If there's one thing the ridiculous amount of snow has taught DCMud, other than developers love any excuse not to answer their phones, it's that the many overarching authorities that rule the District apparently cause headaches in areas other than development, such as snow removal. Just as massive developments like the St. Elizabeths Campus require developers to go before the Historic Preservation Review Board, the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service (NPS) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), among other authorities, the recent snowstorm brought to the forefront the web of agencies responsible for District public space and sidewalks.
Tuesday, Councilmember Tommy Wells tweeted at the NPS and DDOT about uncleared sidewalks on several blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue SE. DDOT promptly tweeted back that it was not responsible for the 800 block of Pennsylvania and suggested the sidewalks might belong to the NPS. Other twitter followers suggested contacting Department of Parks and Recreation for good measure. If you can get over the fact that all these conversations occurred on twitter (you are reading a blog, err online journal), then you might get a feel for the confusion that is public space in the District...during a snowstorm.
Though District law requires property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks, handicap ramps and steps abutting their property within the first 8 daylight hours after snow, sleet or ice stop falling, District Agencies have their own priorities. As Charles Allen, Chief of Staff for Councilmember Wells, explained about the Pennsylvania Avenue situation "some of the parks are DC managed parks while many others are managed by the National Park Service...NPS [is] putting it on their radar to get out and clear, but their priority is around the monument and federal areas."
How many authorities overlap in snow removal for public space? Well, Allen was not certain but listed "the AOC for the US Capitol grounds, National Park Service for the Mall, national parks and a lot of the “pocket parks” throughout the city, and then the DC Government manages all the other local parks."
Another high-profile example of conflicting authorities and priorities is the street car debate.
In a September review of the 11th Street bridge project, the NCPC stated that it "does not support a street car system with overhead wires in the L'Enfant City" and encouraged DDOT "to pursue alternative propulsion technologies...that do not require overhead wires." The NCPC ban on overhead wires in the downtown area means DDOT will either have to find a way to power the street cars without overhead wires or have the law changed to allow them. Headache.
Whether you're trudging through snow or trudging through bureaucratic red tape, at some point you'll likely get stuck in the mire of District and federal agencies that govern DC. Oh yeah, you can follow us on twitter @TheDCMud.
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