Proposed Kennedy Center Metro Stop Too Expensive

Interesting. Imagine if the Kennedy Center had its own Metro station. The walk from Foggy Bottom is kind of a pain in the ass. Unfortunately for the Kennedy Center, they’re still stuck in no man’s land without easy access to public transit.

Here’s an article that we dug up in the Washington Post from February 18th, 1966, a full ten years before Metro opened up.

Rerouting Washington’s proposed subway system to provide direct service to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts would cost at least $12.3 million and cause a myriad of problems, the National Capital Transportation agency chief has reported.

In a letter to several legislators who had requested a study, NCTA Administrator Walter J. McCarter said putting a basement station in the Center “would increase construction, operating, maintenance and land acquisition costs.”

The closest station under the plan approved by Congress would be at 23d and H streets, nw. about a 6-minute walk from the Center, McCarter said.

“In their own interests, the Center may wish to enhance the relationship to the station by constructing a pleasant, above-ground walkway from the station to the Center,” affording “a stimulating view of the building and its riverside setting,” he said.

Changing the subway route would require other station shifts and a resulting decrease in service for the system’s riders “to sreve [sic] the modest additional number of Cultural Center patrons, who might ride rail transit if a station were in the basement” instead of where it is planned, McCarter noted.

Rep. William B. Widnall (R-N.J.), who has been urging that the Center be shifted to a downtown location, cited McCarter’s report as support for his argument that the Center’s plans should be reviewed.

Though, such a review would be costly, he said, “It would save millions of dollars in an effort to bail out an economically infeasible location.”

McCarter’s repor dealt only with the problem of changing the subway route and did not comment on the merits of the Center site. One issue in the controversy has been the accessibility of the present site, particularly for the poor.

Construction for the Kennedy Center had only started the previous December, and wasn’t completed until 1971. How different do you think things would be if there was a stop in the basement?

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Kennedy Center from the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.
Kennedy Center from the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

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  • word2thewyz

    As is so often the case, it didn’t have to be this way. New York City developer William Zeckendorf in February 1954 unviled plans for L’Enfant Plaza that would include a concert hall, convention center, and opera house which would be built over the railroad tracks and Southeast Freeway and connect with the Potomac River waterfront. (Zagoria, Sam. “Zeckendorf ‘Ideal City’ Is Described to Officials.” Washington Post. February 17, 1954). Today, that would have put it squarely on our Orange and Blue Metro lines.

    L’Enfant Plaza was favored by the Federal City Council and the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA). But those plans were complicated when President Dwight Eisenhower created a District of Columbia Auditorium Commission, whose charge was to formulate plans “for the design, location, financing, and construction in the District of Columbia of a civic auditorium, including an Inaugural Hall of Presidents and a music, fine arts, and mass communications center”. The Commission favored locating the cultural center in Foggy Bottom, and Congress ultimately approved that site. (Barthelmes, Wes. “SW Auditorium Site Favored.” Washington Post. November 4, 1956.)

    • omaryak

      L’Enfant Plaza would have been an amazing site, especially if direct service from Northern Virginia (Franconia-Springfield) had gone through on the Yellow Line as originally planned!

  • dcjpad

    The Kennedy Center has no “easy access to public transit”? There’s a Metrobus stop right in front of the building, and shuttle service to Foggy Bottom-GWU Station.

    • Jacqueline Veloz Lockward

      You can’t compare bus with metro 🙁

      • Jeffry Engberg

        Sure you can, it’s cheaper and sometimes quicker depending on where you are headed.

        • Andrew Kolb

          The 80 bus that goes from the Kennedy Center just had a service cut, and it wasn’t exactly the most regular bus to begin with. I think it comes once an hour now at most.

  • Peoples Hernandez

    Every Metro train I’ve been on smells like the back of a jumbo jet after on overnight flight anyway. Why bother?

  • DCloyalist

    1. The KenCen is IN Foggy Bottom… and 2. If you think a three-block walk, from the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro Station, is too much walking, what are you doing in a city? Must Metro come right into the building/destination?