MARY PETERS, ADMINISTRATOR
FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION, INFRASTRUCTURE, AND NUCLEAR SAFETY
UNITED STATES SENATE
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss ways to improve access to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. With me are Arthur Hamilton, Associate Administrator, Federal Lands Highway Core Business Unit, and Douglas Laird, a Community Planner who has led the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) efforts on the Kennedy Center study for the past three years.
Much of the information I will discuss is drawn from the Kennedy Center Access Study, mandated by section 1214 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and transmitted to Congress in March 2001. The Access Study was a cooperative effort of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the District of Columbia Department of Public Works, the National Park Service (NPS), and FHWA. The Access Study follows from the National Capital Planning Commission’s Legacy Plan (1997), which first envisioned a plaza over the Potomac Freeway to connect the Center with the surrounding community. A project steering committee of senior staff from each cooperating agency guided the study, which examined a broad range of alternatives for improving access, mobility, and safety to and around the Center. In addition, the Access Study sought input from over thirty other organizations with interests in the future of the Center and its surroundings. Four public open houses were held during the study and presentations were made to local citizen groups.
The 2001 Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (section 378 of P.L. 106-346) provided $10 million for “planning, environmental work, and preliminary engineering of highway, pedestrian, vehicular, and bicycle access to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the District of Columbia.” An environmental assessment is now underway and is expected to be complete in February 2003. Preliminary engineering is proceeding as part of the environmental assessment. It will be completed in enough detail to provide for conceptual review and approval actions from Federal agencies in the spring of 2003.
My comments today will focus on the need for access improvements, some preliminary information about the potential costs of those improvements, and ways of structuring a plan for their implementation.
In its dual roles as the Nation’s showcase for the performing arts and a living memorial to the late President Kennedy, the Center attracts over 5 million visitors a year. Two million patrons enjoy the Center’s rich cultural offerings, while three million more come to visit the building and memorial. The Center is prominently located on the banks of the Potomac River in the city’s Monumental Core. Its proximity to regional highways and transit facilities are part of the Center’s success in drawing visitors and patrons alike. However, the construction of Interstate 66 (I-66) and compromises in the Center’s design, including its placement between the Interstate and the Potomac River, have resulted in conditions that can make the final leg of a journey to the Center challenging, particularly for visitors who arrive by bicycle or on foot.
Patrons who attend nighttime performances at the Center must travel at the end of Washington’s evening rush hour. Drivers face a host of challenges. Their principal problem is chronic recurring congestion, stemming from the truncation of I-66. These connections were left unresolved when development of a larger Inner Loop Freeway was abandoned in the early 1970s. Intersections along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway (hereafter referred to as the Rock Creek Parkway), Ohio Drive, and Virginia Avenue are not only congested, they also suffer high accident rates.
The roads around the Center are heavily used. Nearly 200,000 vehicles traverse the complex of ramps and roadways adjacent to the Center throughout the day. Improvements must ensure that these volumes are served and that traffic is not backed up onto the Roosevelt Bridge or diverted onto neighborhood streets.
Patrons who do not drive to the Center face even greater challenges. There is no direct pedestrian or bicycle path to the Center from the east or southeast from the National Mall, and there are inadequate connections from the riverfront. Pedestrians and bicyclists who approach the Center from the south along the Potomac River encounter a dangerously narrow portal on the east side of the Rock Creek Parkway under the Roosevelt Bridge. Pedestrians are frequently observed to dash across the Parkway near a blind corner on the Center’s southwestern corner. Visitors who might stroll along the river from Georgetown face an indirect, unlit, and underdeveloped path. The Center is disconnected from E Street, which ends in a series of elevated ramps at the Center’s entrance. In the absence of clear walkways, pedestrians improvise a hazardous footpath and sprint across I-66. On the Center’s southeast corner, the bicycle connection to the Custis trail crosses an I-66 off-ramp.
The Foggy Bottom Metro station is half a mile from the Center—an uncomfortable walking distance for many patrons. The Center runs a highly successful Show Shuttle transit service that ferries visitors between Metro and the Center. However, the route is indirect and runs on local streets through an historic neighborhood. Visitors who choose to walk have difficulty finding their way to the Center, since it is not visible from the Metro station and there are no directional signs to guide them.
The Kennedy Center Access Study presented many improvements that would make getting to and from the Center safer and easier, while dramatically improving the Center’s setting and the West End’s cityscape. Major elements of the overall improvement package identified through the Access Study are outlined below.
