Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Peter S. Craig: An Editorial Reply

From A Trip Within The Beltway:
The Washington Post Does Not Get It-
subverting transportation based upon lies

For more than two decades, Mr. Craig battled business interests, developers and members of Congress who wanted to build a bridge over the Potomac River to carry Interstate 66 into Georgetown and seven multilane highways, which would have destroyed more than 200,000 housing units, many in historically black sections of the city.

CHRISTOPHER WREN, the great 17th-century English architect, whose many works dominated the London scene, had as his epitaph, "If you seek his memorial, look about you." Similar words might be fitting for Peter S. Craig, who died Nov. 26 at the age of 81, only in his case it would be what you didn't see that would mark his significance. ... [such as] a long-planned North-Central Freeway running through much of the eastern part of the city and over places where thousands of people live. In all, Mr. Craig and his allies succeeded in blocking about three-quarters of the interstate highway system once planned for the District....

There are still some who argue that the city made a major mistake when it blocked those highways. Most Washingtonians, we think, when they look about the city, with all its beauty and its history as community and national capital, would say otherwise.

The Washington Post reports he was a railroad attorney at Covington & Burling- something to think about concerning Washington, D.C.'s beauty, given the Posts' own expressed cluelessness convenient for diverting attention from the blight of to Washington, D.C. NE in the areas behind Union Station, with beauty in from, but ugliness behind.

Mr. Craig was working for the powerful Covington and Burling law firm in the 1950s, specializing in transportation regulation matters, when he became aware of plans to build a freeway from the Georgetown waterfront up Glover-Archbold Park and out Wisconsin Avenue into Bethesda, where it would have joined what is now Interstate 270.

Craig was also long involved with the “Committee of 100 on the federal City”- a private organization founded in 1923 by Frederic A. Delano, uncle to FDR and brother in law to Covington & Burling co-founder, railroad industry attorney Edward Burling. OK, so this law firm has a long history representing the railroad industry.

He got involved when planning was going to bring a highway near his residence in Cleveland Park.

Why- the logic of the Wisconsin Avenue corridor as the most commercialized corridor spaced roughly midway between the Potomac River and the B&O corridor, & the barring of a highway allowing trucks via Glover-Archbold Park, leading to a search of alternatives, with a brief consideration of a Cathedral Heights Tunnel, before a 1958-59 route via a split at the top of Glover-Archbold for a parkway not allowing trucks, with an I-70S continuation via a separate route known as the Cross Park Freeway starting as a tunnel just north of Fannie Mae and the northern edge of the Sidwell Friends School property to just west of Tilden Street, skirting the northern edge of Cleveland Park and entering another tunnel crossing east of Connecticut Avenue and emerging to cross Rock Creek Park via a highway arc bridge before continuing as an open depressed freeway through Mt Pleasant, starting at , crossing 16th Street before turning south to parallel 14th Street continuing to an interchange with the open trench I-66 along U Street.

This highway would have displaced 74 dwellings along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, about 8 to the east in or near Cleveland Park, and 100s if not 1000s to the east of Rock Creek Park. Whereas the 1959 version added the two tunnel segments in the Sidwell Friends/Cleveland Park area in addition to the Tenley Circle underpass, it would fail to even consider tunnel segments anywhere to the east of Rock Creek Park, limiting any options to merely depressed with sloped embankments or depressed with vertical retaining walls. From a preservationist standpoint, the most sensible opposition was that to the east of Rock Creek Park, with the least sensible being Bethesda, Maryland which ended up tearing out and replacing most of its downtown business district anyway via WMATA Red Line subway induced denser development that could and should have included an underground highway.

Its effective cancellation via the 1960 – Act mandating a moratorium on free planning for DC NW west of Rock Creek Park – via political pressure from the area with the fewest impacts testifies to the dominance of political affluence.

This did not mean that Peter S. Craig necessarily opposed other freeways within Washington, D.C.

During the early 1960s he supported the concept appearing in the November 1, 1962 Kennedy Administration White House report of a “Y” route B&O railroad I-70S North Central Freeway.

Quote from report about reduced impacts

The B&O corridor makes perfect sense not only as a railroad corridor providing a band of lightly developed industrial property, but also with its placement roughly midway between the Potomac River and the eastern portion of the I-495 Capital Beltway in Maryland.

