Is a gondola a good solution for crossing the Potomac River between Georgetown and Arlington?
SCJ Alliance’s Engineering Specialties Group (ESG) is leading the design and assessment effort to test the feasibility. A gondola, technically known as a ropeway system, is being evaluated between the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C. and the nearby Rossyln area of Arlington, Virginia.
More than 22,000 people work in Georgetown, including 10,000 at the university, and the neighborhood is without a metro station. Rosslyn does have a station, but the two urban areas are separated by the Potomac River. The Key Bridge connecting the two is heavily congested with pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
Georgetown business leaders recently came up with the idea for a gondola as part of a 15-year planning process. The urban gondola option was attractive as it can be built more quickly and for less money than a new subway tunnel to the area.
“Slopes and waterways can make traditional modes of transportation impractical,” said SCJ engineer Mike Deiparine. “In those cases, urban gondolas can be a smart alternative. We’ve seen it work in cities across the U.S.”
SCJ has completed gondola work for the Roosevelt Island Tramway in New York City, both The Steamboat Silver Bullet Gondola and the Telluride gondola transit system in Colorado, and the Portland Aerial Tram in Oregon.
“We’ve also looked to gondolas to address needs other than solely carrying people,” another SCJ engineer, Jim Fletcher, added. The team completed a one-of-a-kind study for the Havasupai Indian Tribe, the most remote community in the lower 48.
The Tribe’s village rests at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and asked the engineering specialists for a way to transport solid waste out of the canyon.
One of Jim’s current projects in San Francisco is using a gondola not just for transportation, but for also for communication. The planned gondola at the Transbay Transit Terminal is an attention getting way to let passerbys know about a 5-acre rooftop park and encourage them to use it.
“We’re currently in the feasibility phase for Georgetown-Rosslyn and I’m proud our team is part of another unconventional solution,” SCJ President Perry said. “Assessing and solving specialized client needs takes tenacity, imagination, and an intuition that comes with experience. Our ESG team in Denver has what it takes to get this project off the ground.”