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Agency Again Vows Rehab of Decrepit Alley Off R Street

By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer

Residents living along a deteriorating alley in eastern Georgetown are getting fresh promises that the city will address the pitted road surface and the stormwater runoff behind their homes.

The unpaved alley runs down the hill from R Street parallel to 31st and 32nd streets. Residents there have spent years pushing the D.C. Department of Transportation to address conditions there, and complain that they’ve watched other alleys get repaved while theirs has been a mix of gravel, mud and potholes since at least the 1960s.

The Transportation Department last week told residents that the project will move forward in the immediate future. The department is now working to hire engineers to design an improved alley, which will not only be paved but also incorporate connections to the stormwater system, agency spokesperson John Lisle said in an interview.

“There’s no drainage in the alley, which is a big issue. So you could go in there and pave it, and all the water would run toward the homes that are adjacent to it,” Lisle said. “That’s not an acceptable solution to anybody. What we’re working on right now ... is a complete redesign of the alley that would include a tie-in to the stormwater system, so it would be a completely improved alley with drainage.”

This isn’t the first time, though, that the Transportation Department has pledged to fix the alley. The agency regraded the alley in 2011, but the drainage issues made the potholes reappear quickly, according to neighbors. Then in December 2011, transportation officials said they’d found the money to rebuild the alley the next spring.

In an email to neighbors this week, Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans said the Transportation Department had “relegated it to a later status” because of the project’s relatively high cost and complexity — including coordination with the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.

“When [agency director Terry Bellamy] said that this one project would use most of the Ward 2 alley budget for the year, I told him to move forward anyway, as we had made promises and more importantly, this needs to be done,” Evans wrote.

Dale Curtis, who lives on 32nd Street, said in an interview that it’s good to hear that plans for the alley are moving forward, but that he isn’t getting his hopes up entirely.

“We have been told many positive things in the past two years, and we’ve been encouraged by that — but nothing has happened yet,” Curtis said.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he added. “We get nice promises, but we still have an alley that’s in nearly third-world conditions.”

According to Lisle, hiring an engineering firm will take a few weeks, at which point that contractor will spend four to five months doing design work. Construction would begin about two months later, with the duration dependent on the design, Lisle said.

A budget for the alley project hasn’t yet been determined either, but Lisle said it’s unlikely that costs will again derail the work. “We’re committed to making the improvements,” he said. “I know this is a priority.”

This article appears in the Feb. 6 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.