It was consistent with a philosophy embodied in proposals made via Craig cir. 1962. Not for not buildings the highways. But rather for building highways instead more via existing corridors/right of ways, occasionally coupled with the idea of some short segments of these highways as tunnel. I found two such proposals in perusing some of his papers and those of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City that are graciously made publicly available at the GW University Gelman Library Special Collections: constructing inside the Beltway Virginia I-66, not via the official route, but rather via a reconstructed fully grade separated Route 50 (already a major 4 – 6 lane artery generally flanked by service roads); and constructing the downtown D.C. north-south I-95 Center Leg (known today as the I-395 3rd Street Tunnel), not via the official routing via a swath cut via clearing a swath of buildings between 2nd and 3rd Streets, but instead as a pair of cut and cover tunnels respectively beneath 2nd and 3rd Streets. Obviously, neither idea was adopted, and I did not find any evidence of any official consideration.

Craig at times expressed favor for this concept for the Georgetown waterfront via removing and replacing the elevated Whitehurst Freeway with a tunnel within the existing right of way; in 1968 the Committee of 100 briefly proposed extending that tunnel beneath the Potomac – a Three Sisters Tunnel – to Virginia; they soon abandoned that idea due to the costs of drilling a sufficiently long tunnel to accommodate a sufficiently gentle grade transition for trucks, with Craig’s idea for a shorter tunnel only along the Georgetown waterfront being coupled with the idea of it being sufficiently reduced in capacity not to preserve anything but rather so that it would be useful to fewer.

Such was followed by Elizabeth Rowe with the I-66 K Street Tunnel proposal.

The flip- said to have been guilted by Abbott. Since he strictly opposed freeways in NW, he would have to do the same elsewhere.

Its absurdity- was in response to a response to a bastardized program

Was done in the name of stopping white mans roads through black mans homes.

The idea of opposing “white mans roads through black mans houses” could make sense: as such meant a road that would go through a less affluent area rather then a more affluent area, or through the latter without the extra mitigation of tunnels seen in more affluent areas. Such example of this include the 1955 Inner Loop design for I-66 different treatments west and east of New Jersey Avenue- to the west as trench, to the east as an elevated berm, the 1959 NW Freeway that Craig stopped which would have taken fewer then 100 from the Maryland line to Rock Creek Park, but considerably more to the east, with tunnels only for areas to the west, and of course the 1964 NCF report’s options. [This led to some intelligent things as the I-66 K Street Tunnel proposal via Elizabeth Rowe in 1965-66. ]

But opposing such was hardly was synonymous as simply stopping freeways as that would simply kick the can elsewhere- a main consistency of the shifting polices of Craig and the Committee of 100.

He could have called for greater right of way efficiency and tunnelization for the highways within the western part of the inner loop.

He could also have done that with the NW Freeway proposing a different tunnel for its southern end. But AFAIK he did not.

He could have called for greater right of way efficiency and tunnelization for the highways within the eastern part of the east loop. Oddly to me, despite all of his opposition to say the Glover-Archibold Parkway I saw no indication he opposed the Northwest Branch Park routing for the I-95 Northeastern Freeway before he opposed the freeway outright, failing to apply the concept of reusing existing corridors in this instance with that giant PEPCO power line right of way to New Hampshire Avenue that would require only 13 retail strip properties, and clusters of 24 and 5 houses flanking a short jaunt through the open field of the Masonic and Eastern Star Retirement Home at 6000 New Hampshire Avenue NE to meet the B&O Route. Craig could have further applied such concepts to the B&O NCF. But AFAIK he did not.

Instead he took a course that would effectively be a “white mans road through black mans homes” – or area, depending upon if it displaced dwellings along the railroad corridor in Anacostia SE – via the Anacostia Freeway. If it had not displaced any homes, it would have simply been placing the traffic disproportionately through such areas by stopping both the NW Freeway and the NCF-NEF.

Craig's allies, the Committee of 100 did this with a 1968 proposal for re-routing inside the Beltway I-95 along a longer portion of the NWBP and Virginia 4 Mile Run

It was SE and in Virginia that Craig and the Committee of 100 would soon promote receiving even more of the burden, with their work to cancel the B&O Route North Central Freeway, supplemented by their 1968 proposal for a longer routing of inside the Beltway I-95 via Northwest Branch Park bringing it directly to the Anacostia Freeway, with the Baltimore-Washington Parkway reconfigured to come directly into the I-295 East Leg of the Inner Loop, and with I-95 continuing via the Anacostia Freeway extended somehow across the Potomac River to Virginia and continue via the 4 Mile Run corridor to the existing I-95 Shirley Highway.

