Friday, December 06, 2002

Landscaped Security Plan Approved

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By Monte Reel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 11, 2002; 2:17 PM

The National Capital Planning Commission today unanimously endorsed a plan to replace unsightly security barriers in the District with landscaped alternatives and to remove parking spaces from streets fronting several government buildings and landmarks to give the city a less cluttered look.

The measures, outlined in a 97-page draft report by a National Capital Planning Commission task force on Tuesday and carrying an estimated price of $800 million, would need funding approval from Congress. The commission has slated a 60-day comment period for public reaction to the plan and then it will be forwarded to the president and Congress for funding.

Under the plan's terms, long-decried Jersey barriers and earth-filled sewer pipes would give way to measures designed to blend in with their surroundings. Around the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, for example, the plan calls for low concrete walls, finished in stone to match the monuments, that would surround landscaped earth leading to the monuments. And in front of several federal buildings, barriers such as drinking fountains reinforced with steel and decorative planters concealing concrete liners would block vehicular access.

The plan was propelled by concerns about the look of security measures taken around the city. Elizabeth Miller, a project officer for the plan, said, "These makeshift barriers communicate fear, retrenchment and don't communicate the democratic values we want to show the world."

The mitigation measures include the creation of several parking structures and the funding of a "Downtown Circulator" – a transit system, either a bus or light-rail line, that would serve the city's core and the new parking garages. The plan also calls for a comprehensive traffic and parking study to assess its impact.

The plan does not include security measures for the Washington Monument, which the commission is considering separately.

Commission Chairman John Cogbill had said earlier that the $800 million estimate assumes a "worst-case scenario" that would cover the implementation of all the security changes including the mitigation recommendations. However, a more detailed cost analysis is required, he said, and the commission recommends $32 million in fiscal 2003 to complete design studies of priority projects and to complete work that will allow more accurate estimates.

The plan divides the city into nine sectors that have particular architectural features that the recommendations aim to complement.

On Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House, the plan concludes that the street should remain closed and endorses a recent proposal to create a controlled-entry pedestrian park with a gravel surface. It also recommends reinforcing "street furniture" – including such items as benches, light poles and planters – along Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol.

In the Federal Triangle, the plan recommends walls on the curb side of tree planting beds and bollards where the sidewalks are too narrow for walls. A fountain is recommended for the 13th Street terminus at Pennsylvania Avenue, and parking lanes would be removed on both sides of 10th Street. Guardhouses at federal parking facilities would be placed close to the buildings and would be consistent with the architecture, according to the report.

In the monumental core's west end, which includes the Department of State, granite benches, stainless-steel, retractable bollards and a low pedestal that would match nearby buildings are recommended for C Street. On 21st Street near the State Department, recommendations include the removal of a parking lane and a staggered wall along the curb.

The Southwest Federal Center would lose about 400 of its roughly 1,500 parking spaces, Tangherlini said. Bollards, stone benches, evergreen shrubs and reinforced lights would line the sidewalks, according to the plan.

If the plan is approved and funded by Congress, it would still be several years before it could be implemented entirely.

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