Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola Still a Possibility
By August 19, 2021 0 1092•
The future is still possible in Georgetown. In its approved 2022 budget, the D.C. Council included $10 million for the city to purchase 3607 M St. NW — site of the former Key Bridge Exxon gas station — envisioned as a possible future passenger stop for a Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola.
Construction of an electrified aerial tramway slated to carry as many as 6,500 passengers a day over the Potomac River still appears to be a far-off proposition, however. Not only have transportation authorities in Arlington County, Virginia, where Rosslyn is located, sworn off further project funding, but considerable bureaucratic hurdles for the project remain. In areas of the city where transportation infrastructure appears neglected, the concept of futuristic transportation for wealthier Georgetowners is also less popular.
In the nearer term, the site is more likely to be used as an electronic vehicle (EV) charging station or to be held by the city as a potential new Georgetown Metro station near Key Bridge — or even as a Metrobus stop.
“The potential acquisition” of the site “doesn’t mean that the gondola, a subject of controversy on both sides of the river, is anywhere close to actually happening, but it should preserve it as an option by bringing a valuable piece of real estate under the city’s control,” the Washington Business Journal reported this week.
The Georgetowner asked Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto for her reactions to the news that the city will be purchasing the 3607 M St. NW site. In March, she had requested $14 million from the city for purchase of the site and for gondola project feasibility studies.
Pinto implied that her current emphasis for the site is that it be developed as an EV charging station to help electrify the city’s transportation grid. The District “has committed to ambitious climate and clean energy goals and it’s critical that we have the physical infrastructure to meet them. Providing EV charging stations is one way to encourage and support the electrification of private and public transit which is why I have championed this funding and am supporting this project,” Pinto told The Georgetowner.
“The former gas station across from Key Bridge is located at one of the largest arteries connecting D.C. to Virginia. By purchasing this property, D.C. could establish the city’s first major EV charging station and in so doing take a significant step towards electrifying D.C. vehicles and provid[ing] a place to stop to charge for rideshare drivers as they move to electrify their fleets,” Pinto added.
“Now that the budget has passed, DMPED [Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development] and DDOT [D.C. Department of Transportation] should move forward expeditiously to work with public and private partners to pursue a new EV charging station at this site,” she said.
In an interview with the WBJ, Georgetown Business Improvement District CEO Joe Sternlieb agreed with Pinto. “This could be a real incentive for fleet vehicles — taxis, Ubers, Lyfts — to electrify…. A big issue for them before was range anxiety. But if you’re going back and forth from the airports to the District, this station would be right on the route to both National and Dulles.”
“There’s so little land left in Georgetown for this type of use, so we’re grateful that the city is thinking strategically,” Sternlieb told the WBJ. “This all might be a ways off, but if the city had needed to buy this land in the future, it would’ve been so much more expensive.”
Sternlieb maintains that the gondola project continues to have strong support from Georgetown University, the Federal City Council, JBG Smith Properties, the Rosslyn BID, and “even Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis,” according to the Journal. A gondola is simply “one of the main options being studied” right now, Sternlieb said. “Nobody is putting a thumb on the scale for this.”
For an online FAQ from the Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola Project (a pro-gondola advocacy group) go here.