We think of bridges as the means by which we can travel to destinations, to somewhere. This is so true that the Alaskan “bridge to nowhere” was the subject of ridicule. Nonetheless, many bridges are destinations in their own right in one of two not mutually exclusive ways. They may be places where we stop and experience the sense of place they afford. Or sometimes they are destinations in the sense that we stop, not on the bridge, but away from the bridge, to experience them. I present some bridges to you IN THIS LINK
so you may partake of their beauty, to a limited degree, on paper, far removed from their actual existence.
Potomac River Crossing
I am inspired by these bridges to suggest a new bridge in the Washington, D.C., area. There has been a long debate over whether a bridge should be built over the Potomac River north of the American Legion Bridge, part of the I-495 Capital Beltway. There have been studies done of the number of commuters in Maryland and Virginia who drive south to the American Legion Bridge and then drive north on the other side. Furthermore, since no pedestrian traffic is allowed on American Legion Bridge, there is no pedestrian bridge over the Potomac for the 40 miles between D.C.’s Chain Bridge and the bridge at Point of Rocks, Maryland.
I believe there should be a bridge but it should be very different. It should have the sights, sounds, and smells of a river crossing. Accordingly, it would not allow normal commuter car traffic. Yet, it would still provide for commuter traffic; how so?
A commuter who wished to cross the river could arrive by car, motorcycle, bus, bicycle, or on foot. Commuters using a car, motorcycle or bus would stop at a transportation node. The node would include a bus stop, an open-air trolley stop, a parking garage for cars and motorcycles, rental bikes, bike storage, and pedicabs for hire. Commuters would leave the node and proceed across the river by open-air trolley, pedicab, bicycle or on foot. The trolley would stop at the foot of the bridge to give passengers the option of proceeding on foot. The trolley would stop again at the end of the bridge to pick up pedestrians wishing to travel to the transportation node on the far side of the river.
Thus, there would be two transportation nodes, one on each side of the river but distant enough from the river that neither would be able to be seen or heard from the bridge. The bridge would be only two lanes wide and it would have three vertical levels. The top level would be for emergency vehicles and trolleys. The middle level would be for pedestrians, bicyclists and pedicabs. The lowest level would be for fishing.
Spero columnist James Thunder is an attorney based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
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