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O, P Streets Construction Nearly Done

By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer

As the dust settles among the newly restored cobblestones on O and P streets in western Georgetown, city officials and community leaders are ready to say “mission accomplished.”

The intensive project to rebuild the badly deteriorated roadways largely wrapped up at the end of August, with the streets’ pavers and historic trolley tracks pried up, refurbished and reinstalled. Residents and business owners faced 18 months of lane closures, parking shortages and construction noise, but the work was completed on time and within its $10.5 million budget.

“Georgetown is really doing many wonderful upgrades, and to me that was some of the pain [we had] to go through, but we got significant gain,” said Jeff Jones, who represents the project area on the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission. “It’s part of the heart and soul of Georgetown, and it’s just one more part of that toward Georgetown’s overall revitalization.”

The city will hold a formal ribbon-cutting Tuesday, according to project spokesperson Dara Ward; it’s tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. in the 3200 block of O Street outside Hyde-Addison Elementary School. More information on the event will be available later this week.

It was clear from the start that the project would be a difficult one, considering the need to upgrade the safety of the uneven and haphazardly patched roadways, as well as the mandate to preserve the rare surviving streetcar tracks. The project nearly hit another snag when contractors determined that parts of the tracks were in worse shape than they’d realized, said Ward, but workers were able to repair them by adding additional metal.

Neighborhood commissioners praised not only the quality of the work, but also the project team’s efforts to minimize the impact on residents and merchants. Commissioner Ed Solomon, whose tuxedo shop is located in the 3200 block of P Street, said he and fellow business owners lost some revenue while workers were excavating and rebuilding the street.

“But the crews working on the project were fantastic as far as trying to accommodate us, to expeditiously repair our section to make it more accessible for commerce,” Solomon added.

Although the project is substantially complete, workers are still inspecting the completed roadways and addressing outstanding issues, ensuring that all signs have been reinstalled, and fully restoring all tree boxes, said Ward. The city’s Urban Forestry Administration will also replace a number of trees in coming months in the project area and elsewhere in Georgetown, according to Jones.

The biggest remaining impact of the project will be the dust, which workers spread over the cobblestones to slowly settle among them over the course of several months. The dust will fill the gaps between the stones to keep the fit tight.

Ron Lewis, chair of the Georgetown neighborhood commission, said residents had few doubts that the project would be completed as promised — “but you never know until it’s really finished. I would say all our best expectations were met.”

“The visual aspects of it are gorgeous, and they paid attention to every detail down to the brick-by-brick level, and the street is just a pleasure to drive on,” Lewis added. “I didn’t know a cobblestone street could be this smooth.”

In completing the project, workers replaced the water and gas lines under O and P streets between Wisconsin Avenue and 37th Street and rebuilt the roadways. In the section with cobblestones and streetcar tracks — between Wisconsin and 35th Street — the stones and tracks were restored; between 35th and 37th streets, the roads were repaved with asphalt.

This article appears in the Sept. 12 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.