Off the Tracks

Jack Evans and ANC Jeff Jones lead tour of O & P Streets Rehabilitation Project

October 27, 2011

A light rain accompanied D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans and ANC Commissioners Jeff Jones, Ed Solomon and Bill Starrels on a tour of the O & P Streets Rehabilitation Project in Georgetown Thursday morning, along with members of the DDOT project management team and D.C. parking representatives. 

Sample of finished road surface with ANC Commissioners Ed Solomon, Bill Starrels and Jeff Jones (second from right) (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) Sample of finished road surface with ANC Commissioners Ed Solomon, Bill Starrels and Jeff Jones (second from right)

“We are on schedule, and on budget”, Jeff Jones reported to the small group of project members, Georgetown residents and members of the press.  “The main issue is resident parking”, he said.   “As many residents know, we have designated Zone 2 parking only in some areas to make it easier on residents,” ANC Councilmember Jones continued.  “We’re monitoring it very carefully to make sure it is enforced.” 

The tour began at the project office on 36th and N Street, and headed north to view an area of recently completed streets, gutters and brick sidewalks.  “These walks along here," Jones said while walking near the University, “used to be concrete sidewalks, and now they’re brick.”  He said.  “The granite curbs are being saved where possible.”

Continuing down P Street, an area of refurbished track was shining through the misty morning.  “These tracks had been covered by asphalt on 36th Street and have replaced the more worn tracks on P street,” a project member explained.   

When asked why the utility crews are not working in unison with one another, Jeff Jones explained that “Washington gas is not part of the project, and is working on a separate schedule.”  D.C. Water is working in conjunction with DDOT and replacing water mains, some of which are over 100 years old.  As for Verizon not burying some of the cable and phone lines snaking across back yards and through alleys?  Verizon was reportedly given the opportunity to lay underground cables while the work was taking place, but declined the offer.  Councilmember Evans welcomed more information on the Verizon situation.

section of refurbished tracks (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) section of refurbished tracks

DDOT project management team (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) DDOT project management team

original granite curbs (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) original granite curbs


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Road Construction Ahead: it's not just a video anymore

May 5, 2011

You don't need this video if you live near P Street (Photo by: Amazon) You don't need this video if you live near P Street
Families buy videos for their boys called "Road Construction Ahead," "Where the Garbage Goes," and "I Dig Dirt."

Coming to a street near you, there is no need for make-believe. The West Village from 36th street to Wisconsin and on bordering cross streets is an excavation site. With noise, rocks, and asphalt trucks. Bring your earplugs. Bring a shovel. But probably not a picnic. It's just too loud.

Removing cobblestones and loading into trucks for the trip to W street NE for cleaning and reconditioning, re-paving, jackhammering into the street to lay the gas lines, digging down to replace huge water mains and feeder lines into individual houses, building new and huge ‘catch basins,’ the construction is moving east to west. Some Georgetowners are asking “Why? We thought there was a uniform progression from west to east…”

Well, there is – or was. 

(Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor)
The current gas lines, originally installed in the 1920s, utilize a half pound of pressure per square inch.  The new gas lines are on a high pressure system, running at 20 psi.  In order to ‘balance the lines’, the East side of the project has to be installed at the same time that installations are happening on the Georgetown University side of the project.  This high pressure system also requires a regulator to be installed at each house to allow a ‘venting’ of the system.  As The Georgetown Current noted in a column earlier this week, the meter itself can remain inside unless there is a safety issue, but the regulator (much smaller) will in most cases be located outside the house.

Holes (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) Holes
Existing water mains made of clay which date back to 1896 (some of the oldest in the city), are being replaced.  From the new water mains, copper pipes will be installed to the homeowner’s property line.

The water service pipe (public and private) connects the water main to your household plumbing.  

This is the time, however, to correspond with D.C. WASA if you would like the continuation of the new pipe into your house to your main water shut off.  The benefits of doing this are twofold:  1) replacing lead pipes is a good idea for health reasons and 2) the public/private coupling that joins the new copper pipe to old pipe may be a weak point in the homeowner’s system in the coming years.   The general price structure is $500 plus $100/foot.  One other area of concern - apparently some homeowners do not want the water pipes running through planted areas on the sidewalks (usually city property) and the District's WASA will connect further from your house IF you sign a waiver saying you will accept responsibility for the length of pipe extending from your house to the desired connection point.  Have questions or need forms?  Call 202.612.3400.

