With 49th Street repairs in sight, ANC urges action on University Terrace


49th Street is closed for repairs between Dexter and Fulton streets NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/September 2017)

The D.C. Department of Transportation says work is nearly complete on the monthslong project to reconstruct 49th and Fulton streets NW after a sinkhole forced the intersection’s closure last year.

In a report at Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D’s June 6 meeting, the agency’s Lee Goodall said the project is 90 percent complete and could be open for traffic by June 23, pending approval of the D.C. Department of Energy & Environment. Construction equipment will remain in the area, he said.

Goodall said that transportation officials expected to get permission soon to work on the neighboring stream, which has changed course.

Commissioner Alma Gates reported that just a block away, the edge of Garfield Street along Battery Kemble Park is falling off.

Gates also described major drainage problems along University Terrace NW whenever there is heavy rainfall, with a resident chiming in that the rushing water often washes rocks and mud onto local driveways. The commission voted to ask the Transportation Department to develop possible solutions, although officials say such a study wouldn’t be ready until 2020.

Disputes over widening the street and adding sidewalks along University Terrace have stymied past efforts to reconstruct the road, and the concerns resurfaced at this month’s meeting. One homeowner said a potential street widening as a part of the drainage solution would take up to two-thirds of his front lawn, all of which is in the public right of way. He asked that no sidewalk be located in front of his house, a position endorsed by a neighbor.

Commission chair Stephen Gardner said District law calls for sidewalks on at least one side of the street whenever the city undertakes new work on a road. Gates said a sidewalk is needed for the elderly and for children.

The commission also addressed two other Transportation Department matters at its June meeting.

Goodall announced that work was scheduled to begin June 11 at Ward Circle, a project expected to take up to 12 months. New traffic signals will aim to discourage illegal left-hand turns from within the circle, and lanes will be altered to make the turns more difficult. Commissioner Mike Gold interjected that without changes, it is just “a matter of time before a pedestrian is killed” by a motorists making an illegal turn.

The commission voted 6-0 with two abstentions to recommend approval of the Department of Transportation’s Arizona Avenue Pedestrian Bridge & Trail Project on a former streetcar right of way that is now a pedestrian pathway. Some people want the reconstructed trail to accommodate bicycles.

The commission favored a crushed gravel surface that would discourage bicycles rather than the cement-like surface being considered by the department. Gates said she is worried that the department’s proposed second ramp would allow people to look into residents’ windows. She added that many dog owners do not feel safe walking their pets where there are bicycles.