NCPC Approves Preliminary Plan for Tunnel to Monument

Dear Coalition Friends:

At yesterday’s National Capital Planning Commission meeting, despite the best efforts of the Coalition and other citizens groups to stop the Park Service’s plans for a tunnel at the Washington Monument, the NCPC gave preliminary approval to the another portion of the project — an addition onto the historic Washington Monument Lodge at 15th Street that will be the entrance to the underground visitor center and tunnel. Two Commissioners — Vice-Chair Pat Elwood and Rob Miller of D.C. — once again voted no but were outnumbered.

The commissioner representing the Dept. of Defense defended the tunnel idea, saying “it works at the St. Louis Arch.” Park Service representative Sally Blumenthal explained that the tunnel idea is also being used at the White House, so why not at the Monument. This is the level of public debate.

Both the Washington Times article (below) and a small item in the Washington Post explain that the Lodge addition is, in fact, the entrance to the tunnel, although the NPS was a pains to avoid saying so. As John Parsons of NPS said, “I like to avoid the ‘t’ word.” The Times says the tunnel was approved yesterday, but strictly speaking it was the entrance at ground level and not actually the tunnel, which has not yet been seen by anyone, including the NCPC.

Judy Feldman

Panel OKs plan for tunnel to monument
Laurent Thomet

The National Capital Planning Commission yesterday approved a preliminary security plan that includes the construction of a 400-foot-long tunnel that visitors would use to enter the Washington Monument.

The commission approved the plan by a 10-2 vote. Under the plan, the visitors’ lodge east of the monument on 15th Street will be expanded, turning the building into a gateway to the tunnel. The neoclassical addition will more than double the lodge’s size. The design features marble columns and a glass roof. It was chosen over a larger, more contemporary glass-and-steel structure.

Supporters of the plan said it offered the best balance between security and aesthetic concerns.

But citizens’ groups criticized the plan, saying the new design makes the site vulnerable to terrorist attacks and less accessible to visitors. Most objected to the tunnel, which would usher people from the visitors’ center up to the monument


“Would you rather enter the monument 500 feet away, through a tunnel as long as the monument is high?” asked Judy Feldman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall. “Or would you prefer walking up to the monument and entering through the front door, as people have for decades?”


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