New pavement plan aims to repair sidewalks, roads around the District by 2024

Media Credit: Jack Borowiak | Staff Photographer

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced an initiative to improve more than 300 roads and sidewalks in poor condition – including five streets in Foggy Bottom and the West End – by 2024 earlier this month.

Students may soon be able to ride their bikes on smoother roads around the city.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a District-wide initiative – coined PaveDC – to improve more than 300 roads and sidewalks in poor condition by 2024 earlier this month. Community leaders said the program could help improve the quality of roads in the area, but it will not have much impact on campus because crews cannot conduct repairs on private property.

“The start of spring always brings a new batch of potholes, and we are eager to get them fixed,” Bowser said in the release. “With PaveDC, we are looking beyond our annual repairs and taking the steps necessary to ensure that by 2024, no roads in Washington, D.C. are in poor condition.”

The initiative includes the repair and maintenance – like paving over roads and fixing uneven sidewalks – of five streets in Foggy Bottom and the West End neighborhood, including I Street between 25th Street and New Hampshire Avenue and M Street between 23rd Street and New Hampshire Avenue, according to the interactive map on the initiative’s website.

About 25 percent of all streets in the District are in poor condition this year, according to the website.

The D.C. Department of Transportation uses a combination of annual road quality assessments and community requests through the city’s 311 service, which allows residents to call in maintenance, assistance and information requests, to determine the roads and sidewalks that are in need of repair. Terry Owens, DDOT’s director of communications, said the department visually assesses road quality every year using an index that rates pavement quality on a scale from one to 100, based on parameters like potholes and cracking.

He said the program is taking a “multipronged” approach to repairing and maintaining city roads, which starts with milling and paving roads in poor condition.

“During that process, a community could also see new sidewalks installed and additional road treatments to address any safety concerns, as well as maintenance to extend the life of roads in good condition,” Owens said.

Neighborhood commissioners said although they feel confident that many of the city’s road problems will be addressed, they are concerned about how much time it will take for DDOT to respond to community complaints.

Detrick Campbell, a Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood commissioner, said road quality in Foggy Bottom has generally fared better than the rest of D.C. because many of its roads have been repaved recently. The program’s website lists five roads to be repaired in Foggy Bottom, compared to 31 roads in the Tenleytown and Friendship Heights area – the section of the city with the highest number of needed renovations.

“The roads and sidewalks in Foggy Bottom and the West End are more well-off than many other parts of the District; however, the promise of maintenance to keep the roads and sidewalks that way is the true benefit for this area,” Campbell said in an email.

Campbell said because the program does not cover the maintenance of privately owned sidewalks and walkways, like those on campus, they may not be maintained as well as public areas assessed by DDOT.

“The District can fulfill its duty while leaving those parts of the city untouched,” he said in an email. “This means that entities such as GW and associations in the area that are in a covenant of maintenance may not match the city’s efforts because people will call the city to fix when it is not their responsibility.”

Campbell added he is most concerned about how much time it will take to fix a road once it is reported because it may take the work of several agencies to get a pothole repaired. If a pothole lies above a power line, the repair must involve both DDOT and the power company, he said.

Commissioner James Harnett said the initiative may not have an immediate effect on the community because of its long-term, six-year deadline.

Harnett said this program fits with Bowser’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024, because both programs attempt to reform transportation obstacles.

“Increasing access to equitable roadways and sidewalks is an important part of supporting communities that have been host to the biggest portion of poor roadways, sidewalks and alleyways in this city,” he said in an email.

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