Travel through Union Station will soon get a little bit hairier.
Motorists and pedestrians can expect construction and detours for the next 18 months as rehabilitation work begins today on Columbus Plaza and Columbus Circle.
“You can expect to see some contractors out in the plaza today doing a soft mobilization,” Union Station Redevelopment Corp. President David Ball said. “Some of these items have a long lead time, so you might not see actual construction going on this week, but we should have a truck or two out there, and you’ll start seeing some work over the next week.”
The project, which will be concentrated at the southern end of Union Station, is aimed at improving access, circulation and safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles. In addition, landscaping and design alterations will be made to “enhance the dignity befitting the image of the federal government in the national capitol,” according to a project proposal.
The project will widen Massachusetts Avenue Northeast, expand pedestrian traffic islands, redesign lane widths, modify traffic signals and install bicycle lanes and a Bicycle Transit Center at the southern terminal of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, among other things. The cosmetic portion of the project will restore roadways, sidewalks and lawns, eliminate the access road in front of the Columbus Memorial Fountain and improve pedestrian lighting along the walkways.
The plaza has been criticized as difficult to navigate and dangerous for pedestrians. In addition, the deteriorating walkways and curbs, metal fencing, and concrete security barriers have been called an eyesore around Union Station.
The $7.8 million project is a joint venture between the District Department of Transportation, National Park Service, Union Station Redevelopment Corp. and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. It has been in the planning and permitting stages since 2004.