“What to do about noisy metal plates over road construction?”

loud mad
Photo by PoPville flickr user Tim Brown

“Dear PoPville,

I live off Kansas and Missouri Ave in N. Petworth/Brightwood Park, and have a unique issue.

Last Saturday, construction workers came super early (not the issue, but annoying) and jackhammered a big hole in the street, presumably to access underground infrastructure. At the end of the day, they laid down those big thick metal plates you often see used to cover such sites. They haven’t been back since then, but I assume they’ll be back tomorrow since it seems Saturdays are the preferred work day for this site.

Over the course of the week, one of the metal plates loosened to the point that every time a car passes over it, it makes two loud bangs – one for the front wheels and one for the rear wheels. When a large vehicle (bus, trash truck) passes, it actually causes the ground/house to vibrate, and this is accompanied by a much larger “BOOM.” Missouri Ave. is a pretty major cross-city street with a lot of traffic, so the bangs can be as frequently as every second or two, depending on time of day.

My house is pretty close to the construction site, and the banging is slowly driving me crazy.

My cat won’t even sit in the open window anymore (normally a given) because it’s so annoying. The window, for that matter, can’t really be open anymore until this passes.

So far, I’ve used the 311 app to send in construction repair requests, and I’ve directly emailed DC Dept. of Transportation. Neither has brought a response.

Anybody with any experience of this or any ideas for next steps? Hopefully it gets fixed soon but I want to be prepared if it’s not.”

16 Comment

  • FYI, not a unique issue. I’ve seen this lots of times before, and there is a similar thing happening somewhere near my house right now (or at least it was happening last weekend.) If I were you I’d pick up the phone and start making telephone calls rather than than filing complaints via apps and emails. I don’t know who to tell you to call but I’m sure you can find a number to start with on the DDOT website.

    • If there are no parking signs for staging equipment the project contractor will have a point of contact phone number on the bottom. You can always call those numbers and ask them for info or to a fix a problem they may have caused. It wouldn’t hurt to reach out to CM Todd’s constituent services staff and let them know as well and ask for their assistance.

  • Did they come back Saturday? I sympathize but this should be just a temporary inconvenience so I doubt there’s anything that can be done.

  • Definitely not a unique issue. You’re probably just going to have to deal with it, and hope they come back soon to continue the work. White noise machines go a long way (at night anyway).

  • Awful awful awful. I actually emailed my CM for someone to do something after two months of no work being done. They literally fixed it the next day. I my case it was a utility (Washington Gas or their contractor) not following up on the job.

  • Reading your post brought back nightmares from years ago. Back in 2011, when the city was repaving & re-bricking the entire Columbia Heights area near the metro & CVS- they too laid down those metal sheets to cover holes on the streets. I lived across the street and it was like a GONG going off next to my head. I could even here during the early hours at WSC… with my earphones in & music cranked up.

    Due to the “Amplified Sound” – I reached out to [at the time] Councilman Jim Graham – he quickly referred my email and concerns to several people at DDOT. I am not sure if the people are still there, but the department and numbers are: The Director: 202-671-4097; Chief of Public Space Inspections: 202-671-2801; and the office of Public Space Operations Project: 202-442-4670.

    GOOOOD LUCK!

  • I had the same thing happen to me, it’s not rare.

    When I talked with someone at DDOT they expressed frustration that there are so many entities that are allowed to cut into DC streets that they have no way of knowing who is responsible when something like this happens and it’s not one of their own projects. In addition to DDOT it could be DPW, Pepco, Washington Gas, DC Water, Verizon, RCN or several federal agencies. About fifteen years ago the Council passed a “placard law” that says if you’re going to cut into pavement or close a street you have to put up a sign showing who is doing the construction and listing the name and phone number of a real live human being that people can call if there is a problem with the construction. That laws seems to be widely ignored.

    The cynic in me notes that it seems to be particularly ignored when they do small jobs with metal plates because it is so likely to be a problem.

  • Good luck. I think this is part of work by a Pepco contractor to rebuild the electric distribution system in our area. When they dug up 14th near Meridian, they left metal plates haphazardly thrown there for several months without doing any actual work. The US sent people to the Moon and back more quickly.

  • ptw_dc

    I just went through this ordeal last month on New Hampshire and Spring Rd. I got my ANC Chair involved, and was made aware that the massive trench and steel plates on top are it’s part of the Pepco “Harvard Conversion Project” to replace all electrical wires in all of Park View (not sure if it’s also occurring further north by you). Pepco failed immensely on the PR side of this project (never communicated with neighbors on its impact to their homes / noises / vibrations caused by cars traversing the plates). Once my ANC chair contacted Pepco, Pepco attempted to better reinforce the plates each night so the impact was minimized. It lasted 4 weeks, and was horrendous. And I’ve got a port-a-potty right outside my house. Pepco’s sh!t stinks…

    Contact: Chris Taylor | [email protected]

  • Same thing happened to me on 13th & Monroe. No resolution, but the plates were gone after about 2 months… Good luck and let us know if you get it resolved!!

  • I took a quick video of a car driving over it (about 15 seconds), and tweeted that at DDOT, Mayor, and Council Member. Previous 311 requests and calls directly to DDOT did nothing. That tweet had it fixed within 24 hours.

  • OP here – first of all, thanks to everyone for your tips. Noted that it’s not a unique issue. Bad choice of words, perhaps.

    Right about the same time I posted this, I was informed by a housemate that a crew was in the area fixing the issue. Couldn’t say for sure if it was my half-hearted attempts at resolution, or someone else’s more robust efforts. In any case, the stories and tips are appreciated, and will be noted for if and when this issue crops up again.

    Glad that it was only a week in my case and not a month or more like some of the others here!