Overnight work planned for 18th Street pipe project

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A contractor for DC Water plans to seek an after-hours permit for a portion of its water main replacement project on a frequently congested stretch of 18th Street downtown, averting community concerns that the work would further snarl rush-hour traffic.

The stretch of 18th from K Street to Pennsylvania Avenue NW will soon be closed overnight Monday through Friday as contractors for the water authority replace 777 feet of 12-inch water mains, according to DC Water spokesperson Vincent Morris.

The exact timeline won’t be determined until works begin, but the project could last up to 15 months, stretching into next summer, according to Morris. “We do not expect it to take that whole period of time; we should know more soon,” he wrote in an email.

The bulk of the work was originally scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, with occasional work on nights and weekends if inclement weather occurred during the day. But Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A (Foggy Bottom, West End) and ANC 2B (Dupont Circle) both voiced opposition, and DC Water’s contractor, Fort Myer, now plans to seek a permit for work from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., according to Morris. Once the permit is granted, contractors would determine at which times during that window they would work.

“Given the traffic issues I’m certain our team, and the DDOT, would be open to that option,” Morris wrote. The D.C. Department of Transportation didn’t respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Traffic is already slow on that stretch of 18th Street, which provides a route between downtown and the E Street Expressway, ANC 2A chair Patrick Kennedy said at his group’s meeting last Wednesday. Rush-hour parking restrictions there aren’t lifted until 30 minutes after DC Water crews were set to begin working each morning.

In an email on Tuesday, Kennedy said the new work hours improve upon the original schedule, though he hopes DC Water will mitigate noise for residents a few blocks away.

Though neighbors citywide have complained in the past about noise from after-hours work, the nearest residences are at least two blocks away from the edge of the work area. Mike Silverstein of ANC 2B told The Current he sees after-hours work as a win-win: It’s safer for construction crews and less disruptive for commuters.

“There may be some people who are tangentially affected by it, but you have to balance all the various needs here,” Silverstein said. “The key to the thing is, this work would be much better off-hours.”

A similar dispute in nearby West End in 2012 had a different outcome, as nearby residents pushed for contractors to work during the day, mitigating nighttime noise. That project took place adjacent to several residential buildings near 26th and M streets NW, however, while the 18th Street project is concentrated in a commercial area.