Mayor Bowser's latest DC budget proposal includes $165 million to replace the Hopscotch Bridge. Once a new bridge is open, an eyesore will become a prime public space, and long-awaited expansions of Union Station and DC Streetcar can finally happen.
Today, Hopscotch Bridge carries H Street over the railroad tracks behind Union Station. In order to make room for trains to pass below, the bridge rises high above H Street's normal elevation. With solid walls and the Union Station parking garage on either side, the bridge is a three block long stretch of desolation, amid an otherwise vibrant part of the city.
Replacing the bridge will change that.
A new bridge, designed specifically to accommodate buildings on either side, will make it possible to develop the air rights above Union Station's railyard, and to replace the parking garage with a new train hall. What was desolate will become a major new public space, with landmark architecture, a mix of uses, and a more open, European-style train hall.
That development is called Burnham Place. It's a very ambitious plan.
Streetcar can go downtown
Building a new Hopscotch Bridge also opens to door to finally extending the H Street Streetcar to downtown Washington and Georgetown. The streetcar doesn't specifically need a new bridge, but timing is an issue. DDOT doesn't want to extend the streetcar now only to rip up tracks and suspend service in a couple of years when the bridge is torn down and replaced anyway.
As it is, tearing down and replacing the existing bridge will mean temporarily removing the streetcar stop atop the bridge. That's bad enough, but it would be a much worse situation with streetcars running downtown.
Mayor Bowser's proposal would fund $165 million in 2019 and 2020. The DC Council will have to approve the budget before it becomes law. Even if it does, another $40 million would still be needed before construction could begin. That money would either come from other sources, or a future year's budget.
Once funding is fully in place and DDOT completes the final design, construction should take about two years.