DDOT is working on a draft EIS document for the South Capitol Street improvement project. They've narrowed the build alternatives down to two, which can be seen in the winter newsletter (Adobe required). [My first complaint here is that the website for the project hasn't been updated in quite a while (since February it looks like) - it doesn't have any meetings after August 2005 listed for example - and that just smacks of sloppy management. If you're going to have a website for a project, then run it well. Otherwise it undermines confidence.]
The first piece of news I got from the May 4th meeting is that the present Frederick Douglas Bridge will be upgraded and that that project was out for bid. One part of this will be to remove, salvage and replace the present handrails with ones that are "better" for cyclists (no details on what that will look like).
The upgrades will be small since a new bridge, chosen from one of four designs, will be built soon. If it's the cable-stayed bridge, the bike/ped lanes will be in the middle (think Brooklyn Bridge) raised up above traffic - making it the option that most separates cyclists from traffic. It will be quieter and provide views both upstream and downstream. If the stayed bascule or arched bascule are chosen the ped lanes will be on the outside (think 14th Street Bridge, but on both sides). The retractile bridge has the bike lanes below the roadway but on the outside passing first inside the truss and then outside of it.
No matter which bridge is chosen certain things are assured. The bike lanes will connect to the Suitland Parkway on the east side on roadways. The alignment of the bridge will be different on the east side of the river (farther downstream). On the west side, the bridge will connect to the baseball stadium and to the Anacostia Riverwalk via stairs (probably with bike troughs), bike traffic will either be diverted to 1st St. SE and SW or go along bike lanes on the new South Capitol Street.
As for South Capitol Street itself, the goal is to change that street from a highway to a boulevard with slower traffic and more space for bikes and pedestrians. They'll be more at grade intersections which should slow traffic as should a proposed traffic oval at Potomac Avenue. There are also streetscape amenities planned for South Capitol North of M street and along New Jersey Avenue SE.
I asked John Deatrick of DDOT about the Shepherd Industrial Spur, which is partially in the project area - namely at Suitland Parkway and along Firth Sterling Avenue. I was disappointed that they were not making plans that would allow for connecting the bridge bike lanes to the rail right-of-way, should it be purchased. I was, however, told the city was still pursuing the right-of-way. The district needs to find out what CSX owns. Then they plan to bring in lawyers to arrange a "forced abandonment" of the rail bed. The firm they hired successfully did a similar thing in Cincinnati. If successful, the city could get the land for less than the $16 million they'd offered. And then they're playing even dirtier..
And while that effort is under way, the District intends to convince the railroad that voluntary abandonment is in its best interests. The city is threatening to make use of an obscure law that requires a railroad to cover as much as 10 percent of the total cost of bridges crossing its right of way. On this front, CSX could end up receiving some hefty bills: The 11th Street Bridge, which runs over the right of way, needs refurbishing, and so does the Welsh Memorial Bridge, according to Tangherlini. On top of that, he adds, the city may want bridges for some potential bike paths.