Monday, September 17, 2012

Cobbling Together Georgetown's Streets

Some of the oldest streets in DC have finally gotten a facelift and officials this week celebrate the big reveal.  The streets are home to streetcar tracks dating back to 1903 that have become recognizable symbols of historic Georgetown.
Work on P Street NW in Georgetown. Photo courtesy DDOT

A ribbon cutting Tuesday will mark completion of the $11.8 million 'rehabilitation' of O and P Streets, largely federally-funded through the Federal Highway Administration.   The ribbon cutting will be held at 10:30 on Tuesday.

Over the years, the section of O and P Streets in between Wisconsin Avenue and 37th Street got bumps and wrinkles.  Cobblestones around the old streetcar tracks sunk creating ridges of four inches in some places. Safety concerns emerged, as did questions about whether the city should keep the tracks and cobblestones or improve safety.

Old streetcar lines on O and P Streets NW got a face lift
The city has managed to do both, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2E member Ed Solomon told DCMud.  "Everyone is happy that both goals have been met."  "Some have even commented they couldn't believe how smooth the street could be with cobblestones." The project has been on the city's to-do list for 20 years, seriously for the last nine.

Image courtesy DDOT
The project included the restoration of O and P, the repaving of 33rd, 34th, 36th, and 37th Streets between O and P Streets, the restoration of curbs, gutters and sidewalks, and the evening out of street surfaces. The city has placed an emphasis on reusing materials when possible.  "The whole project was partly a preservation as well as a streetscape project," said Dara Ward, DDOT's spokesperson for the project. "As much of the original materials as possible were refurbished and re-installed."  The city even employed an archeologist in the beginning phases of the project who made some interesting finds, as reported by Georgetown Dish.

The city also conducted streetlight and drainage improvements, installed crosswalks, curb ramps, tree boxes and tree rails, reinsalled police call and fire alarm boxes, and planted trees, and restored underground parts of the streetcar tracks on O and P Streets.  The city refurbished underground, 250-pound cast-iron yokes that support the tracks at five-foot intervals, as well as track manholes and junction boxes.

Rehabilitated Streetcar track elements.  Photo courtesy DDOT
Any improvements to Georgetown's streetcar lines are purely aesthetic.  DDOT permanently removed tracks on P Street between 35th and 36th Streets and on 36th Street between O and P.  Even as the city is working to get the H Street Benning Road streetcar route online and servicing passengers by summer 2013, Georgetown is still just one more part of town with streetcar tracks and no streetcars to use them.

Restored streetcar track. Photo courtesy DDOT


IMGoph on Sep 17, 2012, 6:00:00 PM said...

not sure what your style guide says for the transportation department's name, but I think they prefer DDOT without a hyphen.

Anonymous said...

Wow, recreating the rail lines for historic purpose. How expensive was that? How many other streets did not get fixed because these cost 6 times more? A near total waste of public money!

Anonymous said...

I am a supporter of historic preservation, but I really can't think of more of a colossal waste of public monies than this project. And we wonder why the rest of the country hates DC. People in Cleveland or Kansas City would love to have $11.5mm to fix a few potholes, let alone preserve a bunch of non-functional streetcar rails. If the residents on this street wanted this so bad, they could have paid for it themselves. I am sure they can afford it.

JJ said...

I disagree with the above comment. People around the country put money into historic preservation in many forms, not just DC. This helps Georgetown's historical character, and retains a bit of the past. That's part of what draws people to the city. I don't live there, but i support the project.


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