Down under (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) Down under
On a recent morning, Georgetown Univ. senior Katherine Coleman from Chicago commented that it is “REALLY noisy, and has been for weeks.”  The street and sidewalk area outside her 36th street rental is a hotbed of activity.  A contractor is using a sledge hammer just outside a roommate’s  bedroom window to remove concrete and then lifting dirt out by the bucket to the street above, carefully working around the stairwell and bike locked to the railing.  Copper pipes are being unrolled to connect to the new water main.  The on duty archeologist is monitoring the buried stairwell that was uncovered when water lines were run under the surface of the street.  “These steps led from the original street to the front door of the house,” archeologist Lora Hull commented.  “As the road level was built up, eventually these steps were covered completely, as was the old road surface that was made up of coal, quartz, shells and organics, a ‘trash’ road.”

Getting close to houses (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) Getting close to houses
Katherine sighed as she looked down the current brick steps leading to her front door, and the buckets of dirt being lifted to the sidewalk.  “The chancellor of the college (Georgetown) lives to the left of us, and two nuns live on the right.  But we’ll be graduating in a few weeks, and leaving all of this behind…”

When do the rest of us graduate?!


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O and P Streets become archeological dig

March 18, 2011

On P street between 35th and 36th street on a bright Thursday morning, a bit of history unfolds.  As the backhoe digs a clean-sided trench to lay the water pipes, layers of strata appear.  The first thing that is noticed is a dark line several inches thick about two and a half feet below the road surface that runs parallel to today’s road surface.

House used to even with the road (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) House used to even with the road

 “That black line is a buried road surface,”  Aaron Levinthal, the archeologist on the job tells me.   “It is comprised of coal fragments, coal clinkers (the burned up residue from coal stoves), and coal ash. ”  The buried road surface was laid sometime in the late 19th century or early 20th century. 

“Originally, the road was dirt.  It was probably very rutted, and when it rained, was most likely impassable. ”  He pointed to the area below the black line.  “This area, as you can see, was filled over the years with broken bricks, river cobblestones, broken ceramic pottery - anything that residents could throw in the streets to stabilize the road surface. ”    The artifacts from the cobbles and broken fragments  post date the Civil War, he said. 

Teresa Fenwick House C. 1826 (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) Teresa Fenwick House C. 1826
Eventually, the residents probably asked for road improvements (some things never change), and as more houses were being built, the coal surface was laid over the fill that had been added to the original dirt road.  In the years following the construction of the coal road surface in the late 19th Century, more layers were added in the process of road development and formalization, including gutters.   “If you look at some of the houses on the south side of the street”, Aaron said, pointing across the road, “you’ll notice that the front doors are several feet below the surface of the present road, but in line with the buried black road surface. ” 

One of the houses has a plaque that dates the building to 1826.  “The original road surface was actually level with that house at the time it was built,” he said.  “Now you walk down the steps to the front door. ”

 

Trench, showing black line of buried road surface. Beneath the buried road surface are broken bricks, river cobblestones, pottery fragments and other fill (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) Trench, showing black line of buried road surface. Beneath the buried road surface are broken bricks, river cobblestones, pottery fragments and other fill

Layers beneath the road (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) Layers beneath the road

P Street, between 35th and 36th (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) P Street, between 35th and 36th

The buried road surface line can be seen in this trench (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) The buried road surface line can be seen in this trench

The trench, deepening (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) The trench, deepening

Archaeologist Aaron Levinthal (Photo by: Constance Chatefield-Taylor) Archaeologist Aaron Levinthal

Post Civil War artifacts (left to right): cow bone (clavical or other), piece of quartzite (decorative feature from architectural piece from inside a house), portion of large ceramic serving vessel, and part of oyster shell (much larger than today’s oysters) (Photo by: Constance Chatfield-Taylor) Post Civil War artifacts (left to right): cow bone (clavical or other), piece of quartzite (decorative feature from architectural piece from inside a house), portion of large ceramic serving vessel, and part of oyster shell (much larger than today’s oysters)

 


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