Portal Will Ease Longstanding DC Traffic Snarl

WASHINGTON ― A portal under a future skyline will open soon in the center of the District.

A tunnel will give eastbound drivers on Massachusetts Avenue direct access to the southbound lanes of the 3rd Street Tunnel, eliminating the present convoluted merge via 3rd Street NW.

Sean Cahill, senior vice president of development for Property Group Partners, said the bore is expected to open in mid-April.

“The Mass. Avenue portal will replace the 3rd Street on-ramp, so the cut-through of Cobb Park will go away. There will be a new traffic pattern along H Street and 3rd Street, and the Mass. Avenue portal will be open on or about April 15 of this year,” Cahill said.

The portal will send eastbound drivers below street level and southward into the newly decked section of the 3rd Street Tunnel. Drivers continuing east toward Union Station will stay to the right past the entrance to Interstate 395. The current flyover ramp connecting 3rd Street to the southbound lanes of I-395 will be demolished.

A sunken highway through the center of the District, I-395 once consisted of three separate tunnels between the Southeast/Southwest Freeway and New York Avenue. No more: The gap between the two longest tunnels was successfully bridged last year. Drivers now travel over a mile beneath an emerging enclave dubbed Capitol Crossing.

“All of that work, including the schedule for the opening of the portal, has been done in close coordination and lockstep with [the District Department of Transportation],” Cahill said. He added that all the roads, ramps, parks, tree boxes, curbs, gutters and sidewalks surrounding Capitol Crossing will be cemented into their final configuration by October.

The ramp from the northbound lanes of the 3rd Street Tunnel onto Massachusetts Avenue is scheduled to be fully open to drivers by early April. As construction continues, engineers are hopeful that the opening of both portals will alleviate chronic traffic backups on and below Massachusetts Avenue at the tunnel on- and off-ramps.

More midday lane closures are scheduled through the end of February for ongoing utility work and manhole installation. The road will be closed on Saturday, Feb. 25.

“The traveling public has been very patient will with us over the last two years, and our disruption process, but I think the rewards will be quite beneficial for both vehicular traffic as well as pedestrians,” Cahill said.

When the $1.3 billion project is complete, five buildings will rise from the seven-acre site above the freeway. The first mid-rise is expected to open next year; the entire complex is scheduled to be open for business by 2020.

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