January that details a number of ideas aimed at addressing the area’s pressing transportation issues and revitalizing Georgetown’s commercial district.

Georgetown BID CEO Joe Sternlieb says Metro in Georgetown is a “game changer,” because it would link the tony Northwest neighborhood to the rest of the city and region. He says that currently, Georgetown is a bit isolated.

“We’re completely surrounded by national parks. We only have four portals in,” he says. “It’s not on the city grid, so what Metro does is it cuts through all that underground very quickly and brings people into and out of Georgetown.”

He says residents, workers and business owners alike will benefit from having rail service. But unlike WMATA’s plan, which aims to bring Metro rail to Georgetown by 2040, the Georgetown 2028 plan suggests an earlier timeline. The only question is how to fund it.

The plan states that in order to speed up construction of the new tunnel, Georgetown stakeholders would need to “organize and launch a coordinated advocacy campaign with other beneficiaries of the separated Blue Line.”

But as Sternlieb explains, most of the items in the plan involve studies to determine whether or not these ideas are feasible.

“Part of the plan is to study things like tax-increment financing, payments in lieu of taxes, and other financing ideas so that we wouldn’t be burdening the city’s budget with more than our fair share,” he says. “But the idea is to figure out ways to raise the money to do the programs so that they’re sustainable, and we don’t see any of the specific items on the action agenda as being either so out of the box that they’re just pie in the sky or so difficult to finance that we couldn’t figure out a way to do it.”

One of those proposals is to study the feasibility of an aerial gondola linking the Rosslyn Metro station to the western side of Georgetown. Sternlieb says the Georgetown 2028 task force is already raising some private money for the project and is now looking for public money to match the nest egg with.

“We know one thing about it for sure and that is you can move more people more quickly with less friction and less expensively than almost any other alternative,” he says.

Leaders in Georgetown envision a gondola across the Potomac River.

If the project comes to fruition, riders could cross the Potomac River in four minutes while taking in aerial and skyline views of the city. Similar plans have already been implemented in other cities, including London, Caracas and Portland.

The plan also covers the idea of transforming K Street into a successful Georgetown gateway through the integration of various transit plans, bicycle-friendly paths and pedestrian connections. There would also be more amenities, such as shops and restaurants.

Some of the ways that K Street could be better connected include “supporting ongoing growth at the waterfront for water taxi services,” improving commuter shuttle services from nearby Metro stations to Georgetown offices, developing a taxi stand, and making the area more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly by improving Canal crossings at locations such as Potomac Street, 33rd Street and 34th Street.

Sternlieb says a big focus of the 2028 plan is to find ways to move more people into, around and out of Georgetown without using single occupancy vehicles.

“The projection is that there are going to be a million more people in this region in the next 15 years and another 100 to 200,000 people in the District of Columbia. All those people can’t bring cars,” he says. “We’re trying to be realistic about the future and planning for it.”

A big part of the plan involves making Georgetown more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. This includes adding more bike racks and Capital Bikeshare stations and working closely with the city on the bike lanes that enter Georgetown from the east. The plan recommends transforming Georgetown into a destination for bicycle trips for both commuters and recreational visitors alike.

“You take a parking space, you can get eight or ten bicycles into it, where you can get you know, one car, so it makes a huge amount of sense if the young people moving into this region are deciding not to have cars, but to get around by bicycles, that we would accommodate them as best we can.”

One of the steps includes connecting the Capital Crescent Trail and Rock Creek Parkway Trail, perhaps by adding a cycletrack on Water and K Streets. There’s also a proposal to study the feasibility of building a pedestrian bridge to Roosevelt Island, which could also be used by cyclists.

The 86-acre Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, which is located in D.C., can be accessed by car or via nearby trails. The plan recommends studying how to fund and build a pedestrian/bicycle bridge that would connect Roosevelt Island with the Georgetown waterfront and Virginia. The plan says, “the bridge’s world-class design and its beautiful view of the river and vistas would make it a destination in its own right.”

Consideration would be given to the current prohibition of bicycles on the island and the project’s impact on waterfront viewsheds, history, cultural and natural resources.

But for all the proposals to update the neighborhood, Sternlieb says Georgetown is a timeless place. “It’s very authentic, and we’re not trying to change what’s great about Georgetown. What we’re trying to do is preserve what’s great about it, enhance the things that need enhancing and create the things that are missing.”

Music: "My Regards" by Wytold from My Regards

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