Something’s been missing from a portion of Yuma Street between Connecticut Avenue and 35th Street NW: a sidewalk on the south side. No longer.
The sidewalk’s absence has long been noted by neighbors, but it became more glaring when Murch Elementary moved to UDC this fall. Students walking to the campus from the north and west were forced to walk in the street or cross at mid-block to reach one of the campus access points.
Now, that stretch of Yuma now has complete sidewalks on both sides of the street. Murch students can cross more safely at the intersection with 35th Street that is controlled by a stop sign. Also, drivers can get to their parked cars without walking in the roadway.
ANC 3F06 Commissioner Malachy Nugent says planning for the sidewalk started more than a year ago. He provided this timeline:
June 2015: Marcus Koblitz reached out to me asking if we could get the sidewalk on the south side of Yuma extended to the corner on 35th. I told him I’d look into it.
July/August 2015: I had a series of conversations with DDOT engineers who said nothing could be done. They said extending the sidewalk would be impossible because of the wooded hillside (The Urban Forestry Administration would object to removing the trees, not that we wanted them to do so anyway) and putting a stop sign and crosswalk mid-block would be unsafe.
September 2015: I raised the issue with DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo and Matt Marcou, Associate Director of Public Space, as one of a series of pedestrian safety issues in the area. I arranged for George Branyan, DDOT Pedestrian Coordinator and Matthew Marcou to visit the site. George, ever the creative thinker, did some quick calculations and figured it would be possible to extend the sidewalk through the parking lane without having to remove any trees, at the cost of losing four parking spaces (two metered, two unzoned). I thought that was a fair trade. Matt agreed it would work and they said they’d take it back to the office and put it in the hopper. The picture below is of that meeting (with fellow ANC Commissioner Sally Gresham, Aaron Rhones from Dormsjo’s office, and ANC Commissioner Mary Beth Ray behind the camera).
Winter 2015/16: The project languished during the winter months, though continued to receive periodic messages from constituents asking for a safer way to cross Yuma.
Summer 2016: With Murch moving to UDC and the prospect of many more kids crossing Yuma at this point (it’s right by one of the access points for the swing space), picked up the project again.
September 2016: I reached out to the new Safe Routes coordinator, Derrick Hardy, to jumpstart the project again. With the Murch connection he was able to use his influence and resources to jump this to the head of the queue and DDOT engineers drafted a specific engineering plan.
October 2016: ANC resolution approving the plan. Since the sidewalk doesn’t go in front of any homes (just the UDC gym) a petition wasn’t necessary (though I did notify my constituents of the plan anyway).
November 16: groundbreaking!
So we have Marcus Koblitz to thank for instigating this project nearly 18 months ago. He should be the honorary first walker on the sidewalk!