Patience required for travelers on Pennsylvania Avenue

By Robert Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What's up with Pennsylvania Avenue SE construction between the Sousa Bridge and Branch Avenue? For three months, the crews put up cones every day, cutting five lanes to two. Last weekend they installed jersey walls, making the closures a 24/7 experience. Yet the crews work only 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and despite having 20 men, little work is done.

Tens of thousands of drivers commute on this road into the District and to Interstate 395 and the Anacostia Freeway. What are the goals of the project, and why are they lollygagging when they create so much disruption? When will they finish? It's a daily nightmare.

Separately, the biggest infrastructure issue in that area is eastbound traffic using the Sousa Bridge to access the Anacostia Freeway north. These drivers have to queue up at a light to make a left turn across westbound Pennsylvania Avenue. The backup routinely extends to 14th Street SE on the avenue and a half-mile on the freeway. Any plans to build a flyover eastbound to the Anacostia Freeway north? That would help a lot more than the current project.

-- George Brown,

The District

Two big road projects will have a dramatic effect on Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

The first, so noticeable to our letter writer, is one of the District's Great Streets projects, designed to beautify and improve roadways. The Pennsylvania Avenue Great Streets project, a $30 million effort backed by federal stimulus money, will extend from east of the Sousa Bridge to the District line at Southern Avenue. It will be done in several phases over the next two years.

Preliminary work between the bridge and Branch Avenue ended early this month. Crews were working from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to avoid disrupting rush hour traffic, said John Lisle, a spokesman for the District Department of Transportation.

The first serious construction phase began between 27th Street and Branch Avenue. Jersey barriers will separate the construction workers from traffic in this phase. The scheduled work hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, but travelers might not see the same number of workers during the same times each day.

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