Illustration: 1968 proposal, Brookland houses, ECTC protests

All to avoid 69 post WW1 townhouses targeted by the 1966 plans at the western edge of Brookland from the west side of 10th Street NE to the railroad’s eastern side, all to the south of Monroe Street that crosses the railroad just to the south of Catholic University of America located immediately to the railroad’s west side along Brookland Avenue.

These 69 dwellings, a fraction of that targeted by the 1964 and 1960 proposals which would have decimated Turkey Thicket and Brooks Mansion which the 1966 and later plans spared, were colorfully protested by ECTC- the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis, even after this number of 69 was reduced to 34 by a 1970 D.C. Department of Public Works design modification realigning the freeway closer to the railroad, and/or substituting its eastern side sloped embankment with a vertical retaining wall. Internet writer Mark Bentley, in misc.transport.road noted:

Quote: numbers of houses, time on beltway x years

With only 34 rather the 69 that – figure becomes –

With only 11-14, that figure becomes --

I did not find any discussion on how a longer route via a longer route along a more sensitive watershed area of Northwest Branch Park was necessarily more worthy then a more direct route via the existing railroad-industrial corridor, nor consideration of tunnel segments. Nor did I find anywhere near the amount of consideration that lead to the B&O NCF route concept in 1962, regarding whatever they gave to the Craig-Committee of 100 flip, against the B&O North Central Freeway by 1966 reportedly in response to Sam Abbott shaming him into eventually opposing any proposed freeway, never-mind the actual designs and consequences, all based upon the B&O North Central Freeway’s bastardization which lead to the rush of popular opposition.

Indeed, the idea of “white mans roads through black mans homes” a great deal of sense for a NCF that would displace 720/590 with options going as high as 2770/--- on the heels of cancelling a NWF that would have taken fewer then 100 dwellings to the west of Rock Creek Park, as opposed to simply the 1962 Kennedy Administration B&O Route NCF that as per the 1966 supplementary study would have displaced 372 within DC, of these 69 for the I-95 segment. That slogan made far less sense against the B&O concept due to its central location and status as an industrial corridor providing a swath of lightly developed properties

Perhaps this was because such a mangling was required to stoke the opposition, hence the political need to use the righteous opposition to the 1964 plan to inflame the passions against any NCF.

Such appears to be the case, even after the release of the 1966 plan with officials waffling on the earlier plan through 1967 and as late as 1968

Quote: June 1967 Duncan Wallace letter.

Such was sufficient time to stoke the opposition to get the DC City Council and the U.S. NCPC to flip their support to opposition.

Quote USNCPC 1968

Such fit with the pursued legal strategy, of declaring the freeway illegal for lacking support of the legally required government entities for approving additions and subtractions to the Washington, D.C. road network.- even as this was untrue as the Council voted to approve .--- and USNCPC had voted … supporting the NCF and East Leg – positions they would only change after much colorful protest by ECTC – the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis disproportionately centered upon the 69 WW1 era houses in westernmost Brookland nearest to the B&O railroad this one portion of the I-95 NCF displacing houses – in comparison to the 600+ late 1800s houses as per the 1971 plans for its connecting segment to the built portion of the I-95 (now I-395) Center Leg (3rd Street Tunnel) that was also required for the Route 50/logical I-66 east extension, and which remained on planning books for about a decade after the B&O NCF’s abandonment. Indeed it was the 69 – reduced by a 1970 DCDPW revision to 34 – where Brookland meets the B&O railroad immediately across from Catholic University of America, and at the site of the officially proposed I-266 Three Sisters Bridge practically pointing at Georgetown University that marked the two hot spots of latter 1960s-early 1970s anti-freeway protests.

Such strategy by the anti-freeway forces would be matched by such ostensibly pro-freeway forces as the Federal City Council – founded in 1954 as a sort of rival to the Committee of 100 – which in 1966 issued a report on the DC freeway system with a sufficiently heavy emphasis upon opposing delays sufficient to have it endorse building the NCF via the 1964 plan - good for saving perhaps a few weeks on the construction and perhaps cheaper if eminent domain is sufficiently abused by underpaying for properties then the additional retaining walls and tunnel roof segments of something true to the 1962 Kennedy Administration NCF – at the expense of literally splitting the town of Takoma Park Maryland.

