Transforming a Highway Cloverleaf into a Civic Gateway

In the ongoing effort to retrofit the suburban landscape to accommodate transit and pedestrians and make more efficient use of the vast swaths of land occupied by automobile-dominated infrastructure, the cloverleaf interchange has been a primary area of focus. With the vast amounts of land they occupy, and sweeping and scale-less highway ramps, these interchanges have served to divide the suburban landscape and prevent smart growth solutions.

EE&K’s North Capitol Street Cloverleaf Feasibility Study demonstrates how transforming the dozens of acres of land occupied by highway cloverleafs in urbanizing areas presents a new opportunity to introduce a broader range of transportation options into suburban areas, new development and a chance to create new high quality and useable open space.

Although North Capitol Street sits on axis with the axis with the U.S. Capitol Building, the corridor has less to do with the formal streets and grand avenues associated with Pierre L’Enfant’s historic plan for the District of Columbia than 20th century highway engineering. Instead than assuming a role as one of the monumental entries to the District’s historic core, North Capitol Street has always been more of a suburban style arterial, its intersection with a scale-less territory that separates neighborhoods, preventing their organic growth. In an effort to how North Capitol Street and the surrounding public realm can better reflect its symbolic role as a gateway to the historic core of the city, the District of Columbia Office of Planning, District Department of Transportation, and National Capital Planning Commission joined together to commission EE&K to study the feasibility of transforming the North Capitol Cloverleaf.

EE&K focused on exploring ways of transforming the cloverleaf into an urbane pedestrian oriented and transit-supportive environment. The study proposes options for redeveloping the North Capitol Street cloverleaf into a new gateway to the historic core using new community parks and civic spaces, and enhancing public streetscapes. Central to the study included strategies to improve safety, connectivity and incorporating light rail, intermodal transit opportunities. EE&K’s focus on implementation includes interim measures to ease community traffic congestions in the adjacent community and financing alternatives that leverage the new development parcels created by the land reclaimed from the cloverleaf.