Federal transportation funds will help renovate roads and statues on DC bridges

Who’d guess a mural on the road could help improve safety at intersections? Some are going to get painted on curb extensions in D.C., compliments of federal transportation money helping fund seven projects in the city.

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) reviews and approves allocations from the Federal Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside program. It approved D.C.’s projects on Wednesday.

“This is less than $1 million; it’s being funded to do some very small things in the District, which can make a real big difference,” TPB transportation planner John Swanson said. “It requires a 20% match from the recipients.”

The goal of the set-aside program is to give people more transportation options and improve their transportation experiences.

“Our transportation system isn’t just about roads; it’s not just about cars. It’s about people,” Swanson said. “It’s about pedestrians; it’s about making sure that folks have access to transit and that it’s safe access, that they have access to economic opportunity and that it’s safe.”

One of the approved projects will help purchase right of way to widen and make sidewalks along a portion of the road — that Swanson said started off as a cowpath in “agricultural times” — compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The road is now a busy commuter route with safety issues, he said.

The Blair Road project in upper Northwest will extend between Eastern Avenue and 5th Street, and improve connections to schools, transit and the Takoma Park Activity Center.

“People who are in wheelchairs and kids getting to school, all kinds of vulnerable populations, are really dependent on improvements like these,” Swanson said.

The projects include:

  • C&O Canal trailhead enhancements will create a gathering area and bike repair station where it meets the Capital Crescent Trail.
  • Blair Road right of way analysis and acquisition for broader sidewalks.
  • Tactical Urbanism Library. The library will be a storehouse of items, such as cones, flexible posts and planters that can be quickly deployed to try out as potential longer-term solutions.
  • Curb extensions with ground murals will help to improve safety at dangerous intersections.
  • Union Station Head House floor tile replacement will improve pedestrian safety.
  • Union Station granite masonry and other surface restoration will help maintain a beautiful, historic transportation hub.
  • Statue restoration of the tigers on the 16th Street Bridge (1907) and the bisons on the Dumbarton Bridge (1915) heading into Georgetown will help preserve environments welcoming to walkers. (Fun fact: Most people assume the tigers are lions because no stripes are visible.)

“Some of them don’t even seem like transportation projects but they truly are,” Swanson said. “The floor of Union Station? Some of the tiles are coming up. This is a pedestrian safety issue.”

As for money going toward renovations of tiger and bison statues?

“We want to make walking and biking and using transit appealing for people so they’ll do it more,” he said.

You can watch the COG’s meeting Wednesday and find a copy of the meeting materials online.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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