It's one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in the District: a plan to deck-over the Center Leg Freeway of Interstate 395, just west of Capitol Hill. The $1.3 billion development is good news for the city -- but it'll cause heartache for thousands of commuters who use the route every day.
Currently, I-395 downtown is a left-over, unfinished 1960s highway project that carries 90,000 vehicles a day.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans describes it as "a scar down the middle of the District."
The city and developers are launching the Capitol Crossing project, designed to cover up three long blocks of the highway and construct offices, housing and 70,000 square feet of retail in five new, mixed-use buildings above. The project will run north from E Street NW to Massachusetts Avenue NW, between 2nd and 3rd streets.
Once finished, Capitol Crossing will bring 8,000 permanent jobs and generate more than $40 million a year in new taxes, say developers and city officials. Developers also promise large public spaces, and more than 1,100 parking spaces and 440 bicycle spaces in four underground levels.
"It's a major infrastructure project," said Bill Jarvis of the Jarvis Company. "It's a major development project. It's a major economic development project. So it's going to be very beneficial to the city in the long run."
But in the short run, traffic -- already a rush-hour nightmare -- will get worse. A plan to close down I-395 during initial construction was rejected; instead, staggered lane closings will be used.
"Without a doubt, this will be one of the biggest construction projects we've ever done in the city," Evans said. "...Well worth it, but it's going to be an enormous inconvenience for this part of town."
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she's ordered city transportation officials to do what they can to ease traffic, but said economic development is her goal.
"Our administration will be known for how we attract and have a focus on underdeveloped and under-resourced parts of Washington," she said.
Lane closures could begin in a few weeks.
The first building is expected to be done in 2017, with the entire project completed by 2019.