Earlier this month we wrote about a meeting DDOT was holding about the future of the Monroe Street Bridge. We attended the meeting and learned that the bulk of the project will be repairs to the substructure which has cracks and exposed re-bar in the columns, and the replacement of the superstructure which will extend the life of the bridge for another 75 years. A few days after the meeting DDOT launched this website for the project which includes an option to submit feedback.
The project will be conducted in two Phases, Phase One will be construction and repairs to the north side and Phase Two will cover the south side. It is hard to look at the rendering of the new bridge and not notice that it will be vastly different than the current colorful (if worn and rusty) one. When asked about the new fencing the DDOT representatives described it as “state of the art”, “very modern and…very good looking”. They added that the fence will appear invisible and will stay clean looking. Notably, the fence must adhere to WMATA requirements about height and depth. When questioned by the Brookland Bridge about the lack of neighborhood character, DDOT suggested that there may be a chance to add a sculpture or some other artistic element, but that there are no plans to alter the current design to do so. This prompted us to ask if the purpose of the meeting was to inform the community or to gather feedback. The representatives said it was just to convey the decisions that have been already been made. They added that instead of gathering community feedback they relied on the Office of Planning to articulate the communities needs.
The DDOT representatives expressed that they looked at several options but given constraints like schedule and budget, this is most practical design. Further, this project is on a “fast track” because of the degraded condition of the bridge. As a result, several of the meeting attendees requested copies of the studies and analysis done to arrive at this design. DDOT promised to post that information on the project website, but we have not seen it posted yet.
Another topic of lively discussion was why the project is not going to unify the Met Branch Trail since this would seem like the opportune time to do so. Currently the trail ends at the Franklin Street bridge, and riders must then bike down 8th Street NE and then the Trail picks back up at Monroe Street NE. The DDOT representatives explained that unifying the trail would require a tunnel under the bridge, and that there is not enough space to do feasibly and that the cost would be too high. However, there will be dedicated bike lines on the bridge and a new traffic signal at the intersection of 8th and Monroe that should help bikers navigate their way across Monroe Street NE.
In addition to the bridge re-build, the project includes sidewalk improvements along 8th Street between Monroe and Lawrence NE, and on Monroe between 8th and 9th Streets, NE. Also, overhead lines will be placed under ground from 7th – 9th Streets on Monroe Street NE. At least this will improve the aesthetic of that limited area.
Quite frankly, we walked away disappointed with the design, it just feels soulless. For readers unaware, the bridge was painted in 2001 by area residents, as a memorial to area youth who have passed away.
We will let you know when we learn of anything significant.