• Kennedy Center Plaza: The centerpiece of the proposed design is a plaza, set atop a deck over I-66, that would provide a new public space and stately approach to the Center from the east. The plaza would be connected to E and 25th Streets, thus reestablishing the local street grid. I-66 immediately east of the Kennedy Center would be modified to accommodate traffic beneath the plaza. The plaza, using Interstate air rights, would contain a large public square and two building sites. We understand the Center intends to develop these buildings to house exhibits on the performing arts and provide administrative and rehearsal space for the Center and the Washington Opera. The plaza would create a rare opportunity to define new civic space in the Monumental Core.
• Riverfront Access: A grand open stairway (with elevators for the handicapped) would link the Kennedy Center terrace to the riverfront promenade, where a floating dock could serve river boats. The open design would preserve views to the river from the Rock Creek Parkway . These changes would facilitate pedestrian, bicycle, and river access and restore an important element of the building’s original design.
• E Street Approach: E Street would be modified at its western terminus to link the Center with President’s Park and the core of the City. Through-traffic would continue to use the E Street expressway below the plaza, while local traffic would use an improved surface-level street connected to the plaza.
• Traffic and Safety North of the Kennedy Center: New connections would be built between the Rock Creek Parkway and I-66 in the vicinity of K Street. This would improve the Interstate’s directness and convenience, diverting traffic from the Parkway to I-66. Reduced through-traffic on the Parkway would improve the riverfront promenade for pedestrians and cyclists. The improvements would also relieve congestion and address safety hazards at the Virginia Avenue, Rock Creek Parkway, and 27th Street intersections.
• Traffic and Safety South of the Kennedy Center: The complex intersection of Ohio Drive with the terminus of I-66 and Rock Creek Parkway would be grade-separated to relieve hazardous conditions and congestion.
• Transit Improvements: The E Street improvements would allow the Kennedy Center Show Shuttle to travel a direct route, thereby avoiding neighborhood streets. Alignment options for possible future light rail service, which could provide direct access to the Center, would be preserved.
• Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements: The plaza and connecting facilities would provide new linkages between the Kennedy Center and the surrounding community. Safe bicycle connections would also be provided to the Custis/I-66 trail across the Roosevelt Bridge.
• Signing Improvements: Effective directional signs for through and local pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular traffic would be installed.
• Parking Improvements: The area below the plaza would provide at least 500 new parking spaces. This parking would meet the needs of the plaza’s new buildings, ensuring that traffic generated by the site could be accommodated without intruding upon the scarce parking supply in the surrounding neighborhood. It could also serve the Kennedy Center’s overflow parking needs.
We understand that these proposed improvements have been coordinated with, and are consistent with, the garage expansion and related site improvements that are part of the Center’s comprehensive building renovation plan.
Building the improvements described in the Access Study will be complex and challenging. I would also like to emphasize that throughout the course of the Access Study no specific funding sources for the various improvements were identified nor were funding plans developed for the improvements.
A preliminary capital cost estimate was developed during the Access Study. To put the estimate into perspective, several caveats must be kept in mind:
• The estimate was based on preliminary conceptual designs. The plaza’s final configuration and the designs of other improvements, including any security enhancements, are likely to change as engineering proceeds. More will be known once the environmental assessment and preliminary design now underway are completed.
• Gross quantity estimates were derived from visual inspections and adjusted from base-mapping with engineering experience. They are not based on accurately measured quantities, since no such data has been available through this stage of the project’s development.
• Estimates were based on typical unit costs for infrastructure construction in the District of Columbia in 1999 and were adjusted during the Access Study to the year 2000.
• Due to the very preliminary nature of the estimates, costs were not adjusted to reflect inflation over the period of final design and construction, roughly estimated to be 8-10 years.
• Improvements at the base of the Roosevelt Bridge will rely in part on the outcome of a current bridge study. The District of Columbia is now in the third year of examining bridge conditions. Bridge options could range from minor structural and geometric improvements to complete bridge reconstruction on a new alignment. The process for identifying, reviewing, and finalizing options could take several more years.
• Access Study costs were developed to provide a rough idea of the resources required to implement the improvements and nothing else.
Table 1 provides a summary of these initial rough estimates. Initial site investigations are only now beginning and costs are likely to rise as additional conditions affecting construction are revealed. For example, a major sewer line (known as the Dulles Interceptor) was brought to our attention in May 2002. An area below the Center was built around these sewers, which run along the Center’s length. The sewers will limit circulation from the Center’s parking garage to the new parking area below the plaza and will require us to reconsider how traffic from the Center will reach westbound I-66 and the Roosevelt Bridge. Such is the nature of conceptual design. Cost estimates can only achieve greater certainty as concepts are refined and a thorough engineering analysis is undertaken.
