Two years after completing a “green infrastructure” project around 33rd and Quesada streets NW, the D.C. Department of Transportation is returning to that area of Chevy Chase to further reduce stormwater runoff.
Termed the Oregon Avenue Watershed Green Streets project, the effort will include some 30 locations in the northeastern section of the neighborhood — not on Oregon itself, which is the subject of its own reconstruction project, but along nearby streets.
Preliminary site selections from the Transportation Department include two areas for permeable paving and a smattering of bioretention planters, essentially rain gardens that will be located mainly between the street and sidewalk. The permeable pavement areas selected so far are a block and a half of 33rd Street NW north from Rittenhouse Street — just beyond the District’s previous project in the area — and an alley paralleling Rittenhouse between 28th Street and Utah Avenue.
The Department of Transportation is still in the early stages of design and site selection and will present more information in late April or early May, project manager Ty Asfaw said at a recent meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3/4G (Chevy Chase). Construction would start in late 2017 and continue into 2018. Road closures shouldn’t be necessary for most of the installations, with the exceptions of any permeable alleys, she said.
“These are not major construction projects,” said Asfaw. “These are going to be facilities spread out throughout the area.”
But some community members challenged Asfaw to demonstrate that the existing green infrastructure in their neighborhood has been successful.
“According to residents who live there, it’s not very effective,” ANC 3/4G member Rebecca Maydak said. “If we’re putting in more green alleys, it seems like it’s going to be a waste.”
Asfaw said green infrastructure has advanced since the previous project was designed and that her agency is working to improve maintenance of the existing facilities. Asked how well it’s performing, she replied that “the data gathering is going on in that project — it’s still in the early stages.”
But regardless, Asfaw said, the D.C. Department of Transportation is operating under a federal Environmental Protection Agency mandate to reduce runoff. “We’re required to retrofit a portion of the impervious cover every year,” she said. “That’s kind of the driver behind this project.”
Asfaw’s comments drew criticism from one resident who lives near the existing green infrastructure installations. “The same government hasn’t been able to demonstrate its ability to design, construct and maintain infrastructure it’s already constructed in the neighborhood — this is madness,” he said. “This policy is being driven by legislators that don’t really have a grasp of it.”
The D.C. Department of Transportation project is separate from another high-profile green infrastructure effort in Northwest: a D.C. Water and Sewer Authority initiative that will construct permeable pavement and bioretention facilities in the Glover Park and Burleith areas.
DC Water recently dropped Georgetown from its project area due to community concerns about construction disruptions and aesthetic impacts, but the Burleith and Glover Park communities have been generally supportive.