New York Avenue Bridge: ho-hum or fabulous?

Today I sent this message to the New York Avenue Bridge Project Manager:

I hope, I hope, I hope that you are going replace the opaque metal railings on the bridge with something that doesn’t obstruct the view. This bridge, could - and by all rights, should - have fabulous vistas in both directions. It is all that remains of a grand boulevard, a boulevard which constitutes not only the eastern entrance to a major city, but to the nation’s capital. A distant view of the Capitol itself is only possible from a few locations, and this is one of them.

At the very least, see-through railings would de-uglify this drearily utilitarian stretch of roadway. Moreover, it would make the bridge far more pedestrian friendly and give frustrated drivers who are stuck in traffic a way to take their minds off their miseries (and thereby help reduce road rage). People feel confined and edgy when presented with a view that consists of a few yards of concrete and then stops at a solid wall, no matter what’s on the other side. And in this case, they have reason to believe they’re being deprived of something that is interesting, or even - to many - fascinating.

Looking south, people could have a good view of the Capitol and historic Union Station. Looking north they could see Eckington Yards, described as “the Holy Grail of railroading in the Mid Atlantic part of the country”* and the [name unknown] hill at the center of Eckington (with the white cupolas of McKinley Tech on, if no longer crowning, it). I believe they would also be able to see the Met Branch Trail in both directions.

Presumably the electrical conduits were integrated into the bridge railings at a time when most people thought rail yards were grimy, industrial looking eyesores to be concealed from the public. Nowadays, people are tremendously nostalgic about trains/train travel, and everything related to them - even train yards.

I know you have plans to make the bridge more pedestrian-friendly. But since you don’t say what they are, or offer any drawings, I can only assume your plans do not include switching to the type of railings that reasonable people would want (and expect) on this particular bridge. Otherwise, you’d say so.

Therefore, I plead with you not just on behalf of every tourist, every motorist, every cyclist, every pedestrian who will cross this bridge throughout the next who-know-how-many years, but also on behalf of all car-owning Eckingtonians. Now that DDOT has totally removed the right turn lanes onto Eckington Place, we must frequently sit gridlocked in westbound New York traffic for the better part of an hour (mixed in with the westbound Florida Avenue vehicles) just to travel the last few feet to our neighborhood.

Please, please, please tell me I’m wrong. If you don’t, I will assume I’m right - and I will let my entire neighborhood know about it. I will point out that here, like so many other places, we have sacrificed 90% of the potential benefit in order to save 10% of the cost.

* “Alas, the sad truth is that there is a gold mine of railfan potential here, but there is no way to mine this potential.” (from a web site for rail aficionados)

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