Washington, D.C.) Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) broke ground today on an effort to rehabilitate two historic stretches of roadway in Georgetown, O and P Streets between 37th Street and Wisconsin Avenue. The project, slated for completion in fall 2012, will rebuild the roadways and streetscapes, replace century-old water mains and restore portions of existing streetcar tracks and yokes.
“Over many years, O and P Streets have greatly deteriorated due to vehicular traffic and sinkholes from damaged water mains,” said Mayor Gray. “Today marks the exciting start of our work to ensure public safety and repair the structural integrity of these roadways, all while preserving this neighborhood’s indelible character and history.”
The tracks on O and P Streets are the last visible evidence of the District’s citywide streetcar system, which operated until 1962. They are set on 350 lbs. cast iron yokes beneath the center of the roadway, and besides a small section of conduit system streetcar track in London, the streetcar tracks on O and P Streets are believed to be the only surviving examples of this type of track system.
DDOT will remove the streetcar wheel rails and slot rails and other historic elements including the granite street pavers, blue stone curbs and sidewalk brick and then reinstall them on O and P Streets. Archaeological monitoring will take place during all construction activities to ensure the historic resources are handled properly.
“We are truly celebrating a milestone here today,” said DDOT Interim Director Terry Bellamy. “While these tracks date back to the 1800’s, it has also taken us a long time to get to this point in this project, which was initiated at DDOT 8 years ago. I want to thank everyone – inside and outside our agency - who has worked so hard to make this happen.”
Various alternatives were evaluated with the DC Historic Preservation Office, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and other consulting parties. In 2009 the plan to retain the streetcar tracks on O and P Streets received a strong backing from the neighborhood and the locally elected Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
The rehabilitation will include many other enhancements, from streetlight and drainage improvements to the installation of crosswalks, curb ramps, tree boxes and tree rails. Additionally, the effort will reinstall old police call and fire alarm boxes, while also planting new trees.
To maintain at least one lane of through traffic at all times, the project will focus on one block and side of the street at a time. Nearby residents and businesses will be provided advance notice regarding work in their immediate surroundings. DDOT and contractor teams will practice good neighbor construction by monitoring noise and vibration levels to assure both are within required levels. Dust control measures will also be implemented and monitored throughout the project.
In addition to periodic community meetings, a new website – www.fixingOandPstreets.com – will serve as a vital hub for public information. Residents are encouraged to sign up and/or subscribe to the RSS feed to receive updates.