Roosevelt Island bridge proposal gains momentum

A proposal to create a bridge between Foggy Bottom and Theodore Roosevelt Island is gaining momentum in community and political circles.

A Dupont Circle resident has spearheaded an effort to connect the island, located in the middle of the Potomac River, to D.C. with a new bridge which would span from Virginia Avenue to Rosslyn, Va. Right now the 90-acre federal park is accessible only through a footbridge in Virginia.

“We need a nice, functional and aesthetically pleasing bridge that would make a statement to the nation as well as make use of good parkland,” Mallof said before a meeting of the Foggy Bottom Association last month.

Mallof initially presented the proposal last November during a public hearing on bridge construction in the District held by D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham, a Ward 1 Democrat, chairman of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment. City officials may also discuss the bridge proposal at this month’s District Department of Transportation budget meeting.

“(The bridge project) is very intriguing, especially when we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars for other projects,” Graham said during the hearing. “The perceived impact on two locations seems very compelling.”

A representative from Graham’s office said Mallof would need support from both government officials and the public if he hopes to get his proposal on the budget of the District Department of Transportation. In addition, any changes to Roosevelt Island would need the approval of the National Parks Service and other agencies.

Since both the island and its points of contact are federal land, the federal government would likely assume the project’s cost. Two District construction firms, Dim Jim Harris and HDR construction, have budgeted the project to cost under $35 million, 1 percent of the total $3.5 billion budget the city allots for such projects, Mallof said in his testimony.

Since the hearing, Mallof said he has solicited the superintendent of the C&O Canal and Rock Creek Park as well as the Director of the DDOT, Emeka Monome, for support. He also spoke to the Foggy Bottom Association and the board of directors of the Citizens Association of Georgetown.

Many of these groups said they were intrigued yet non-committal because the idea is still in such early stages of development. Betsy Cooley, of the CAG, said he merely presented them with the idea.

“We were really intrigued at his idea,” Cooley said. “It was very interesting, but he didn’t come to us for endorsement.”

Joy Howell, president of the FBA, added she wants to see more details before determining a plan of action.

“His idea seems like it has merit. It will bring an interesting connection from Foggy Bottom to Roosevelt Island,” Howell said. “We lent our support, but depending on what is needed we could then determine how we can help.”

Later this month Mallof hopes to speak with Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), chair of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Mallof said, “The key is to keep the boulder slowly and patiently rolling up the hill, with hopefully more folks helping to push as we then reach the top together.”

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