In a couple of weeks, D.C. lawmakers are scheduled to hold a public airing of the D.C. Statehood Advocacy Act of 2013, an ill-advised piece of legislation that calls for spending more than $1 million in public money to lobby for and promote statehood, absolute budget autonomy and congressional voting rights for the District of Columbia. What the rest of America thinks of those ideas probably hasn’t crossed officials’ minds, since the doors of opportunity last swung wide open in 1993.
D.C. officials, who think too dadgum small anyway, are hoping a marketing campaign will lead the way when they don’t even fully appreciate that this is no mere city, but the nation’s capital.
They should focus spending publicly attained largesse on promoting the capital, and one of the obvious starting points is congested roads (the D.C. area is second only to New York City) and the first on the to-do list should be the New York Avenue gateway.
Now, I don’t know nothin’ about building roads, bridges and ramps, but I do know this: New York Avenue needs to be reconfigured with a flyover ramp that leads from the edge of the Anacostia River to downtown.
For one, the New York Avenue gateway is the major corridor that greets commuters traveling from as far away as New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania, and as well as those heading here from the waterways of Annapolis. And it’s a heavily traveled route from points north, too — motorists and tourists coming from Baltimore-Washington International-Thurgood Marshall Airport, or commuters, commercial vehicles and commercial buses pouring into the city from Baltimore and point farther north.
But once they cross the Anacostia River and pass the “Welcome to Washington, D.C.” sign, all roads lead to gridlock — with a capital G — as residents mix with commuters and out-of-towners trying to get around town, downtown, across town and to Virginia. And, quicker than the flash of a speed-trap camera, trucks and construction crews will be added to the mix because of several new economic projects. It all has turned New York Avenue into the road to Hades.
The writing was etched into the corridor’s jerry-rigged stone walls years ago, when the intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road was designated one of the riskiest intersections in the region. And while motorists are a bit more cautious and slower because of cameras to catch speeders and red-light runners, essential and effective abatements are not yet on the drawing board.
Now, as I said, I don’t know nothin’ about working with rebar, cement and the like, but D.C. officials need to — as, ahem, President Obama has said — devise a way forward, and it seems a ramp could lead the way.
Such ramps are along Interstate 295 and the 11th Street Bridge, and there are several in Northern Virginia, including off Interstate 395, where the Landmark Mall helps prevent exiting shoppers, travelers and commercial vehicles from mixing with local residents.
As things now stand, the short-sighted D.C. planners and transportation bureaucracy are focused on streetcars, bicycle lanes and walkable neighborhoods — thinking “Destination Metrorail Access” instead of “Destination Nation’s Capital.”
The mayor, his crew of deputies and all 13 lawmakers need to take off their blinders, because there are tons of federal dollars to be had for new road projects.
All D.C. lawmakers need do is ask urbanista Harriet Tregoning, the D.C. director of planning, and streetcar/bicycle/rent-a-car czar Terry Bellamy. America’s tax dollars are in the kitty, but you’ve got to strategize to get D.C. residents their share. And spending big bucks on statehood sure won’t pay for much-needed road projects.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.