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Benning Road gets a well-deserved break

Benning Road.jpg This is the before picture, from April 23. Look below to see today's view. (Thomson)

Something actually got better this year: On April 23, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Transportation Director Gabe Klein announced that the reconstruction of Benning Road -- that awful, perpetually torn up commuter route to the east of downtown -- would get back on track and be done by mid-December.

Today, the mayor announced that the work is substantially done. "The heavy equipment, the construction crews, the traffic cones: they are all gone," Fenty said in a statement. Traffic flows freely -- as freely as ever -- on the 10 block stretch between 16th Street and Oklahoma Avenue and the neighbors don't have to look at something that used to resemble a World War I trench line.

This Great Streets project wasn't just about commuters. In fact, it reduced the travel lanes from eight to six. There are new pedestrian crossings and a wider median for safety.

The changes also included upgrades for street lights and traffic signals, new storm water controls and a bunch of improvements landscaping, for example -- that just make the road look better. Plus, it's got streetcar tracks.

The Benning Road reconstruction got underway in December 2007, though many drivers will recall that there was utility work before that to slow their travels. In fact, after the Great Streets project began, other utility work slowed the reconstruction and added to the frustrations of drivers and nearby residents. For months -- no, seasons -- a drive along this stretch of Benning Road was a Moon Bounce.

So the mayor put in a personal appearance and made the public pledge to get the project back on track.

"When Mayor Fenty visited this project eight months ago, and tasked us with getting the job done as fast as possible, there was a lot of work left to be done," Klein said today. "But I'm proud to say our staff and the contractor rose to the challenge, and they should be proud of the finished product."

There's still more work underway to the west, at the Starburst intersection and along H Street NE, so for many commuters, this isn't the ultimate payoff. Still, it's clear progress.

Benning Road12-14-09 - DDOT.jpg
Looks a lot better today. Notice the streetcar tracks at at sides of median. (John Lisle/DDOT)

By Robert Thomson  |  December 14, 2009; 2:14 PM ET
Categories:  Commuting , Construction , Driving  | Tags: Adrian M. Fenty, DDOT, Dr. Gridlock, Gabe Klein  
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I can't believe how long it took. This would never had happened in the more affluent neighborhoods.

Posted by: sherardg | December 15, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

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