Group urges Congress to study building parking garage under National Mall

WASHINGTON (NewsChannel 8) — A local non-profit that wants a parking garage built underneath the National Mall is now urging Congress to get involved.

Board members of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall said the cost – between $168 and $248 million dollars – would be funded through a public-private partnership with a timeline of just five years.

First, they said they need Congress to create an independent commission to study the proposal.

They said a National Mall Underground, to be built between the Smithsonian Castle and the Museum of Natural History, would create more parking for tourists and tour buses and provide more amenities: public restrooms, food service, a welcome center and other venues.

“It's crazy to try to drive down here, that's for sure, or to try to find parking," said tourist Tamara Marchincin.

“We had to park very far,” said tourist Lisa Raso Carillo. “And we had to walk very far It's very hot and humid. If they had more parking, it'd be great.”

Maybe most important, the design also incorporates flood control. During major storms, cars would be removed from the lower levels of the garage and it would fill up with water like a reservoir.

Coalition board chair Judy Scott Feldman said, “It could hold 34 million gallons of flood water of the kind that devastated the Federal Triangle and the Mall area in 2006.”

So far, the group has support from D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and others. But to get a commission, they need more supporters on Capitol Hill.

“[A commission] should vet the project and ask all the tough questions. It might be a year after that of detailed design, of two years to build basically what is a simple uncomplicated structure," said Coalition Board Member Jay Brodie.

The architect says this same concept has been used before – at Chicago's Millennium Park, Philadelphia's Independence Hall, Vatican City and other historic sites.

But not everyone thinks the National Mall should roll out the red carpet for even more cars.

“That would just deter from the beauty of the Mall. [Although underground] I don't think you can hide the fact that it's there," said Hyattsville resident Jason Berg.

“I think we should be encouraging more people to ride mass transit, ride bikes. You've got all sorts of places to rent bikes," said tourist Mary Martin.

Project supporters said, like it or not, cars will always come to the National Mall. And they added, parking revenue will help pay for its construction.

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