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P Street Residents Blast Slow Water Main Work

By Mark LiebermanCurrent Staff Writer

When Georgetown advisory neighborhood commissioner Monica Roache heard that a water main replacement project was planned for P Street NW back in January, she wasn’t happy about the possible disruption to her street. She was reassured to hear it would be over by the summer.

Now winter is just around the corner, and the project still isn’t done.

At the neighborhood commission’s Nov. 30 meeting, Roache blasted representatives of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority — known as DC Water — for failing to provide concrete answers about the project delays. The representatives assured residents they are doing everything in their power to resolve the construction issues by Christmas. In a follow-up email to The Current on Tuesday, DC Water community manager Emanuel Briggs said the construction is expected to be cleared by Dec. 16.

P Street between 26th and 28th streets NW is dotted with potholes, uneven paving and steel plates that clang when cars drive over them, Roache told The Current. Driving there poses a threat to vehicles, she said, and the noise from the plates disrupts neighbors at night.

The project has posed other challenges to the neighborhood throughout the year as well, including a gas leak and a dispute over parking. The construction initially blocked parking on the street from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday, until Roache successfully advocated for a shorter timeframe upon noticing that construction typically wrapped up a couple hours earlier than expected.

DC Water is also frustrated with the project’s pace, the representatives said. They blamed the delays on the contractor, which they say asked for a six-month extension midway through its work. But dismissing that contractor would likely have made the project take even longer.

“We are pushing our contractor as hard as we possibly can to get him to perform as best as we can perform so that we’re out of there,” DC Water project inspector Brian Wilson said at the meeting.

Briggs wrote in an email that the contractor is new to the area and took longer than expected to adjust to the local regulations regarding work permits.

“This circumstance, in addition to other unanticipated issues experienced during construction, have each contributed to delay of the project completion,” Briggs wrote.

The contractor has already replaced the water main, leaving restoration of the street as the only major step left in the project. But workers can’t lay asphalt when the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, placing further pressure to finish the job quickly, before winter brings colder weather. “Where we are right now is at the long end of a job that has obviously caused a lot of distress,” Wilson said.

Roache said DC Water didn’t proactively communicate and interact with the community about the project. “If it wasn’t for me having people’s emails and keeping them updated, I’m sure they would have had more complaints than they did,” Roache said.

Briggs told The Current that his staff has been in robust communication with the neighborhood.

“A series of updates have been provided via email to community stakeholders directly impacted by this project,” Briggs said. “In these updates, there has been clear communication of remaining construction activities and schedule for permanent restoration to roadways, sidewalks and all surfaces disturbed by our project.

Roache said she understands the work had to be done, but that doesn’t make the execution any less frustrating for her and her constituents. She said she hopes DC Water and the contractor will tackle future projects piece by piece, tearing up only one portion of the road before moving onto the next. “It’s been challenging for the neighborhood,” Roache said.

This article appears in the Dec. 9 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.