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Could a Parking Lot Solve the National Mall’s Congestion Problems?

by Lark Turner

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If this advocacy group gets its way, the ubiquitous sight of the idling tour bus awaiting its passengers on the Mall may disappear for good.

The National Coalition to Save Our Mall, a group that advocates for the historic integrity and preservation of the Mall, wants to better protect the Mall’s surface and its surrounding museums from flooding. To manage that, the government would have to build large cisterns. And as long as we’re digging around down there, the group suggests we may as well pop in some parking to help pay for it all.

The cost is significant. WJLA reports the plan is estimated to run between $168 and $248 million. And since the land is under the jurisdiction of a lot of different agencies, it would require an uncommon effort to make it happen.

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The group claims the main purpose of the below-ground project, dubbed the National Mall Underground, would be to manage big floods like the one that occurred in 2006 and damaged museums. The underground facility would provide more than 1,000 car and bus parking spaces and hold 34 million gallons of water. Plus, its purpose could be expanded, the group noted in a 2013 presentation, to include restrooms, a welcome center for tourists, a place for bus drivers to hang out and maybe a restaurant. You can check out a visualization of how it might work here.

An advocate for the proposal told WTOP that Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton are at work on a draft of legislation allowing construction. If it ever passed, it may take 5-6 years to complete.

Images: Karolina Kawiaka

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/could_a_parking_lot_solve_the_national_malls_congestion_problems/8691

2 Comments

  1. Jan said at 4:04 pm on Wednesday July 2, 2014:

    The Trust for the National Mall and National Park Service have a wonderful partnership.  One thing they have identified is the fact that for a national park that receives more than 25 million visits a year there are fewer than 100 toilets. When many of the refreshment stands on the Mall were developed they were deliberately done without restroom facilities because the thought was people would go before they visited or just hold it until they got home. While I am not looking forward to a 5-6 year construction effort, I would welcome an underground visitor center, parking garage, and restroom zone for the millions who visit every year.  Just getting those idling tour busses off the streets would be wonderful!

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 6:05 pm on Wednesday July 2, 2014:

    It has previously occurred to me that the investment in the 9th & 12th Street tunnels could be leveraged for a parking garage between them, below the Mall.  The tunnels eliminate the thorniest problem for such a garage: the long ugly ramp. 

    The obvious precedent for this is the National Cathedral’s garage, which has tamed the tour buses and provided public parking.  It has attractive kiosks for entrance by stair or elevator.  The basic services underground are also welcome.  The design is entirely exemplary except for the ramp, which cannot help but be not so great.

    I’m having a little difficulty understanding the cisterns as the raison d’etre for this, but it’s certainly a good idea.  The only thing I wonder is if it might make sense to scale it down to buses only—and not just tour buses.  Downtown DC also has a blight of commuter buses that have nowhere to park themselves.

    In general, great work, Coalition!  Keep pushing!

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