Press Club

Morning Poll: But Seriously, Should We Build a Gondola?

Artist’s rendering of a gondola over the Potomac (image via Georgetown BID)

It’s the subject of humor, t-shirts and desire.

Now there’s some actual, tangible progress that can advance the much-discussed idea for a Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola.

The Washington Business Journal’s Alex Koma reported yesterday afternoon that D.C. is acquiring the Exxon station in Georgetown that could serve as the gondola’s eastern terminus.

The D.C. Council included $10 million for the purchase in the 2022 budget it passed earlier this month, teeing up a deal for the property at 3607 M St. NW once the spending plan receives sign-offs from both Mayor Muriel Bowser and Congress.

The half-acre site, by the famous “Exorcist” steps, currently belongs to a joint venture of Altus Realty Partners and DYNC Atlantic Property and Investment, who have spent years pursuing its redevelopment as condos, so far to no avail. But the shuttered gas station has also been envisioned as an ideal landing spot for a gondola stretching across the Potomac River, providing a transportation link between Georgetown and Rosslyn that some local business leaders and politicians have championed.

The potential acquisition 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.

Plenty of challenges remain, not the least of which is the fact that Arlington County said it was “not in favor” of the $80-90 million project four years ago.

Still, the news raised some hopes among the gondola faithful — and those who just appreciate the somewhat whimsical notion of aerial lift transportation across the Potomac.

Okay, but in all seriousness, do people want the gondola to be built?

One has to imagine that, given the rising costs of large building projects, the price tag on the gondola has to be pushing $100 million at this point. Is that worth it for something that would mostly benefit tourists, Georgetown students and Rosslyn-Georgetown commuters?

Would the experience of riding the gondola, compared to walking over the Key Bridge, be significantly better for the projected 6,500 daily riders? (Most riders will be local workers or residents, according to a study.)

What do you think?

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