Preliminary Estimated Capital Costs (Plaza and Access) in year 2000 Dollars for Kennedy Center Access Study Area Long-Range Plan Improvements
Plan Element Cost (millions)
· Plaza, including surface-level E Street connection $ 223
to 23rd Street and 500 parking spaces on one level
beneath the plaza.
· Riverfront Connection 13
North Sector 11
South Sector 9
E Street (21st to 23rd Streets) 13
TOTAL $ 269
A summary of the capital and operational costs associated with the improvements is provided below. Capital cost estimates define the construction and engineering costs associated with designing and building the proposed improvements, while operations and maintenance costs give insight into the ongoing, recurring costs required by the new infrastructure.
Preliminary capital cost estimates for the conceptual plan were developed using typical unit costs for infrastructure construction in the District of Columbia. These estimates are based on quantities estimated through visual inspections. No exploratory work was undertaken in their development. Table 1 summarizes the estimated capital costs for major plan elements. The principal cost is for the reconfiguration of roadways and the construction of the plaza over I-66. The estimated cost of this improvement is approximately $223 million (all costs are in year 2000 dollars), and it includes the construction of a new, surface-level E Street connecting the plaza to 23rd Street. It also includes one level of parking (approximately 500 spaces) beneath the plaza.
The plaza portion of the project presents a complex challenge, and this difficulty is increased by the need to coordinate the construction of two buildings within the plaza. The plaza and buildings cannot be built independently, because ancillary building infrastructure (such as waste sewers and utilities) must be carried to the building along or within the plaza deck itself. The project must rise as a single, coordinated enterprise.
Table 1 does not include any costs for the two buildings within the boundaries of the plaza except for grading and excavation of their footprints as part of developing the total area beneath the plaza for parking and relocated roadways. Plaza costs assume the buildings will be built. If the buildings are not built, the cost to fill these two spaces, totaling 100,000 square feet in the plaza, would add another $25.5 million to the $223 million plaza costs (in unadjusted year 2000 dollars).
The costs reflected in Table 1 include one level of parking beneath the plaza (approximately 500 spaces). They assume that excavation, columns, and foundations are part of the deck costs and that the cost for parking includes flooring, ceilings, walls, and outfitting the space for parking.
Roadway and pedestrian/bike path costs were estimated using District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) standards for materials, including bituminous asphalt for the primary roadways and concrete pavement with granite curbing for plaza roads. Rock excavation costs were calculated for lowering I-66 and constructing parking under the plaza. Roadway excavation/ demolition was included for the removal of existing roadways that would be abandoned under the new design.
The plaza construction cost assumes a concrete deck and steel girders with the deck and girders totaling approximately five feet in depth. This is the deck depth required to support roadways and vehicular traffic. The two new buildings will have their own support systems. All bridges and overpasses are assumed to consist of concrete decks with steel girders. Retaining walls are assumed to be reinforced concrete with footings.
Landscaping and urban design costs include normal landscaping components as well as specific features and surface treatments. For the plaza area, these include special surface treatment for accommodating outdoor events on the public square, a fountain feature, building entrance zones, and side/rear yards for the buildings.
The cost estimate also includes basic mechanical and electrical systems for areas underneath the plaza. The roadway area under the plaza would not be a tunnel; it would be open on three sides. The best engineering assessment at this time is that full-scale mechanical ventilation systems would not be required. However, this issue should be further analyzed during the design phase after the size of the plaza and final roadway configurations have been determined. In addition, fire and emergency access requirements should be determined at that time.
A 40 percent contingency was added to the estimated construction costs. A 15 percent planning and design fee, a 15 percent construction management fee, a 10 percent engineering/administrative fee, and a 10 percent maintenance of traffic through construction work zones fee was then applied to the post-contingency cost estimates to yield the total capital cost.
The capital costs outlined above are for a traditional design-bid-build contracting mechanism. A design-build contract might prove advantageous to coordinate the design and construction of the plaza with its associated buildings, but it would come at a higher cost and require monies in advance. In contrast, design-bid-build contracting comes with more certainty about fiscal costs, but at the expense of a delayed schedule, which in itself will cause costs to rise with inflation.
