Sidewalks of Peril….No More!

According to this tidbit of news from DDOT, new work zone standards are being put into place that disallow construction sites to close off sidewalks from pedestrian access.

It’s about time.

When I worked in Penn Quarter, many lunch hours were spent training for some perverted form of “American Gladiators” as I (and other wage slaves) would weave our way down E Street, crossing back and forth due to various sides of the street being closed off for multiple building renovations. By far the worst was the new building going up at the corner of 9th and E, which – depending on the time of day and the weather – you could either use the concrete barrier-formed pathway to navigate down 9th, or use the leaky wood-covered walkway that stank to high heaven, especially during our wonderful heat-soaked summers. Or be forced to cross halfway (yeah, like we use crosswalks around here….those are for the tourists, remember?) when the ‘pathway’ would become closed. Which was often. For no discernible reason.

And then, of course, cross back again, because the sidewalk on the other side was closed a block away. It was like playing Frogger, DC-style.

The new rules basically “force” developers to maintain either a covered walkway or a protected open walkway for pedestrians – making the ‘zigzag walk’ of many during lunchtime (and the morning / evening obstacle courses to various Metros) a thing of the past. Sidewalks can only be closed now for full-building demolitions or situations where public safety would be compromised.

Of course, if the developer is Douglas Development…. I’ll probably still cross to the other side of the street.

Just to be safe.

2 Comments so far

  1. KCinDC (unregistered) on February 5th, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

    Does that mean an end to the months-long, usually pointless closing of the sidewalk on the east side of the Klingle Bridge?

  2. KCinDC (unregistered) on February 5th, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

    It’s hard to tell for sure, but it looks like the new rules have plenty of loopholes, so I’m not expecting any dramatic changes. For example:

    Special Approval:

    When closing a sidewalk adjacent to a roadway with more than two travel lanes and where at least one end of the sidewalk closure is more than 150 feet from the nearest signalized crosswalk, the Traffic Control Plan showing the closure of the sidewalk requires the written approval of the District Department of Transportation Pedestrian Program Coordinator or work zone technician assigned to review the traffic control plan.

    So no special approval is required as long as there’s a crosswalk near both ends, which could actually encourage closing off a whole block rather than part of one. And depending on how the "public safety" provision is interpreted, that could be an all-purpose loophole.

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