Flower Avenue project in Takoma Park faces delay -- Gazette.Net


This story was updated at 4:10 p.m. on July 16, 2014.

A $2.3 million project to upgrade sidewalks and stormwater infrastructure along a one-mile stretch of Flower Avenue in Takoma Park may be delayed as Washington Gas now plans to replace a gas line there, officials said Monday.

Daryl Braithwaite, Takoma Park’s public works director, said she learned last week that Washington Gas wants to replace the line after previously indicating it was not planning to do that. The project along Flower between Carroll Avenue and Piney Branch Road has been in the planning stages for about two years, and construction is not likely to start until 2016, she said.

“That will be a major issue that we will have to work around,” Braithwaite told council members. “We will be meeting with [Washington Gas] and may call upon [council members] to help us get clearer responses. A lot of our previous contacts are no longer with the organization, so we are starting with some new counterparts.”

Washington Gas is coordinating the gas line replacement with Takoma Park officials “to maintain a safe and reliable gas service” on Flower Avenue, Ruben Rodriguez, a spokesman for the utility, said on Wednesday. The vintage cast-iron pipe will be replaced with a more modern plastic piping system.

The project falls under the Strategic Infrastructure Development and Enhancement Program, a state initiative that allows gas utilities to accelerate the pace of infrastructure replacement, Rodriguez said.

Utilities have authority to limit what cities do in such projects, Braithwaite said. Last year, the city worked with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission to coordinate the planned replacement of a water main. Washington Gas typically uses its own contractor for work, so coordination could be trickier, she said.

Another issue that has taken some time is getting approval from property owners to build and improve sidewalks, Braithwaite said. Some homeowners have opposed a plan to install a wider greenway and sidewalk, and plans had to be altered accordingly, she said. The original design affected 17 properties, while the current design affects only six.

Councilman Jarrett Smith said the project is “by far” the biggest issue among residents in his ward. He asked about signage indicating that bikes will be used on the road, the use of recyclable materials in construction and brick crosswalks.

“I’m not suggesting we do all the crosswalks [as brick],” Smith said. “But there are a couple that are problematic. If we did something unique there, it might reduce the number of potential accidents and it would look nice.”

Braithwaite said staff members will look at bike signage, while much of the sidewalk construction materials will be fairly traditional, though some recyclable materials could be used in places. Brick crosswalks would likely add costs but can be considered, she said.

Councilman Seth Grimes said the project sounds like it is very well managed, and he understood that “these things can take a long time.”

“It would be really cool to have some form of identity ... for Flower Avenue, if there is a way to use distinctive materials along the stretch that create a sense of Flower Avenue as a place,” Grimes said. “It’s something to think about.”

Flower Avenue now has “minimal” stormwater infrastructure with relatively few “catch basins” where rainwater can flow to be transported through underground pipes. Stormwater on the street mostly runs onto side streets or private property, so more retention facilities are needed, Braithwaite said.

Traffic calming measures to improve pedestrian safety are another part of the project. A state study found that most drivers on Flower went 10 miles over the 25 miles per hour speed limit.

There will be a community meeting on the project at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Washington Adventist University’s Wilkinson Hall, 7600 Flower Ave.

Much of the funding for the project will come from federal and state sources, Braithwaite said. “The various pieces of the costs are coming together,” she said.