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27 September 2013

Dear Mr. Sarles:

In its meeting of 19 September, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a new submission for modifications to improve flood protection at twelve Metrorail system vent shafts in the Federal Triangle and on the National Mall. Noting the responsiveness to its comments from the previous review, the Commission approved the general concept for temporary installations at the Federal Triangle and at Independence Avenue, SW, but took no action on the Mall proposals pending further coordination with the National Park Service.

The Commission members expressed appreciation for the new direction to emphasize the flood protection measures as temporary interventions, particularly as the pending completion of a flood–control barrier at 17th Street, NW, will likely reduce the flooding risk in central Washington. Given the update of the federal government's flood maps anticipated in the near future, they suggested that any interim proposal be clearly temporary in character rather than designed as a permanent installation in these significant public spaces. For the proposed construction within the Federal Triangle and at Independence Avenue, they recommended that the designs for these elements be refined to express a temporary infrastructure character rather than repeating the materials and finishes of the historic buildings.

For both Mall proposals, the Commission members did not support what they characterized as a patchwork of specific localized solutions unrelated to the design of the Mall as a whole; they urged close coordination with the National Park Service, which is currently undertaking extensive rehabilitation of the Mall, to develop more visually sensitive alternatives for these locations. Thus, for the vents at 12th Street, they acknowledged the efficacy of paving segments of the gravel walks to improve operations but did not approve the proposed design. For the vents at 7th Street, they did not support berms as a long–term solution to elevate the vents, but they added that an interim solution of temporary character could be considered.

The Commission acknowledged the importance of maintaining a safe and functioning transit system, and looks forward to reviewing further development of the flood–control design. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.

Sincerely,

/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Secretary

Richard Sarles
General Manager and Chief Executive Officer
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
600 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

cc: James Ashe, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Peter May, National Park Service

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Last Modified: September 30, 2013