Jennifer Hefferan also heads the DDOT team that oversees city-wide installation of new sidewalks. The DC Pedestrian Advisory Council’s Committee on Walkability and Infrastructure invited Jennifer to give a presentation at its October 23rd meeting.
What we learned is that this is still a work in progress. Only federal money through Safe Routes to School and the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement program will be devoted to filling sidewalk gaps, with about $1.6 million for actual construction. This is still winding its way through the federal process of getting the funds “obligated” – or promised – for this specific purpose. The next step is getting the contract approved by procurement, a city process. The actual work may not start until late spring into early summer.
Another important piece is knowing where sidewalk gaps still remain. DDOT has made progress in filling sidewalk gaps, but no one is tracking the work at this time. That’s about to change. Aaron Horton, the head of DDOT’s Asset Management Division, is in charge of a sidewalk survey which will record the conditions of the sidewalks and also sidewalk gaps. The federal shutdown had slowed up this process. He had hoped to have this contract put out to bid by the fall.
Meanwhile, Alice Kelly, a manager of public policy at DDOT, continues to work on policies that will clarify procedures and terms in the law, such as defining priority areas, safety hazards, how road construction factors into where new sidewalks should be added. On this front, Jennifer Hefferan and her team will try to stay ahead of the curve by keeping track of street reconstruction projects. They’ll check on whether there is a need for a sidewalk and coordinate with the engineers on the required public notice, the outreach and the design.
This is a complicated process. DDOT deserves credit for assigning a team to handle this work, and the agency’s long-term transportation plan is making pedestrians its number one policy priority, but the city needs to fund this priority. The Pedestrian Advisory Council, as it prepares for City Council oversight and budget hearings, wants to see more and better maintained sidewalks in this city. Pedestrians will know this is real when the city follows through on this promise.