CFA 20/JUL/23-3


Connecticut Avenue, NW, between Belmont Road and Calvert Street, NW
Washington, DC
United States

D.C. Department of Transportation
William Howard Taft Bridge
Installation of pedestrian safety barriers
Review Type


Dear Mr. Lott:

In its public meeting of 20 July conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for the installation of pedestrian safety barriers on the William Howard Taft Bridge, carrying Connecticut Avenue above the Rock Creek valley. Noting the need to balance multiple issues of public health and safety, historic resource protection, and the design of public infrastructure, the Commission did not take an action on the proposal and provided the following comments.

The Commission members expressed regret for the unfortunate necessity to install eight-foot-high barriers at the edges of this notable, monumental Beaux-Arts-era bridge, whose design includes metal railings between masonry piers and twelve ornate masonry pedestals, each bearing a pair of sculpted metal lampposts. In their review, they criticized all of the proposed alternatives for the barriers, specifically rejecting Alternative 3, which features a system of cables supported by a series of metal frames, as too obtrusive; they also raised fundamental concerns about the use of glass panels in Alternative 1, which they advised would require cleaning and maintenance, would be less transparent under many lighting conditions, and would be vulnerable to vandalism. For Alternative 2, featuring a continuous lightweight metal mesh supported between stanchions, they cited the poor quality of the recent installation of this system on the Monroe Street bridge in the Brookland neighborhood, and they would require more information on the design and detailing of the mesh system if this option is to be considered further. With the goal of avoiding the insertion of a new and discordant architectural component at the historic Taft Bridge, they requested the development of another option that recreates the existing configuration of pedestals, piers, and railings in the same materials and design character, but increased to the necessary height to achieve the intended public health and safety objectives.

The Commission recommended continued collaboration with the staff and the other regulatory and advisory stakeholders to address the significant issues of historic preservation policy and practice that are raised by this project. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Everett Lott, Director
D.C. Department of Transportation
250 M Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

cc: Wagdy Wassef, WSP USA
Dr. Richard Bebout, D.C Department of Behavioral Health