(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Terry Bellamy, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez and community leaders held a ribbon-cutting ceremony today to celebrate the substantial completion of the Pennsylvania Avenue Great Streets Project. The $35.8 million project has dramatically improved this vital corridor, making it safer for vehicular traffic and pedestrians alike and vastly more appealing visually.
“They call Pennsylvania Avenue ‘America’s Main Street’, but just as importantly, it’s also Ward 7’s Main Street, and it is an honor to stand here today with my neighbors to celebrate its transformation from a commuter route than divided our communities into a local artery that unifies them and serves those of us who live here,” Mayor Gray said.
The Pennsylvania Avenue Great Streets project covers 2 miles, from 200 feet west of 27th Street SE to Southern Avenue SE on the Maryland border. It runs through the historic neighborhoods of Fairlawn, Randle Highlands, Hillcrest and Fairfax Village.
A portion of the corridor was reduced from five lanes to four. In its place, DDOT added a landscaped median and turn pockets that protect pedestrians and neighborhood vehicles. Special streetscape treatments were designed to highlight and enhance the retail nodes along the corridor, and DDOT completed the sidewalk network on both sides of the street for the full length of the corridor.
This project also includes multiple Low Impact Development (LID) features, including three environmentally friendly rain gardens. Rain gardens are a method of treating storm runoff by utilizing a mixture of soil and plants to filter out pollutants prior to the runoff entering storm-sewer systems and, ultimately, local waterways.
“Building transportation in ways that can strengthen businesses and communities is essential to our economic competitiveness,” Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said. “Infrastructure is key to supporting commerce and improving safety for communities.”
The District’s Great Streets Initiative provided approximately $11 million for the project, and $19.5M was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The remainder came from other local and federal sources.
“With the support of our federal partners and the funding from the Recovery Act, we were able to make this street a Great Street again,” said Director Bellamy. “It improves the physical character of the community and makes it so much safer for walkers, bikers, drivers and bus riders.”
The Great Streets program links transportation investments in the infrastructure with economic-development investments in private properties “behind the curb.” The objective is to improve neighborhoods’ quality of life and expand economic opportunity and success of existing and additional businesses.
“Pennsylvania Avenue is a vibrant corridor for residents, not just a route for commuters,” said Harriet Tregoning, Director of the DC Office of Planning (OP). “The improvements from the Great Streets program will enhance residents’ ability to easily access retail and obtain services in their community.”
The program is a partnership between DDOT, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (which catalyzes and supports private development) and OP (which sets the overall vision for the District’s six designated Great Streets corridors).
Work on the Pennsylvania Avenue Great Streets Project began in November, 2009. Construction is now substantially complete with only seasonal planting and other punch-list items remaining.