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Reclaiming the Foggy Bottom Waterfront

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

By Frank Leone

We have the opportunity to reclaim the area west of the Foggy Bottom Historic District to the Potomac River, that “dense and wormy system of concrete ribbons.” (You can read about how it got that way in “Funkstown – The Highway that Ate Foggy Bottom” 12.3.2022) The D.C. Office of Planning is conducting a “Foggy Bottom Public Life Study” to identify strategies to improve pedestrian and bike access to the Potomac Waterfront, Georgetown, K Street, Foggy Bottom and the West End and other community amenities. It will be a year-long process, but the first “Community Forum/Listening Session” is on December 7, at 7 pm (details below).

The OP Project Manager, Ron Barron, made presentation to the 2A Advisory Neighborhood Commission on November 16, 2022 – you can see it here.

The project addresses the boundary area show below – roughly from 23rd Street west to the waterfront and E Street north to Pennsylvania Ave./I Street. The Study Area thus includes not only the Potomac River Freeway valley, but Virginia Avenue, the Historic, District and George Washington University. The area appears not to include the portion of Square 1, bounded by K Street, 27th Street, Virginia Avenue and Rock Creek Parkway. That fenced-in green space Square includes the huge round Metro sub-station (reminiscent of the huge gas holders that occupied nearby sites until the 1940s), and its consideration is necessary for evaluation of Foggy Bottom’s waterfront access.

Project Boundary, OP Presentation to ANC 2A, Nov. 16, 2022”

To truly address the area’s disfunction would require a traffic study and the removal, re-routing, and/or decking of the current mess of the eight to zero lane Potomac Freeway and its five entrance or exit ramps. Indeed, D.C.’s 2021 Comprehensive Plan, §2115.15 recommends study of “the feasibility of reconfiguring existing highway infrastructure in Foggy Bottom so as to maximize the benefits and accessibility of the open space and parkland . . .” The current study, however, focuses “non-automobile forms of mobility and identifying areas for intervention.” So let’s start there.

A 1988 idea to improve area accessibility using Pedestrian Overpasses over I-66 (not implemented), Foggy Bottom News, Nov.-Dec. 1988

The Study will focus on how space is currently used, where people are going and how they get there, and what barriers to efficient movement exist. Ideas could include wayfinding signs from the Foggy Bottom Metro station to the waterfront, nearby neighborhoods and amenities, easing access to the Kennedy Center across Virginia Avenue, reimagining Juarez Circle, widening sidewalks on Virginia Avenue, improving K Street pedestrian and bike access to and from Georgetown, providing for a more welcoming Georgetown gateway at K Street, installing sidewalks and landscaping on 27th Street, facilitating passage at the north intersection of Virginia Avenue and Rock Creek Parkway, decorating the round Metro substation, making green space areas accessible and inviting, recognizing the historic heritage of the area, preserving the three houses that are all that’s left of the 2600 block of I Street, installing pedestrian overpasses, rerouting bike lane paths, and many other ideas. Please share yours!

“Pedestrian traffic in the area presents a problem. Sometimes walkers are seen helplessly meandering around amid piles of dirt and concrete slabs, futilely seeking non-existent short cuts. It’s at its very worst now. . . it can only get better.”

Bernard J. O’Donnell, DC Highway Department, quoted in Helen Dewar, “Foggy Bottom Is a Mammoth Detour”, Washington Post, Nov. 22, 1964

Read more about DC Public Life Initiatives here:

This Community Forum/Listening Session kicks off the project:

Topic: Foggy Bottom Strategic Planning

Time: Dec 7, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time

Meeting ID: 821 3229 5347

Passcode: 120073

One tap mobile: +16469313860,,82132295347#,,,,*120073# US



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