Such useful blundering for increasing popular opposition to freeways in general continued not only via the 1964 reports betrayal of the 1962 Kennedy B&O NCF, and the waffling and support for the 1964 plan at least as late as 1968, but with the addition of new design objections with each subsequent official proposal useful for generating new opposition. The 1966 plan, though following the basic 1962 concept, changes the arcs of the roadway connections to and from the I-95 Northeastern Freeway to increase the footprint within Fort Totten Park- an issue that saw being brought up in 1966 just prior to the release of the supplementary study in November 1966 as a new objection. The 1971 plan does this same basic thing with its reconfiguration of the I-70S segment alongside the northwest edge of Takoma Park; though changing it to a cut and cover tunnel through the Takoma Station area between Piney Branch Avenue and Aspen Street, a definite improvement from the 1966 plan’s tightly aligned elevated segment flanking the existing elevated railroad, the 1971 plan places all 6 lanes of I-70S along the railroad’s eastern side, bringing it into direct conflict to displace the northernmost along the railroad’s east within Washington, D.C. landmark Cady Lee Mansion- something I found no mention within the Peter S. Craig and Committee of 100 papers, though nonetheless certainly a potential flashpoint for generating opposition. Further helping sustain this opposition was the slowness of the DCDPW in adopting the K Street Tunnel alternative for I-66.

Such blundering would be the thesis of the antithesis of the openly opposing ever more doctrinaire anti freeway sentiment that under the guise of opposing “white mans roads through black mans homes” even opposed such things as an I-66 K Street Tunnel via some accompanying sentiment against people outside one’s immediate neighborhood – commuters – sufficiently parochial to have people forget how such an attitude would work against them anywhere they went out of their immediate neighborhood.

In the middle were some people making an effort to serve the most by making design suggestions. The leader of the Shepard Heights[?] Neighborhood Association for instance questioned the need for a 3 sisters bridge while favoring new bridges connecting D.C.’s Eastern Avenue to SE and another to Virginia, and B&O I-95 which he proposed be redesigned to spare the 69 or 34 houses in Brookland via being elevated directly over the railroad, taking advantage of the area immediately to its west south of and by extension alongside CUA. The Urban Freeways Committee of the National Urban League would propose an alternative plan for the easternmost segment of the I-66 K Street Tunnel, by having it at Mt Vernon Square swing to beneath New York Avenue and continue to and east of the Center Leg (3rd Street Tunnel), this New York Avenue Tunnel intercepting I-95 as well. Yet their voices were eventually drowned out in a environment being dominated by theatrics and threats with ECTC reportedly being to riot by Covington & Burling at DC City Council meetings.

Council and NCPC votes 1969 1970

The NCF was 1st to disappear from official DC planning, though effectively remaining in that of MD until July 16, 1973.

Then I-266.

Then the I-66 K Street Tunnel

Then everything else but the Center Leg to New York Avenue and then the North Leg east tunnel to 1st street NE. then that, and then the leaving only Center Leg to New York Avenue, completed in 1986 with a set of added walls reducing its capacity in half- while not saving a single dwelling. IOW, a message of lets benefit fewer people for the benefit of fewer people.

Cancelled under the name of opposing “white mans roads through black mans homes”, the D.C. freeway system as planned by 1971 would have displaced a small fraction of the earlier designs:

148, 600+, 172 for completing the full Inner Loop, plus 59 for B&O/PEPCO I-95 and 303 for I-70S.

Granted this could have been further improved significantly be redesigning the connecting segment along New York Avenue, as with my own redesign that reduces the displacement figure of 600+ residences along New York Avenue between New Jersey Avenue and North Capitol Street to as few as 34 all situated between New Jersey Avenue and 4th Street, south of N Street., via a gentler radii tunnel arcing beneath the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and N Street and ultimately connecting to the Grand Arc Mall Tunnel.

Such would be a far better memorial in honoring the positive side of Craig’s actions in preserving neighborhoods – although I have yet to see an ECTC or the “Committee of 100” mention or protest of the 600+ residences along New York Avenue between New Jersey Avenue and North Capitol Street, nor show any interest in extending Washington, D.C.’s monumental core beauty to the area to the relative ugliness of the area to north of Union Station- as I guess can be expected from the sort of doctrinaire anti-freeway, anti-questioning existing railroad design emanating from an attorney and a law firm well connected to the railroad industry, Covington & Burling.

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