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3 transformative D.C. transit projects that never happened

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From a bridge to a freeway to a Metro station

There are plenty of transit projects set to transform Washington, D.C. Along with the Purple Line, there is also the potential for an underground mall and Union Station’s $10 billion redevelopment.

Below, Curbed DC asks readers to take a step back in time and reminisce in the projects that could have happened, were planned to happen, but ended up getting canceled.

The following projects range from a bridge that would have been near Georgetown, a freeway that would have essentially cut the District in half, and a Metro station that might end up getting built anyway.

Have any other favorite canceled transit projects? Let Curbed DC know in the comments.


A Metro station in Georgetown

Georgetown.
Photo via Shutterstock/DiegoMariottini

What was the plan?

In the 1970s, there was the plan to construct a Metro station at Georgetown.

Why did this plan fall through?

When the Metro was being planned, the neighborhood really was a mixture of apartment or office buildings. Originally, Georgetown as a neighborhood was planned to be a “suburban-to-city commuter link,” not a compelling destination. Because of this, there was little incentive to place a Metro station there, especially due to the geographic issues.

Because of the neighborhood’s location by the Potomac River, WMATA would have been forced to either build a tunnel deep below the river or above the river. Highway planners shot down the latter option and deemed the first option too expensive.

There is the belief that it was Georgetown residents who were able to get the project successfully blocked, but this is a myth. Truthfully, the Georgetown Metro station was never seriously considered.

In 2013, the possibility for a Metro station in Georgetown arose once more. At the time, WMATA created a preliminary map for a new rail network that would be completed by 2040. The new station is part of the Metro’s $26 billion expansion plan, which also involves adding capacity to rail cars and stations.

A local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) has already shown support for the project.


A highway through the center of Washington, D.C.

The District Highway Department’s planned freeway that would have passed through “eastern Washington.”
Image via The Washington Post

What was the plan?

In 1961, there was a proposal to extend Interstate 95 with an eight-lane expressway that would pass through the “eastern section” of Washington, D.C. At the time, the plan was to extend the interstate from the Anacostia Freeway in order for it cross the Anacostia River and eventually meet Maryland just south of Sargent Road NE.

According to The Washington Post, previous iterations of the project had the freeway run through the Michigan Park and Brookland neighborhoods.

Both the National Capital Planning Commission and the Highway Department backed the proposal

Why did this plan fall through?

It was in 1973 when the project finally met its end thanks to the Maryland Department of Transportation choosing to back away from the plan.


The Three Sisters Bridge

A rendering of the Three Sisters Bridge.
Photo via DDOT DC

What was the plan?

In 1967, there were plans for a six-lane bridge that would have been built over the river at Three Sisters Island, located by Georgetown. The bridge would have been 750 feet long and 80 feet high.

According to the Ghosts of D.C. blog, “The goal was to extend Whitehurst Freeway over Canal Road NW up to the Georgetown Reservoir and be renamed the Potomac River Freeway.”

The idea for such a bridge dates back to 1789 when Pierre L’Enfant envisioned a bridge built at Three Sisters Island.

Why did this plan fall through?

After Congress created the National Capital Transportation Agency (NCTA) in 1960, the new organization established a moratorium on any highway or bridge construction west of 12th Street NW. The moratorium was planned to continue until 1965.

In June 1967, after President Lyndon Johnson reorganized the District’s city government to include a mayor and nine-member commission, the commission voted to oppose the construction.

As a whole, the Three Sisters Bridge wasn’t a very popular project anyway. In November 1969, during a general election ballot, over 85 percent of city voters voted against the project. There were even protests from students at Georgetown University and George Washington University.

The Three Sisters Bridge project was finally officially canceled in May 1977 when the Department of Transportation approved the removal of the bridge project from the city’s master transportation plan.

In the end, the plan to extend Interstate 66 over the Potomac River ended up happening either way, thanks to the Roosevelt Bridge. Because of that, there are no incentives to restart the project.