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Back to Intermodal Transportation Center Feasibility Study

Intermodal Transportation Center
Testimony to the Council Committee on Public Works and the Environment
July 7, 1999




Dorothy Brizill
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Art Lawson, DPW Ralph Nader Mary Shelton, Shaw Coalition
Budd Lane, Ward 2 Democrats Shaw Coalition Letter Committee of 100




Wednesday, July 7, 1999 — 2 PM

Good afternoon, I am Art Lawson, Deputy Director for Operations, Department of Public Works. Joining me this afternoon is Deborah Price, Division Director, District Division of Transportation, Kenneth Laden, Administrator of the Office of Intermodal Planning and Michelle Pourcisu, Chief of Transportation and Public Space Policy.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to inform the councilmembers of a very exciting and innovative project that will take the nations' capital into the 21st century. The urban environment of the District of Columbia has been evolving from a small town character to a cosmopolitan setting, including the means of transportation, for the past thirty years. The proposed Intermodal Transportation Center is a facility that will provide supporting transportation infrastructure to ensure cohesive development of the downtown area. DPW has participated with the District offices involved with Economic Development, including the Office of Planning and the Department of Housing and Community Development to name a few, toward providing infrastructure for increased economic development and expanded tourism.

The concept of an Intermodal Transportation Center (ITC) is described in three reports, Transportation Plan for the District of Columbia: A Transportation Vision, Strategy and Action Plan for the Nation's Capital, New York Avenue Development Report, and A Vision and Action Plan to Revitalize the Heart of Washington, D.C. These reports envisioned the ITC as an underground facility which would allow residents and visitors driving to downtown to "park once" in a centrally located facility and transfer to other modes of transportation for travel to shopping, entertainment, tourism sites and work sites throughout the downtown area. The ITC will encourage tourists to leave the mall and visit downtown stores and restaurants.

The downtown area is the first "park once" location to be studied by the Department. Other ITC, "park once", facilities are recommended in the Strategic Transportation Plan including some gateways, to intercept automobiles and provide links with alternative forms of transportation.

The Transportation Feasibility Study for the Intermodal Transportation Center, an initial feasibility study, was prepared for the DC Department of Public Works and submitted in April, 1999. This study determined that there is a need for this type of facility in the downtown area, given anticipated development, and the facility could be located in the area bounded by New York Avenue, 4th Street, Massachusetts Avenue and 6th Street, N.W. This site was highlighted for initial analysis because it was proposed in the three approved planning studies mentioned earlier

The findings of this study demonstrated that the site could provide transfer facilities to the local bus and subway system, as well as the proposed light rail or trolley system, and it could accommodate 7,200 parking spaces below grade.

In addition, the facility could be used as a parking area for tour buses, as well as provide overflow truck staging area for the new downtown convention center. Most of all, the facility provides a hub for pedestrian access and generates pedestrian activity within close proximity of downtown uses.

The ITC would provide convenient transportation connections to existing entertainment destinations, such as, the Smithsonian galleries and museums, National Park Service sites, MCI Arena, the Convention Center and other downtown attractions and entertainment sites. The ITC would also serve as a potential transportation support facility for entertainment facilities which are being planned, including a new downtown baseball stadium.

The air rights above the ITC will be used for economic development in the eastern portion of the downtown area. However, no final above ground use has been predetermined.

Preliminary cost estimates for the 7,200 space facility are approximately $290 million.

Last year, in the Congressional reauthorization and review of national projects, this project was selected and funded for environmental assessment and preliminary engineering. Funding was provided under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. Public Law 105-178, commonly known as TEA-21. Specifically, Section 1602 under Federal-aid Highways High Priority Projects provides $750,000 and Section 3031 under Federal Transit Administration Programs provides $5 million for the ITC. In addition, the ITC is identified as part of the Capital Gateway-New York Avenue High Priority Corridor and is eligible to compete nationally for Federal Discretionary funds. These funds are all direct congressional allocations, dedicated specifically to this effort.

The next step of this effort is to hire a consultant to prepare an environmental assessment, including alternative site analysis, engineering design, traffic impact study and a study of alternative methods of financing the construction of the facility. The environmental assessment will determine the best location, analyze environmental impacts and transportation connections, determine land acquisition requirements, develop a parking operation plan and provide documentation needed to access additional federal discretionary funding.

