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After nearly three years, a whole lot of jackhammers, and a fair share of frustration, the city’s overhaul of the Sherman Avenue NW streetscape is finally, officially over.
When Washington City Paper published its Answers Issue back in January, one reader wrote in with the question many residents of Columbia Heights and Pleasant Plains have been asking: “Why is it taking so long to repave Sherman Avenue NW?” The answer from the District Department of Transportation at the time was that the utility companies were doing underground work as part of the streetscaping, and it was taking longer than anticipated. Final paving, DDOT spokesman John Lisle said, ought to occur in February.
Well now it’s July, and the $13 million project, begun in October 2010, is finally complete. Mayor Vince Gray cut the symbolic ribbon this morning on the streetscaping this morning at the corner of Sherman and Morton Street NW, against a backdrop of wider sidewalks, new medians with trees and bushes, freshly painted bike sharrows, and a narrower street, reduced from four lanes to two in an effort at traffic calming.
“How about the medians?” Gray chortled. “They look fantastic. If anything gives a sense of neighborhood to Sherman Avenue, it’s the medians.”
The street has come a long way. “There were those before home rule whose view of the city was as a pass-through,” said Gray, and Sherman was, in the words of Pleasant Plains Civic Association President Darren Jones, “a raceway.” After the construction began, it became “reminiscent at points of Waterloo,” said Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham. Now, however, the street is transformed: The sidewalks are better for walking, the street’s better for biking, the landscape is much more attractive for residents—-and, yes, the speedway might be a little less speedy for commuters.
So what’ll be the next street to get the Sherman treatment? The beautification of U Street will be complete in the next few weeks. Could Georgia Avenue, parallel to Sherman and with more pedestrian activity, follow? According to DDOT Director Terry Bellamy, the volume of commuters along Georgia probably means the answer is no.
“I don’t think we’re going to see this on Georgia Ave.,” Bellamy tells me.
Photos by Aaron Wiener