5 things we learned about repairing Washington’s growing backlog of potholes

Washington’s two bicycle lanes, which led to light closures of Blythwood and Lincoln streets last week, were reopened Monday.

The moves mean the Loop cyclists can now park in a reduced number of spaces on Lincoln and Mary McLeod Bethune corridors.

Blythwood Street, between 11th and 16th streets, was closed between July 19 and Sept. 7 for an expected 45-day reconstruction to extend a sidewalk and widening the path. The project added 16 feet of curb and sidewalk, new ramps and lighting.

On Tuesday morning, plows showed up with some work to be done on the old sidewalk, which led to several 15-minute delays for bicycles and pedestrians.

When those waterproofing repairs were completed, bike traffic moved back up to a lower limit of 87 feet, compared with a final 80-foot limit before the lane closure.

Blythwood was closed while construction was being done to the adjacent Lincoln Avenue, also in the same widening project.

On Blythwood on Wednesday, crews were finding old bricks that hadn’t been properly chipped for repaving, leading to four-hour delays for drivers and cyclists alike.

The job has been continuing right on schedule, city staff said, with a planned reopening in early October.

Of no good deed goes unpunished

Last week, a roadwork lane was closed in front of the Public Library at 800 U St. NW.

BFLikes patron Phil Howe stood along that gap in the pavement to warn people to steer clear, right through the middle of some Fox’s houses on two city parking meters.

It was the city’s response to four damaged vehicles, but BFLikes thought a violation of the municipal code.

On Sept. 5, he received an email from Gregory Caffrey, assistant transportation manager, about it.

It said, “The City of Washington recognizes the financial hardship that can occur when modifications are made to vehicle traffic in residential areas.”

That should have ended there, he said.

But he followed up with more information about citation procedures. (At night.)

“During these maneuvers for lane recovery, repairs are placed on vehicles which are partially blocked or may be in the way of work being performed.”

In case you’re wondering, Howe said, the trucks shouldn’t block spots or obstruct “a pedestrian, bicyclist or persons with disabilities who are using sidewalk space.”

It’s of little value to pay fines if they’re not enforced, he said.

“I believe that everyone deserves the same respect,” Howe said.

A little light for their skid

An employee of B.R. Smith and Sons might have a new tool in his toolbox.

The shop contacted the Washington Post to see if they could provide a bucket to try to alleviate the pain of heavy vehicles, which are literally crashing down on 14th Street in the 24-hour garbage truck zone.

“It really hurts when one of these garbage trucks skids, and it’s pretty loud and intense,” employee Ronnie Kenannen said.

After Kenannen shared the message with her colleagues, they suggested drilling a hole into the ground at a particular angle. They do that routinely, but it’s easier to install when the angle is set straight, Kenannen said.

The gear had to be changed and shoveled to remove the wheeled trash dumpster that had fallen onto the street.

Kenannen also offered some tree stumps and bags of bricks as part of the pile.

Make light work of it

Washington’s some of the worst-lit nighttime streets, with 11,000 annual streetlights that run without repair, according to a 2017 study by Public Transportation for America.

However, lighting can be easy to fix — particularly if lighting is used to encourage people to venture out when it’s dark.

Jaylita Vassallo, an urban transportation planner at the Maryland Transit Administration, suggests offering a hand while walking around a street with lights.

Brighten the street so that it’s easier to find your way, Vassallo says.

Make sure that the lights are located at places where people can actually see them.

And don’t forget to make sure your neighbors have a direct line to the street.

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