“Haphazard enforcement of rules regarding sidewalk access during construction keeps making our city dangerous in ways it doesn’t need to be”


“Dear PoPville,

Saturday afternoon, on 4th street sw just across from the Hilton under construction at F st sw, they had blocked off the sidewalk to let new concrete dry. The sign helpfully suggested I cross to the other side of the street — where construction has closed the sidewalk for a month. Oh, and to make it worse, they were suggesting I cross the street nowhere near a crosswalk or a ramp.

Being able bodied, I stepped off the curb into the bike lane and walked around. But if I wasn’t… Since 395 blocks most of the ways north here, there are zero options here other than backtracking half a block, going west three blocks, going north two blocks, then back east. Or stepping / rolling into the bike lane or street.

Haphazard enforcement of rules regarding sidewalk access during construction keeps making our city dangerous in ways it doesn’t need to be.

-Concerned Southwest Resident”

18 Comment

  • Currently a similar situation at 16th and Military Rd. NW. Dangerous.

  • There’s also a similar situation in Bloomingdale/Eckington just before Lincoln Rd. on Rhode Island Ave. I cautiously walked out into the street to go around the construction, but they had a truck jutting out into the street and blocking my view of oncoming traffic. I was almost hit by a car. Completely absurd.

  • Two disclaimers on this comment:
    I do not think everything in NYC is better, and in fact prefer DC for many things.
    I may have dreamed this:
    Doesn’t NYC have a particularly good way of dealing with construction that will impact sidewalks? I thought I read something once about a construction project being delayed by over a year because another project was already impacting the block with regard to pedestrians. And they just had to wait their turn.

    • The difference here is scale. Pedestrian tunnel like structures are expensive. They make sense for long lasting projects on big buildings with a lot of foot traffic. Some downtown projects have those in DC.
      I would like to see tunnels in DC. Or at least some marginal effort towards more safety, but given the level of pedestrian traffic and the low height of buildings in most cases it doesn’t make sense.
      I think the best solution for most cases in DC would typically be to either remove parking or eliminate a lane of traffic.

      • I agree that scale is important, but tunnels aren’t the only option. In most cases some barricades that move the sidewalk into the street and protect pedestrians are more than sufficient and easy to implement. Yes, this may take away some parking and/or bike lanes, but it’s so simple that in most cases it’s inexcusable for some accommodations not to be made. It’s a combination of lazy contractors/developers and DC not enforcing their own rules.

      • “Expensive” is a relative term. If you’re building something that costs many millions or tens of millions on dollars, the cost of a pedestrian tunnel is barely perceptable. And, you know, sprinklers and emergency exits are expensive too, but building costs don’t make them optional.

    • I think coordination really is the issue. My impression, as a pedestrian, is that no one is checking to see whether there are competing projects close by. Not only do you find streets where both sides of the street are blocked by construction, but you also see instances where you have to continually cross from one side to the other.

  • Pierce street behind NPR is pretty much the same. There are sloppy construction sites on both side of the street for the entire block. They often park construction vehicles on the temporary pedestrian sidewalks and move piles of dirt right over top of it. It is a little unnerving to deal with every day.

  • Think that’s bad? You should see NJ Ave by the overpass in Navy Yard on a good day.

  • I have never understood why we don’t force contractors to maintain the sidewalk as open during construction with an enclosed walkway over the original sidewalk, and, if needed, construction trailers over the top of them, the same way that New York does. It is purely a combination of idiocy and an effective construction lobby over at the Wilson Building.
    Newsflash – the District is a hot place to develop right now. If ever there has been a time to add pedestrian safety to our building requirements, it’s now. I absolutely assure you, this will not stop, slow down, or in any way deter construction in any way.
    Plus, it’ll have the added benefit of preventing construction crews from taking a sidewalk they don’t even need just to provide free all-day parking to their personal cars on said sidewalk behind the fence. Hey Council! Preserve our sidewalks! We have the technology!

  • The condos on 14th Street NE between H and Maryland Ave have been like that for a few months now.

    • More like a year and a half… They are FINALLY putting in the landscaping today and the sidewalks appear to be done as well. Maybe they will open up the fences (or at least move them to the other side of the sidewalk) soon.

  • I’m an ANC commissioner in the area–not for that block, but I do walk there frequently. I’ve been in touch with DDOT about this problem and just this afternoon was told DDOT “will have our Public Space Inspectors to review the permit and investigate the site location for compliance with the public space permit.”

    It’s not clear whether DDOT granted a permit for the sidewalk repair without thinking about the fact that the other side of the street was closed off, or if they required at least one of the permittees to provide pedestrian access and DDOT just needs to enforce it. But I agree that it’s very frustrating–and by no means constrained to this one block. The Navy Yard area has several blocks that are similarly problematic and ANC commissioners are continually pointing out issues to DDOT. Of course, unlike the Mayor or the DC Council, we are “advisory” and can’t haul them in for a hearing or control their budget. The more 311 requests, tweets, emails, etc. they get from people experiencing problems, I think the better. They can’t be observing every street every day, but they can fix problems faster and do more to ward them off.

  • At All Walks DC, a new-ish walking advocacy group in DC, we’ve been pushing for better sidewalk accommodation during construction. This is a big problem in DC. The regulations are good, but DDOT doesn’t enforce them. Every single sidewalk that is closed has been allowed to do so as a “means of last resort”, meaning that all other options for keeping the sidewalk open were assessed and deemed impossible. This is clearly a farce, and DDOT knows it.

    You can tweet photos of sites that are blocked to DDOT (@DDOT) using the hashtag #DCWalkBlock. If you cc @AllWalksDC, we’ll retweet them out to all of our followers. We’ll also have a running list of all the sidewalks that have been closed in DC.

  • Yes yes yes! I work right down the block from there, and it’s a nightmare. the construction for the Hobby Lobby Museum of Superstitious Nonsense, oops I’m sorry, Museum of the Bible, is also bad (and they also took down a whole bunch of street trees at that site, What Would Jesus Kill, I guess).

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