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Roads and sidewalks to be repaired in University Park

Within a year, potholes and uneven sidewalks will be a thing of the past in University Park, saving residents scraped knees and blown-out bicycle and car tires, among other potential discomforts.

The work marks the first time the town’s streets and sidewalks have been repaved in 15 years, barring “normal maintenance,” such as fixing potholes, Mayor John Tabori said.

“It feels good to be able to do this in these tight times,” Tabori said. “It makes for a beautiful town and a very livable town and a great place to live.”

Repairs began July 25 in Ward 2 on Tennyson Road, said Mickey Beall, the town’s public works director. The project is expected to be completed next fall. The town has a $2.38 million bond from Sun Trust Bank to pay for the project, with a 15-year payment plan, Tabori said.

Of the town’s 10 miles of roadway, the almost half-mile of Queens Chapel Road that lies within the town limits will not be resurfaced during the project, because the town is hoping to make it a “green,” or environmentally friendly, street, Tabori said.

Road resurfacing will make the town’s streets safer for pedestrians and motorists, Tabori said, citing “one or two” people who have twisted their ankles and wrecked their bicycle tires on potholes.

“It goes from that mild aesthetic quality to safety issues,” he added. “It’ll spruce up the town.”

The repairs come with some disruption to residents, such as less on-street parking and portions of their driveways being replaced, said Town Councilman Len Carey (Ward 4), the chair of the committee on public facilities and services.

University Park resident Maby Palmisano, 44, said that work has not yet begun on her street and that she is not looking forward to seeing the streets dug up.

“On a scale of one to five, I’d say [the condition of the roads is a] three,” Palmisano said. “There are bumps, holes. … It seems that we just keep spending money. I would rather spend the money on education than improving roads.”

Allowing the roads to dilapidate would “make it less safe,” Carey said, adding that the Town Council unanimously supported the project June 6.

The town’s streets took a beating when the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission replaced water mains in town and tore up the streets to do so, Tabori said. The street repairs would be needed in the next five years if they were not done now.

The town has a $30,000 design grant from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which works to restore and protect the Bay and its tributary rivers, to work on the preliminary design of the half-mile on Queens Chapel Road the town’s hopes to make into a “green” road, Tabori said.

The grant pays for the foundation to survey the street and determine which portions of the street can be a “green” street and which portions can’t, for the foundation to create a basic concept of what the town’s “green” street would look like, and to create a preliminary report.

Edmonston, which is about two miles from University Park, has a “green” street on a section of Decatur Street and is an example to University Park, Tabori said. Edmonston’s street has several environmentally-friendly design elements, including wind-powered LED streetlights, permeable pavement — which can include pervious concrete or porous asphalt that can allow water to seep into the surface below — and rain gardens that help reduce polluted runoff that ends up in local streams, the Anacostia River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

In June 2010, the town received a $1.425 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to launch the Sequential, Transformative Energy Program for University Park, or STEP-UP!

STEP-UP’s goals include providing free energy audits — an inspection of a building’s energy efficiency and suggestions for improvement — for as many as one-third of the town’s estimated 935 households, to plan energy upgrades for public buildings in the town and to help residents find low-interest loan programs to pay for their own home improvements.

Tabori said the foundation contacted the town after hearing about their STEP-UP project.

“They said ‘you guys are perfect candidates for this [and] it sounds like you’re headed towards doing this anyhow,’” Tabori said.

He estimates that the project could cost the town up to $400,000, adding that officials plan to apply for grants from the state and federal government to pay for it.

If the town does not receive enough grant money to construct a “green” street, town reserve funds will be used to repave Queens Chapel Road, which could cost as much as $100,000, Tabori said.

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