Public outreach to obtain comments and suggestions from local residents and the business community regarding the proposed ITC project is also an important element of the next phase. Public meetings, advisory panels, technical committees and other means of interaction through varying media will be established as part of this next phase of project analysis. The estimated timeframe to complete the environmental assessment is 12 to 18 months.

This concludes my prepared statement. At this time, I would be happy to respond to any questions from the Committee.

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Statement of Ralph Nader, National Center for Response Law

Before the D.C. Council Committee on Public Works and the Environment
July 7, 1999

To: Linda Cropp, Chair of the DC City Council
Carol Schwartz, at Large, Chair of DPW Committee
David Catania, at Large, Chair of Local & Regional Affairs
Washington, D.C.

From: Ralph Nader

Tel: 202-387-8034
PO Box 19312, Washington, D.C.

Anybody reading the materials regarding the proposed Intermodal Transportation Center (ITC) and a possible professional baseball stadium in the Mt. Vernon East Neighborhood knows that the corporate model of development — big entertainment complex with concentrated traffic density — is confronting the neighborhood model of sustainable urban revival of housing and mixed commercial activity as if people who live there mattered. So “there they go again” with their disregard of far superior alternative sites such as near Union Station and renovating the existing RFK stadium and their demand for huge taxpayer subsidies all in the  context of rejecting full and complete procedural due process and public deliberations.

There are many studies here and from other cities that have rejected this corporate-developer-entertainment-tax subsidized model in the central city as wasteful, environmentally harmful, a drain on the city's tax base and productive of far fewer jobs than the sustainable neighborhoods where people of far fewer jobs than the sustainable neighborhoods where people live and work and contribute to city revenues rather than deplete them. This experience is reflected in the columns of Rudolph A. Pyatt, Jr., of the Washington Post and the writings of Professor Dorn C. McGrath, Jr., of George Washington University, J. Kirkwood White and Beth Solomon.

Eminent domain funded by corporate welfare to further the corporate domain over the people’s domain using secretive, fast-track, unsubstantiated and other roughshod modes of unilateral decision-making are not what many District residents expect from their new Mayor and Administration. When thought precedes greed and democracy precedes oligarchy, many good results occur for a breathable living downtown, a truly rational and not disguised intermodal transportation system and an organically vibrant downtown that serves its own people.

Rest assured, Council members, that a mobilized citizenry will emerge to set such priorities right. The greased wheels will not be so easy this time. Do not judge the present by the past. Represent the people who live and work in your city. Thank you.

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Testimony of Mary M. Shelton
Resident of Museum Square Apartments

Testimony to the D.C. Council Committee on Public Works and the Environment
July 7, 1999

Good afternoon, Madam Chair and Councilmembers. Thank you for this opportunity to testify before you today on the proposed Intermodal Transportation Center.

My name is Mary M. Shelton and I am a registered Republican. Mrs. Schwartz, I have voted for you many times. I am 75 years old.

I was born and raised near downtown Washington. I was born at Freemanıs Hospital, which is now Howard University Hospital, in 1924. After that, I lived on Corcoran St., and then around the corner on 18th Street. I went to Francis Jr. High School and Cardozo Senior High School. I worked as a district employee for 20 years in the voter registration office.

Fourteen years ago I moved into the Museum Square Apartments because it was built for senior and disabled citizens. I served as the president of the tenants association for many years.

Museum Square is an excellent location for senior citizens like myself, because it is centrally located. I can easily get to the Giant and the Bank on foot. Public transportation is available. Itıs very convenient, especially for senior citizens who have more difficulty than young people getting around.

But now we hear that our building would be knocked down to build a 7000-space parking garage. I do not understand this.

The land where we live is zoned residential. The land next to us is zoned residential and was bought by the city for more residential housing. Our neighbors are in favor of more residential. So I donıt understand how a parking garage for commuters could take priority.

Many senior citizens who have worked long and hard in this city are living in Museum Square. Why would you allow them to be pushed out for buses, trucks and cars?

It is very upsetting to the residents. One of my neighbors said she can't think about it because she is afraid she will have a heart attack. It seems very cruel to treat senior citizens this way.

It seems crazy to push people out of the city to bring thousands more cars per day into downtown Washington, which is already congested.

We do not think it is good for our residents or the city, and we will fight with our neighbors against it.

Thank you very much.

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Testimony of B. Warren “Budd” Lane
Chair, Ward 2 Democrats

Before the D.C. Council Committee on Public Works
July 7, 1999

Madam Chair, Members of the Council, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Budd Lane. I am a 32-year resident of Dupont Circle and the Chair of the Ward 2 Democrats.

