Signaling his refusal to budge on the controversial Pike-Pine Bridge replacement project, Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday made public for the first time a map of the massive project’s already-completed work, showing the path the bridge must take as part of the $55 million light rail expansion.
The project requires the demolition of several historic buildings along the Pike side of the river and the removal of thousands of trees to build a new bridge across the waterway. Its ripple effects have disrupted activities at Union Station, destroyed fish habitat and left property owners, along with multiple city agencies, upset about the toll it has exacted on their lives.
The project — called the first major tunnel under the Potomac — has cost $1.2 billion. By comparison, the project to build the loop for Metro’s Silver Line has an estimated cost of $6.7 billion, and it is not scheduled to be completed until 2027.
Over the course of the project, the city has proposed 175 potential preservation sites along the Pike and was subsequently thwarted when they were not found to be historically significant. Twenty-seven building locations, including the firehouse at 19th and Pierce streets, were approved for demolition, while 38 were placed on the city’s proposed Preservation List but deemed “not historically significant” so no demolition could be initiated.
To make up for lost preservation opportunities, the city’s Greenbelt and Chinquapin Hills Natural Areas will be opened up for hiking, hiking trails will be constructed and Park officials will plant 80,000 new trees, reflecting its status as the biggest park system in the nation.
When completed, the original Pike-Pine will still be closed to non-emergency traffic, and a shuttle bus will be in operation.
While the bridge is coming to an end, construction has not ceased.
According to a Metrolinx contract, on Thursday crews began erecting metal girders on the shore of the Capital Crescent Trail along the river east of 17th Street NW. Until plans for the replacement bridge can be finalized, Metrolinx must continue providing bus shuttle service to and from Union Station to keep the rail lines open for passengers.
Friday, city and Metrolinx officials will meet to discuss a plan to extend Metrolinx’s operations along the Pike for the next three years.
Last month, the Federal Transit Administration approved of the city’s plans to reconstruct the Pike, allowing the city to proceed with a 40-day period between demolition of the structures and use of the light rail tracks.
The city is waiting for contracts with Metrolinx and HNTB to be finalized, and for its environmental review with the city’s auditors to be completed.