Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner announced a $19 million road grant to the District yesterday after meeting with D.C. Mayor-Elect Sharon Pratt Dixon and pledging to work with her to improve the city's infrastructure.

In a highly public manner, Skinner snubbed Mayor Marion Barry, whose administration applied for the funds months ago, and showered praise on Dixon, who does not take office until Jan. 2.

"I think all of us who work or live in the District are very excited about her tenure as mayor and the things she will do for our city and the nation as a whole," Skinner said. "I don't want to get political on this, because the election is over, but it's important when we make decisions on projects and where to give discretionary funds that we know those programs will be implemented."

In a thinly veiled reference to the Barry administration, Skinner added, "I am more comfortable now than I was before."

The District is slated to get $17.6 million to replace the John Philip Sousa Bridge and $1.5 million to resurface a stretch of 14th Street, between D Street SW and D Street NW.

During a news conference that followed a private luncheon with Dixon, Skinner also announced the creation of a task force of Federal Highway Administration and D.C. officials to assess the city's roadway maintenance needs and find additional funding for repairs.

Dixon called it "a magnificent beginning to a new kind of partnership that serves the District of Columbia well." She said she was "especially grateful because if there's anything that helped me in my own quest {for office}, it was that people had grown impatient about the condition of the streets."

Skinner said that transportation is important in any city, but especially so in the nation's capital, where an estimated 19 million people visit yearly. A Washington Post series on city services last summer found that potholes and deteriorating streets and bridges were among the greatest concerns of D.C. residents.

Skinner has privately criticized the condition of the District's streets during the Barry administration. The mayor's office did not learn of the federal award until Dixon telephoned yesterday afternoon with the news, a Dixon aide said. Barry was out of town.

D.C. Department of Public Works officials, who administer the street department, were not notified of Skinner's news conference.

The Sousa Bridge, which carries Pennsylvania Avenue over the Anacostia River, is one of the city's worst; inspectors gave it failing grades in five of seven major categories. The bridge's roadway, or deck, is full of cracks, and steel plates cover deep holes. The concrete median strip has crumbled, and much of the bridge's steel structure has corroded.

The repair project, which is in the design phase, involves widening the bridge's six lanes from 10 feet to 11 feet, and the two shoulders from six feet to eight feet. No additional lanes will be built.

According to public works officials, the District has received an average of $60 million a year since 1979 for repaving and rebuilding an average of 24 miles of streets. The city's goal is to repave and resurface at least 40 miles of streets annually. It has met the goal twice in the last 11 years.

The District budgets about $5 million a year to buy asphalt for street repairs such as potholes, but almost all of that is spent in the winter and spring on temporary patches. By summer, when permanent repairs generally are made, the city has no money for them.

A 1989 report by the Federal City Council identified a $1.6 billion backlog of street maintenance projects.