Operations and Maintenance Costs
Operation and maintenance of the improvements identified in the Access Study would incur continuing costs. These costs would include:
Lighting. An extensive overhead lighting system would be required under the plaza, using standard lighting fixtures on the roadway sections. If special lighting fixtures were used on the plaza, maintenance costs would be slightly higher. Street light lamps would typically be replaced on a four-year cycle. Overhead lights under the plaza should be re-lamped on a two-year basis. Electrical power for the lighting systems would be the only operational cost.
Ventilation (if required). If subsequent design studies determine that the areas beneath the plaza require ventilation, carbon monoxide detection, closed-circuit television, heat detection and traffic control systems, regular service would be needed to ensure the systems are functioning properly. These systems would require electrical power.
Mechanical. Lowering the grade of I-66 may require a storm water pumping station. If a pumping station is needed, the sump pumps would require regular maintenance. Operational costs would be minimal.
Structural. This includes normal bridge or structural maintenance items such as drainage system cleaning, concrete repair, girder painting, graffiti removal, leak sealing, etc. Annual costs would be minimal for many years, but the long-term costs for maintaining a large elevated structure would be significant. A comprehensive maintenance program that would keep drains operating, cracks sealed, and girders rust free would extend the life of the structure. A major rehabilitation project should be expected in approximately 30 years.
Roadway. Items to be maintained include pavement, pavement markings, striping, curbs and gutters, and sidewalks. Pavement markings would need replacing every five years. Pavement, curbs and gutters, and sidewalks have an expected lifetime of 20 years between major rehabilitations. Minor maintenance, such as pothole and sidewalk repairs, would occur annually or when required.
Signs. Signs would require maintenance to repair knockdowns (from accidents) and graffiti removal. If overhead signs are used under the plaza, they would require regular maintenance to replace bulbs and/or lighting fixtures on the sign structures. There would also be some costs for electrical service.
Landscaping. Trees and shrubs would be trimmed and/or pruned on a regular schedule and replaced when necessary.
Snow and Ice Control. All roadway surfaces would require application of abrasives and/or salt during inclement winter weather.
Cleaning. All roadways would require regular sweeping and flushing, and the roadsides should be kept free of litter.
Annual maintenance costs, except for the regular replacement of streetlight lamps, snow removal, and cleaning would be relatively low for many years. After 10 years or so, annual costs would start to rise as various elements reach the end of their service lives. Major rehabilitation work should be anticipated in 30 years. The costs for maintenance and operation for all elements of the new deck, pedestrian bridges, and roadways are estimated at approximately $100,000 per year. This estimate is based upon current DDOT expenditures for major roadways.
With a complex and highly visible project of this nature, the roles of each agency responsible for the enterprise must be described as carefully as the project itself. We know that strong institutional arrangements and clear understandings of responsibilities are critical to keeping the project on schedule and containing costs. These agreements will provide a firm foundation for success, but they must build in sufficient flexibility so the parties can adapt to unforeseen circumstances.
A detailed memorandum of agreement (MOA) is the best way to meet these goals. This would provide the various agencies with a complete understanding of their requirements and allow their roles to evolve as the project progresses. The agencies involved include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, DDOT, NPS, and FHWA. Elements of the MOA are outlined below.
For each party, the MOA would identify:
• Jurisdictional and maintenance responsibilities for the project;
• Administrative, financial, and project implementation and management oversight;
• Engineering and other services in connection with the survey, design, construction, and improvements of the project.
The body of the MOA would identify individual agency roles in more detail including:
• Lead agency for project development and what this entails, such as final design approval and funding requirements and responsibilities.
• Cooperating agency or agencies and what this entails, such as providing consultant assistance contracts, permits, and right-of-way plans.
• Definition of the standards under which the project is to be designed and constructed, such as American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) design standards for roads and National Building Code and National Electrical Code for buildings.
• Final disposition of as-built plans and project records.
• Responsibilities for providing comments and concurrences on milestones in the development and implementation of the project.
• Funding and how it is provided, and in accordance with what applicable rules and regulations it will be administered.
The MOA would also include standard clauses required by law, including references to the Anti-Deficiency Act, Non-Discrimination, Prohibitions on Lobbying, and coordination of responsibilities under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, FHWA is committed to work with the Kennedy Center, the District of Columbia, the National Park Service, and others at the Federal and local level on possible access improvements to the Kennedy Center that would improve the safety and efficiency of all transportation modes in its vicinity. We look forward to working with this Committee over the coming years to ensure that the transportation system around the Kennedy Center serves the Center and all residents in the best possible manner.
Thank you again for the opportunity to discuss the results of the Kennedy Center Access Study. I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.