The Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola is Deemed Feasible

by Nena Perry-Brown

The Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola is Deemed Feasible: Figure 1
A view from the gondola traveling back from Rosslyn.

Three years ago, the idea of an aerial gondola connecting Georgetown and Rosslyn was floated at a meeting in Georgetown.

This past April, long after a group of interested parties on both sides of the Potomac River coalesced around the idea (and dedicated some funding to its exploration), ZGF Architects was granted oversight of a study to identify whether the concept could be made a reality.

Now, the results are in — and the conclusion is that the gondola is indeed achievable, both technically and legally.

ZGF’s team spoke to all agencies and they did not unearth a fatal flaw,” Rosslyn BID president Mary-Claire Burick told UrbanTurf. “Obviously it will take quite a bit of coordinated effort from all those agencies as well as both jurisdictions to bring it to life.”

The Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola is Deemed Feasible: Figure 2

As UrbanTurf reported last month, the likely location for a gondola station on the DC side would be at the site of the Exxon station in Georgetown. On the opposite side of the Potomac, a terminal station would be across from the Rosslyn Metro station on either N. Lynn Street or Fort Myer Drive. The former would be preferred, as it aligns directly with 36th Street in Georgetown and would eliminate the need for an additional turn-station. In all likelihood, these stations would be the entirety of the gondola system, although Burick expressed hope that the gondola might potentially extend to the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington at some point in the future.

Upon completion, the gondola is anticipated to average 6,500 riders a day lining up to take the 4-minute ride across the river. By comparison, driving or taking the bus can take up to 10 or 20, depending on traffic, and walking across takes about 18 minutes. The Rosslyn Metro station sees an average of 13,666 daily riders, and the assumption of the team behind the gondola is that the typical rider would be riding Metrorail to the station and then transferring to the gondola to travel across the river.

The Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola is Deemed Feasible: Figure 3
The gondola corridor options. Click to enlarge.

The system will cost approximately $80-90 million to construct, along with other necessary surrounding improvements; annual operating costs will be about $3.25 million. For some context, it would cost $1.5 billion (in 2015 dollars) to extend a Metrorail tunnel into Georgetown and $150 million to construct a station there.

Where the money to construct and maintain the gondola will come from is one of the biggest questions; ultimately, any next steps would have to start with more intensive outreach among the political leaders in both DC and Virginia.

The Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola is Deemed Feasible: Figure 4
The view on Fort Myer Drive in Rosslyn looking north.

Assuming that the political will is there, the next step would be for all parties involved to conduct an environmental impact study. There will also be an extensive, multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency approval process, involving input or requirements from dozens of institutions like the Arlington County Board and Planning Commission, DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board, the Old Georgetown Board, National Capital Planning Commission and both DC and Virginia’s Departments of Transportation, just to name a few.

Attaining the necessary approvals and completing related studies is estimated to take 3-4 years, while construction would take an additional two years. However, Georgetown BID president Joe Sternlieb cautions that 6-7 years to deliver is an “aggressive, but possible” estimate in this instance considering all of the parties that would need to be on board.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/no_fatal_flaws_found_to_derail_georgetown-rosslyn_gondola/11851

1 Comment

  1. EnserNG said at 6:24 pm on Thursday November 3, 2016:
    At first, this idea seemed bizarre - it still is, but think it would add a fairly unique draw and useful addition to that area of Georgetown and of DC/NOVA, overall. If it can be designed in such a way that it blends with the surroundings, rather than being overly slick and can haul enough passengers, think it should, at least, be seriously considered - especially when compared to the cost of adding a Metro stop and its requisite access.

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