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D.C. 295 reopens after vehicles roll through tar during road project


An earlier version of this article said the closure was expected through Friday morning, reflecting an initial tweet from police. The closure was actually expected through Thursday morning. The article has been corrected.

Part of southbound D.C. 295 was shut down Wednesday after about a dozen drivers reported finding sticky tar material damaging their tires, D.C. transportation officials said.

The District Department of Transportation said about 5 a.m. Thursday that the road had reopened.

The incident followed a repaving project in the area that had prompted city crews to shut down a stretch of road near East Capitol Street. D.C. police said multiple vehicles became disabled after entering the tar. No injuries were reported.

Sharon Kershbaum, deputy director of DDOT, said Wednesday evening that transportation officials are investigating the cause but believe the sticky tar was probably because of the way the asphalt was applied rather than the material used. Kershbaum said such an incident had not happened in any previous project.

“It’s a bit of a mystery until we can sort of unpack what happened,” she said. “We will continue to repave 295 over the next two weeks using a different way so we don’t have this come up again.”

The District does not regularly use this specific type of asphalt — called void-reducing asphalt membrane, an interim material sometimes used before asphalt is put down — but did in this case, which officials said might have contributed to the issue, Kershbaum said.

“We’re going to pause the use of it until we’re clear on what went wrong,” she said, adding that the material is widely used in many jurisdictions.

She said the repaving project would continue into early Thursday. The lanes that closed Wednesday on southbound D.C. 295 were reopened before the Thursday morning rush.

“There was nothing about this project that wasn’t standard,” she said. “It was scheduled, there was nothing about the timing that was unusual.”

Jason A. Johnson said he was driving to work Wednesday afternoon when he noticed something was wrong. He said he initially thought it might be a flat tire, then pulled over three times to check the tire’s air.

“It took until the second stop to see that there was something wrong with one tire,” he wrote in a message. “I wasn’t sure if there was tar on it or if there was a problem with the tire itself. That is, until I saw the news push about the tar.”

Metro said shuttle buses that were being used to move passengers as a result of Orange Line stations being closed were also delayed.

Anyone with vehicles damaged by the material can contact the city’s Office of Risk Management, Kershbaum said.