Deck Over Debate: The Two Contrasting Visions to Recast the North Capitol Corridor

  • September 16th 2021

by Nena Perry-Brown

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Rendering of proposed deckover.

A highway harm-reduction initiative along a DC dividing line is stirring up debate as two concepts to improve the North Capitol Street corridor are seeking to gain momentum.

The Deck Over project, which UrbanTurf has covered extensively, calls for a series of park decks covering the underpasses between V Street and Seaton Place along North Capitol. Another approach, long-suggested and recently formalized, proposes leveling the corridor completely, with multimodal lanes between Michigan and Massachusetts Avenues.

Proposed street configuration template for Community Boulevard. Click to enlarge.

Both approaches seek to ameliorate the harms imposed by North Capitol's construction, from the throughway being a tool for white flight to it physically dividing the abutting neighborhoods in Northeast and Northwest. Both also seek to find a better way to manage the heavy traffic flow along the corridor — but in very different ways.

Rendering of deck over, looking south on North Capitol Street. Click to enlarge.

The Deck Over project centers around an attractive neighborhood amenity that would double as a visual and audio buffer for the traffic that would still funnel through the existing underpasses. Alternatively, the Community Boulevard project would eliminate the underpasses and convert North Capitol into an at-grade route with three lanes of vehicular traffic, protected bike lanes, a dedicated busway, and extended sidewalks/dining/park spaces.

The Boulevard option is also proferring another destination park for a part of the corridor that advocates Conor Shaw (president of Eckington Civic Association) and Nick Sementelli (founder of advocacy group Ward 5 For All) say is more in need of green space than the stretch near the proposed deck over. At the Florida Avenue intersection, the turn-off from North Capitol onto Q Street and Lincoln Road NE (map) would become a park, and the adjacent blocks would become woonerf-style curbless pedestrian-forward areas. On the other side of North Capitol, an additional pocket park could ideally house a restored Truxton Fountain, an old feature of the Truxton Circle site that is currently gathering moss in Fort Washington.

Proposed park for Community Boulevard. Click to enlarge.

Advocates for the Community Boulevard approach believe that the neighborhood should push for something more ambitious and safety-oriented than the Deck Over while North Capitol has the attention of the District's Department of Transportation (DDOT). Dedicated surface lanes would presumably eliminate the speeding that underpasses encourage, reduce traffic speed via fewer traffic lanes, make bus service along the corridor more reliable and efficient, and create a more pedestrian/bicyclist/business-friendly streetscape. 

"We've been talking a lot about how there are problems along the whole corridor, and the reality is that I think the real solutions to that problem are going to, in some ways, require corridor-wide treatment, because the reality is our lives are connected," Shaw explained, describing the Deck as "too limited a vision."

For the Deck Over advocates, however, the various neighborhoods along the corridor have a variety of needs that may not all be addressed with the Boulevard approach.

"One of the things that has always bothered me with the Community Boulevard approach is that it is ahistorical; it doesn't pay attention to history and it doesn't pay attention to context," ANC 5E commissioner Bertha Holliday stated at a meeting Wednesday evening, noting that the Deck Over proposal is meant to cater to the needs of the adjacent residential neighborhoods. "This 'one size fits all' does not work, will not work, and we have to figure out ways to deal with North Capitol in terms of a both/and perspective as opposed to an either/or perspective when it comes to these two plans."

DDOT has set aside $1 million in the 2022 fiscal year to study the feasibility of the Deck Over project along with overall safety along the North Capitol Street corridor.

See other articles related to: ddot, highways, north capitol street

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/deck-over-debate-the-two-contrasting-visions-to-recast-the-north-capitol-co/18708.

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