I was elected as Chair on a platform of protecting neighborhoods. My vision is a simple one, to meld a coalition of politically active Democrats throughout the Ward to support the public interest, and to offset the influence of developers, institutions and/or other businesses whose "special interests" intrude on the rights of residents and the tranquility of our neighborhoods. I am not anti-development, I am pro-neighborhood.

Based on this mandate and my own research on the proposal before you today, I urge you — in the strongest terms — to reject the commuter parking garage proposed by the Department of Public Works for the Mt. Vernon neighborhood.

It poses extreme health and environmental risks for our citizens. It would attract new traffic into downtown, which is already overwhelmed. And it would encourage more driving into the District — not less. This is a direct contradiction of our stated transportation policies.

The commuter parking garage proposed for the Mt. Vernon neighborhood is an example of special-interest-driven government that is no longer acceptable. We will not tolerate a Government that promotes the interests of developers, nonprofits, and nonresidents over the interests of our neighborhoods and taxpayers. Public business must be fairly and openly conducted. We demand to be at the table, represented by our ANCs and recognized civic organizations. We should not have to resort to litigation to force compliance with our laws. If you believe as I do, then you know that there is something wrong with the way our Government conducts our business.

I would point out to you that the Department of Public Works' proposed commuter garage has never — I repeat, never — been proposed or properly described by DPW officials at a community meeting, to face the questions — not to mention preferences — of residents whose neighborhoods would be transformed by it — and who will pay for it.

It has been launched as a fait-accomplit — with no citizen input and no site selection process to determine where — if anywhere — such a facility belongs in the District.

Home rule cannot be realized until issues that affect neighborhood interests are paramount. The quality of life in our neighborhoods is most directly affected by local issues that are continuously subverted or aggravated by officials who forget why they have been elected or appointed. We are here to remind them that we are ever watchful and intend to hold them accountable.

I urge you, Madame Chair, to demand an end to this irresponsible conduct of the publicıs business. The commuter parking garage at the Mt. Vernon Square site must be halted so an honest process of site selection and planning can begin with proper oversight and community participation.

Thank you for your attention, and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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Testimony of Ronald Williams
Resident of Museum Square Apartments

Testimony to the D.C. Council Committee on Public Works and the Environment
July 7, 1999

Good afternoon, Councilmember Schwartz. Thank you for this opportunity to testify here today. My name is Sonny Williams. I am 66 years old.

I was born and raised in Washington. I now live at the Museum Square Apartments at 401 K St. NW. Several years ago I had a stroke. I am disabled.

Living at Museum Square allows me to get around. I take the bus to Georgetown University Hospital for treatment. I can walk to the store. I see people. Living downtown keeps me active. I am very surprised that anyone would propose to knock down our building. It was just built in the 1980s. And it is the home of hundreds of people, many of whom have disabilities. Many of the residents are too old to move. They should not be forced to move.

Especially for a parking garage that no one wants. I am very concerned that residents are being pushed out of the city for convention centers, stadiums, and parking lots.

What good is a city if it has no people? I hope you will not allow this project to go forward. We need to put people first in this city. We want more housing in our neighborhood, not more trucks, buses and parking lots.

Thank you.

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926 N St. NW (Rear Building)
Washington, DC 20001

July 5, 1999

Mayor Anthony Williams
441 Fourth St. NW
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Mayor Williams,

This letter is to ask for your help in altering an important proposed transportation project that ­ as currently planned ­ could cause great harm to the District of Columbia and the surrounding region.

The D.C. Department of Public Works ("DPW") has proposed building a $300 million government-funded commuter parking garage for 7,200 cars, plus hundreds of trailer trucks and buses in the Mt. Vernon Square neighborhood between 4th Street, 6th Street, New York and Massachusetts Avenues, NW.

The garage would:

  • bring thousands more cars per day into downtown Washington, which is already beyond saturation with auto traffic,
  • create extreme health and environmental hazards for residents of Mt. Vernon Square,
  • destroy current and future housing (and pedestrian-oriented living) in that neighborhood (including an existing 302-unit handicapped senior citizens' residence),
  • encourage more people to drive from the suburbs by building a massive parking facility in the middle of the city.

The garage as proposed violates environmental and transportation policies and objectives of the District of Columbia, including DPW's "Transportation Vision, Strategy and Action Plan for the Nationıs Capital," and the "Park Once" concept to reduce downtown traffic. The garage as proposed also fails to meet federal intermodal transportation standards, raising serious questions about future funding.

