Photo by dbking.

Between Dupont Circle and Q Street, a segment of the Connecticut Avenue underpass is exposed to the sky, needlessly monopolizing space from the block’s active street scene. DC should cover that section to reclaim the space for human use.

In 1950, with great fanfare, the District opened the vehicular underpass, allowing Connecticut Avenue to dive under Dupont Circle.

In March 2007, DDOT finished refurbishing the automobile underpass, but the city missed an excellent opportunity to restore the gashed avenue above.

M.V. Jantzen proposed a median park directly above the underpass. This could provide a larger space for the weekend farmers’ market, art sales, and other events that the stodgy National Park Service may not permit in the circle itself. On the other hand, the rest of the time, this park could suffer from desolation due to its separation from the active sidewalks. It’s difficult to draw people to sit in what is essentially a grassy street median. Another solution would be to place the street over the underpass and double the widths of the sidewalks.

Left: Median park option. Right: Center roadway with wider sidewalks.

Connecticut Avenue, for that one block, would become much like P Street or Nineteenth Street (on the north side) as they approach the circle. Each provides a travel lane and a parking lane in each direction— far different from the cramped and highway-like atmosphere on Connecticut Avenue.

The businesses along the block would benefit from sidewalks that will double in width as well as from easier access from the roadway, parking spaces and pedestrians on the opposite side of the avenue. The increased sidewalk space would relieve the pedestrian congestion on the sidewalks, particularly on the east side, and provide space for outdoor seating and for stores’ promotional placards. Pairs of facing street benches perpendicular to the avenue could provide more seating for shop patrons and passersby.

This would be more expensive to build than the median park, as it would need to be strong enough to carry traffic, but it enhances existing, heavily-used sidewalk spaces.

Plans are already in motion to build over I-395 and the National Capital Planning Commission dreams of covering the E Street Expressway in Foggy Bottom east of the Kennedy Center. Compared to those proposals, this one is simpler, cheaper and would benefit more residents.

Cross-posted at Left for LeDroit.

Update, February 9th: We’ve removed the photographs from M.V. Jantzen utilizing Julian Hunt’s image and the intro image from the Washingtoniana collection via Paul Williams’ book. Eric has created another variant of his own image to illustrate the median park option.