D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue Is Set for a Major Overhaul

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Pennsylvania Avenue, the iconic 1.2-mile long street between the U.S. Capital and the White House, is getting a major overhaul.

The National Historic Site, known for presidents, protestors, and traffic lights, is getting a makeover in the District of Columbia. Three current proposals involve bike lanes, bus lanes, and more space for pedestrians.

Jalopnik and other news sites reported on the recent announcement.

D.C. Avenue Is Urban Jungle With Few Moments of Traffic

City officials are hoping to bring people to the often-sparse street. Right now, it’s a seven or eight-lane highway with an average of 35,000 cars traveling it daily. There’s also a protected two-way bike lane in the middle of it. 

Several important buildings line the street, including the National Archives, the Department of Justice, the Treasury, the FBI headquarters at the J. Edgar Hoover Building, and the Canadian Embassy.

“The avenue has been transitioning for some time,” Beth Miller, director of physical planning for the NCPC, told DCist. “Designed in the 1970s as America’s Main Street, it is no longer a crosstown thoroughfare, nor does it have the characteristics to be a successful retail street.”

Sure, new presidents travel down the street after inaugurations. But the National Capital Planning Commission has spent the last 25 years figuring out what to do with that stretch of roadway.

Three Plans On The Table For Pennsylvania Avenue

Recently, the group came up with “Urban Capital,” “Linear Green,” and “Civil Stage” plans.

“Urban Capital” takes the avenue down to four lanes while adding two bus lanes and expanding the sidewalks. “Linear Green” is all about pedestrians making the road a two-lane busway with protected bike lanes and a park on both sides. Finally, the “Civil Stage” splits avenue with a vast median pedestrian strip, leaving a single lane for each traffic — buses, and bicycles on each side of the strip.

The commission wants to make the avenue a place for events as well as an inviting space for city residents. Planners say the three proposals could take certain aspects of each other in the final plan.

DCist reported that the public would get a crack at the planning commission’s plans with public comments taken through July. The group will review the comments in the fall and make plan changes if necessary.

The final proposal is still in the works, but the commission wants at least two roadway lanes with enough space for inauguration parades. At the same time, issues like accessibility for disabled people and security also need to be addressed.

One Plan For Upcoming American Anniversary

Officials want something to come together by 2026. That year will mark 250 years of America as a country.

But there’s still more needed for that corridor in the nation’s capital.