Meanwhile, superior alternatives exist, including Union Station, which could be a true Intermodal Transportation Center, due to its Amtrak, commuter rail and Metro connections.

Regional environmental groups have already spoken out about the garage (articles enclosed), while residents and civic groups are on record as overwhelmingly in favor of housing/mixed use development on the site in question, as called for in the Comprehensive Plan.

We would very much appreciate meeting with you to discuss these issues at the earliest opportunity. I can be reached at (202) 789-7864.

Thank you very much.


Beth Solomon

cc: Abdusalam Omer, Chief of Staff
Max Brown, Deputy Chief of Staff for External Affairs

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Presentation to the D. C. COUNCIL

Department of Public Works Sub Committee
July 7, 1999

By the Committee of 100 on the Federal City [Most illustrations included in this testimony are not available on-line]


What Is an Intermodal Transportation Center (ITC)?
What Is the DPW Proposing?
What :Is the DPW Proposing for New York Avenue (NYAD)?
What Are the Costs of the Various Proposals?
Do these Proposals Make Sense? Are there ways to test these proposals? Are there Better Uses for the Land?
The ITC Supporters Suggest a "Vision" for the Downtown. What Vision Should the District Government and Its Citizens Support?


Union Station Is an Intermodal Transportation Center. (AMTRAK, Commuter Rail, Metrorail)
DPW Is Proposing a Big Garage.
For the New York Avenue Development (NYAD) DPW Is Proposing an Underground Freeway.
DPW Estimates the ITC to Cost about Three Hundred Million Dollars; DPW Estimates the Underground Freeway to Cost about One Billion Dollars.
The DPW Proposals Can Be Tested by Comparing Downtown Washington with Midtown + Lower Manhattan and with Downtown Chicago.
We Believe there Are Better Proposals to Accomplish Similar Purposes, Costing at Most Ten Million Dollars, with Financing Assured, and with Much Larger Dollar Returns to the City.
ITC Supporters Propose a VISION of the Downtown As an "Entertainment Destination."
We Agree, and Believe that the Entertainment Destination Must Be Part of a "Living Downtown" with the Kind of Efficient Transportation Proposed by the DPW "VISION and TRANSPORTATION STRATEGIES."


Graph of transportation options

The Washington data is provided by the Council of Governments and the DOWNTOWN Business Improvement District and its consultant.

The data for the Chicago Loop is provided by the Chicago Mayor's office. (Note that the Loop is only about half the Chicago Central Business District; we could not get current data for the rest of the Chicago CBD.)

We have not been able to get current Manhattan data. In the early 1970s there were about 1,600,000 jobs in Midtown and Lower Manhattan, and rush hour auto traffic was variously reported as from 50,000 to 70,000 cars in the peak hour. We are fairly certain that the number of Manhattan jobs has increased. Whatever the 1970s traffic data, it is almost certainly still current; the road/street/bridge/tunnel system was operating at absolute capacity, and the subway system has been substantially up-graded.

3-D  Map — “North of Massachusetts Avenue” Neighborhood

Map of NOMA Neighborhood

The New York Avenue Development Report says that:

"The area (North of Massachusetts Avenue) is now nearly devoid of useful or beneficial structures."

The New York Avenue Report is incorrect. In the area between New York and Massachusetts Avenues and North Capitol Street there now are six churches, seven schools the DC Police Boys & Girls clubs the J.B. Johnson Nursing Center, nine apartments and condominiums and seven major private and public office buildings, most either new or on the Historic Register.

The District of Columbia Comprehensive Plan calls for high-rise apartments anti mixed use commercial east of Mount Vernon Square, south of New York Avenue and, generally, west of New Jersey Avenue. The Plan calls for medium density residential between New Jersey Avenue and North Capital Street and north of K Street, with medium to high density commercial along Massachusetts Avenue, with medium, high density commercial uses between North Capitol Street and the railroad yards.

In 1970 the downtown looked like Dresden, Germany alter World War II. Development interests proposed an Inner Loop 1 Freeway System through the neighborhoods surrounding the center. After a 20-year battle citizens forced it to be abandoned; the money was used to build Metrorail.

In 1970 about 70,000 cars entered the downtown every morning rush hour, traveling largely on :a transport network laid out by a French architect in 1791. 'The problems of the downtown were not, and are not, access problems.

The center has been reborn; it is now the third largest employment center in America.

