A developer is asking permission to shut down a portion of Interstate 395 in the District -- one of the busiest stretches of highway in the city -- so that a mammoth construction project can be completed faster, News4 has learned.
Property Group Partners, which is building the highly complex Capitol Crossing Project over the 3rd Street tunnel, says if sections of I-395 were closed, around-the-clock the work could be accelerated.
A network of beams, columns and girders will have to be built along the tunnel. That framework will then essentially be the base for the new development.
However, approximately 90,000 vehicles a day from all across the region use the 3rd Street tunnel on I-395 in Northwest D.C., the area where these closures are being requested. That traffic would have to find an alternate route.
The developer is asking to close the north portion of I-395 between D Street NW and New York Avenue NW, as well as the 3rd Street southbound on-ramp.
"In both cases, our goal is to enhance the safety of the traveling public and decrease the time during which the roadway system is impacted by our construction," said Robert Braunohler, Regional Vice President of Property Group Partners. "These requests are currently being considered by FHWA, so it would be premature to speculate at this time as to their ultimate disposition."
The Federal Highway Administration confirmed that the request is being considered.
"In November of this year, DDOT submitted two letters to the Federal Highway Administration's District Division asking about the requirements to close a portion of I-395," a FHWA spokesperson wrote in an email.
To say the Capitol Crossing project is complicated would be putting it lightly, which is why this plan is being requested.
Four new office buildings and a residential building will essentially appear and cover the vast open section of the 3rd Street tunnel. G and F streets NW will also be reconnected across the tunnel.
The lattice-like structure of steel alone will cost about $250 million.
The tunnel, which connects New York Avenue and the Southeast-Southwest Freeway is a major cut-through for travelers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, as well as out-of-towners passing through.
Quietly, some at the District Department of Transportation are voicing concern over the plan to shut down the roadway. Some see a looming traffic nightmare and also say the 3rd Street tunnel is a key evacuation route out of the city.
"I can't see it happening," said a source close to the project. "But the developer has to take a shot and see if it will get approved."
In addition to covering the tunnel as part of Capitol Crossing, nearby Massachusetts Avenue is getting a makeover as well. Traffic will eventually enter the 3rd Street tunnel while traveling eastbound on Massachusetts Avenue, not from 3rd Street, which is the current set-up.
The entire Capitol Crossing project is expected to take several years to complete.