No Big Dig for New York Ave
Boston's Big Dig. Flickr photo by cody_7147.

Boston's Big Dig. Flickr photo by cody_7147.

Richard Layman wrote last Wednesday about Boston’s Big Dig sparking more proposals to bury stretches of highway. He cites this example in Philly which, not knowing almost anything about the city, seems like a good thing. But then Layman goes and talks about burying New York Avenue. This seems like a total waste of money.

The DDOT’s NY Ave. Corridor Study does call for burying NY Ave. between Mt. Vernon Square and North Capitol. This seems like a good idea, as this is good real estate that could be turned into what DDOT calls “an address street.” But I fail to see how burying NY Ave. would do anything to help the corridor beyond the New York Ave. Red Line station.

The problem is the railroad tracks.

Take a look at a few google map stills:



NY Ave runs directly along the AMTRAK/MARC line between Union Station and New Carrollton. As such, it’s hard to argue that the highway is somehow separating two neighborhoods that otherwise would be connected in an urban fabric. The rails have precisely the same effect as the highway in that respect. In fact, Jane Jacobs uses railroad tracks as her archetypal example of a facility that acts as an unused border and thereby saps the life out of the surrounding area.
The Big Dig was so important because it reunited the valuable (in terms of dollars, vitality, beauty, you name it) waterfront with the central city. Burying New York Ave. would reunite the surrounding neighborhoods with the railroad tracks. I don’t see how that’s ever going to justify the cost.

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