A D.C. TRANSPORTATION STUDY, in 1942, pointed nut how much more efficient walking is than public transit and how much more efficient public transit is than private automobile travel. It concluded by summarizing the most important condition for transportation efficiency in downtown Washington:

"The most significant (transportation) factor is "the number of people walking to work . . . The number of people walking should be maintained, increased if possible, by protecting the attractiveness of the area immediately surrounding the business district as a first class residential neighborhood."

The preceding page describes the two conditions for transportation efficiency in and around dense downtowns: 1) Residential neighborhoods within walking or short transit distance from the center, and 2) Transit that is not compromised by private automobile congestion.

In 1948, New York Avenue, operating at capacity, carried about twice ice as many commuters and shoppers into the downtown as New York Avenue would carry today, operating at capacity, if New York Avenue also included a freeway tunneled under it.

The reason is simple; in 1948 an exclusive transitway ran flown the middle of the Avenue. As the "Transportation Efficiency Diagram" shows, one downtown lane of automobile traffic will carry about 1,000 people about 15 miles per hour. Buses, or streetcars, in mixed traffic, will carry over 10,000 people per lane about 4 to 6 miles per hour. But buses, or streetcars, on exclusive travelways, not compromised by private auto congestion, will ill travel at least 12 miles per hour, including stops for pick- up and delivery of passengers.

In 1948 Washington had one of the world's great streetcar systems, operating on the wide L'Enfant Avenues, with about 300,000 people in the neighborhoods north of the downtown. But with a well documented assist from General Motors, the tracks were dug up, the streetcars sent to Sarajevo, two thirds of the people around the downtown went to suburban Virginia and Maryland, and the Avenues were abandoned to private auto travel. Tragic!

European cities never made that mistake, transit uniformly operates free of auto congestion. All buses in central Paris travel at least 12 miles per hour, despite pervasive automobile congestion in Paris, impressive even by Washington standards.

A few American cities have begun the transition to transportation efficiency — Denver. Sacramento, Minneapolis, Portland. The D.C. Department of Public Works has set the stage for Washington with its enormously important "Park once" strategy.

In 1998, on the 75th Anniversary of its founding, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City published a brochure entitled WASHINGTON'S THREE-SISTERS BRIDGE and INNER LOOP FREEWAY SYSTEMS CONTROVERSIES. While that struggle was initiated by the residential neighborhoods threatened by the freeways, the Committee of 100 is proud to have been active in that two-decade-long battle for the soul and future of the city. Only the L'Enfant Plan and the work of the Senate Park Commission (the "McMillan Commission"), have been more important in securing the quality and future of the Center of the National Capital.

In an address to the Board of Trade, U. S. Secretary of Transportation Alan S. Boyd repeated the warning of Lewis Mumford:

"Washington has proved a classic example of the question of whether a city dedicated wholeheartedly to traffic could survive for other purposes. The assumed right of the private motor car to go any place and park anywhere is nothing less than a license to destroy the city. "

The same profoundly misguided forces have rejoined the same battle, in the name of "economic development." The Committee of 100 has a level of confidence in economic development driven by the private market that some city agencies lack. Beyond the center, the neighborhoods need economic development help not forthcoming from the public agencies; but public subsidies to private development are unnecessary in the center.

That effort is made doubly tragic by the fact that, in the name of traffic improvement, exactly those qualities that make traffic work will be further compromised.

Within the L'Enfant Center of the National Capital, two centuries of private initiative and public planning have created a "World City," in the sense that London, Paris, Rome are World Cities. We, who are fortunate to be its citizens, should treat it with respect.


The Extraordinary Record of Planning for the NATIONAL CAPITAL
The potential of the L'ENFANT PLAN,


The History and Current Problems of the Center of the NATIONAL CAPITAL
The extraordinary rebirth of the downtown in the last three decades,
The important of the necklace of residential neighborhoods around the downtown,
The difficulty of financing downtown housing, and
The problems of traveling around our large downtown, and
Our underutilized Metrorail system, and


Planning Objectives for the Monumental/Commercial Center
The objective of a 'Living Downtown,'
The objective of transportation efficiency,
The objective of economic development
The objective of an "entertainment destination"
The objective of providing for tour buses and parking and truck staging for the Convention Center
And considering the available sources of public money

What COMBINATION of Public Investments. Plans, Strategies, Will Best Address these Interlocking Problems?

It is important that suburban commuters get into the center easily and, because this is the National Capital, it is important for tourists to get to the Monumental Center. But we believe that the City's most important agenda is this:


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