Housing Complex

Sherman Avenue Streetscape Project Is Officially Complete

After nearly three years, a whole lot of jackhammers, and a fair share of frustration, the city's overhaul of the Sherman Avenue NW streetscape is finally, officially over.

When Washington City Paper published its Answers Issue back in January, one reader wrote in with the question many residents of Columbia Heights and Pleasant Plains have been asking: "Why is it taking so long to repave Sherman Avenue NW?" The answer from the District Department of Transportation at the time was that the utility companies were doing underground work as part of the streetscaping, and it was taking longer than anticipated. Final paving, DDOT spokesman John Lisle said, ought to occur in February.

Well now it's July, and the $13 million project, begun in October 2010, is finally complete. Mayor Vince Gray cut the symbolic ribbon this morning on the streetscaping this morning at the corner of Sherman and Morton Street NW, against a backdrop of wider sidewalks, new medians with trees and bushes, freshly painted bike sharrows, and a narrower street, reduced from four lanes to two in an effort at traffic calming.

Gray (center), joined by Bellamy, Graham, Jones, and mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, cuts the ribbon on the new Sherman Avenue.

"How about the medians?" Gray chortled. "They look fantastic. If anything gives a sense of neighborhood to Sherman Avenue, it's the medians."

The street has come a long way. "There were those before home rule whose view of the city was as a pass-through," said Gray, and Sherman was, in the words of Pleasant Plains Civic Association President Darren Jones, "a raceway." After the construction began, it became "reminiscent at points of Waterloo," said Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham. Now, however, the street is transformed: The sidewalks are better for walking, the street's better for biking, the landscape is much more attractive for residents—and, yes, the speedway might be a little less speedy for commuters.

So what'll be the next street to get the Sherman treatment? The beautification of U Street will be complete in the next few weeks. Could Georgia Avenue, parallel to Sherman and with more pedestrian activity, follow? According to DDOT Director Terry Bellamy, the volume of commuters along Georgia probably means the answer is no.

"I don't think we're going to see this on Georgia Ave.," Bellamy tells me.

Photos by Aaron Wiener

  • wizzer

    Maryland Ave NE on Capitol Hill is getting a similar "road diet" / beautification initiative starting with the pilot project this fall. DDOT reps told us at a neighborhood meeting that Sherman Ave was a comparable model to what we'd see on Maryland Ave NE eventually. Hopefully the Maryland Ave NE project moves along at a much quicker pace than Sherman did.

  • J

    My intepretation of Bellamy: "No, Georgia Ave will continue to look like crap because of MD commuters."

    Umm... who do you work for again?

  • http://westnorth.com PCC

    The sharrows and wide median seem like a missed opportunity for a better bike facility. Sherman has the gentlest grade of any local street when it comes to surmounting the escarpment -- quite unlike 15th St., which is incredibly steep but has double bike lanes.

  • Sherman

    During this process, they completely missed the planters and tree boxes on the west side of Sherman Ave between Harvard and Columbia Road. Now those empty boxes fill with garbage. Multiple calls to 311 to get those trees planted has resulted in nothing. They told us that they plan to plant them in February 2015. Anyone know how to speed up that process? Funny Mayor Gray say it's completed. Sounds like he cut the ribbon a few years too early.

  • Tom in Michigan Park

    Infrastructure improvements like this are fantastic, and illustrative of our tax dollars at-work.

    However, the amount of litter in the gutters and sidewalk medians along Sherman Avenue (and many of the adjacent side streets), is appalling. Alas, these streets are still occupied by a populace that sees nothing wrong with littering their neighborhood.

    DPW's street-cleaning efforts can NEVER be enough...

  • mj

    i agree with PCC. bike infrastructure should have been a must for this to be a success. it was a waste of money in my opinion.

  • jimble

    I have no trouble biking on Sherman -- plenty of room for bikes and cars to coexist without the double-parking/delivery lanes that bike lanes usually become in DC.

  • Petworther

    HUGE missed opportunity for bike facilities. Sure the median is pretty, but the sidewalks are still quite narrow, and there is still no bike lane. Let this be a lesson in how NOT to redesign a street.

  • Economist

    The streetscape is a big improvement, no doubt. Was it worth the time and expense? Harder to know.

    Could it have been done better? I'll have to bike it to know...

  • spongebiker

    It looks like a really great improvement to the street and will be safer for everyone, but the only thing bothering me about this redesign is the placement of the sharrows. They should not be placed in the door zone of parked cars. Other than that, it looks great.

  • eped

    What a disappointment! It looks better but is unsafe for cyclists. The median is nice and wide, but bikes are squeezed between parked cars and other cars that have trouble judging safe passing distance. The sidewalks are still narrow.

    What a terrible outcome! This would be the easiest way to bike up the hill, but it is now to unsafe!