- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

There aren’t many ways across Washington free of traffic snarls. The Whitehurst Freeway is one of them. Can we do without it? We’re inclined to think not until we see compelling evidence that proves otherwise.

This week, at public meetings around Northwest, engineers from DMJM Harris Aecom released a city-commissioned study on Whitehurst options, complete with traffic-impact estimates. The ideas include routing traffic onto K Street, building a costly underground tunnel or leaving the Whitehurst as is, with a few modifications. For instance, the engineers figure that a street-level avenue to replace the Whitehurst and a K Street connection could alleviate M Street traffic. But they also estimate that eastbound travelers on K or a future Whitehurst Avenue will spend almost three more minutes sitting in traffic in the morning and the same at night if they take M Street westward to the Key Bridge. Things will get significantly better for people traveling westbound on K Street or eastbound on M Street in the evenings. But the morning slowdown on K Street and the evening problems for M Street would seem to compound traffic woes for a great number of travelers.

Another Whitehurst-free option is a short tunnel to 29th Street or a longer one to Washington Circle. This idea is a non-starter unless D.C. taxpayers are willing to hand over lots of money. The basic cost estimates are $34.7 million and $58.6 million, respectively. A DMJM Harris engineer told The Washington Times on Monday that the likelier price tags are $150 million and $250 million, respectively, however, due to the usual unforeseen costs.

Washington has the third worst traffic problem in the country, behind only much larger Los Angeles and San Francisco. Any plans to remove the Whitehurst Freeway — the only uncongested crosstown thruway — must improve traffic flow.

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