Nicholson St SE bridge fixes will improve access to Anacostia Park and are important to the community

BY GRAYLIN W. PRESBURY. Graylin W. Presbury currently serves as President of the Fairlawn Citizens Association. Fairlawn Citizens Association is a member of APACC.

The Fairlawn community is bounded by “the southern shore of the Anacostia River on Pennsylvania Ave east, making a 45 degree right hand turn on 25th Street SE, continuing to S Street SE, with a slight left onto Naylor Road SE. Staying on Naylor Road past Fort Stanton Park and the Skyland Shopping Center on the left until you reach Good Hope Road SE. At this point the boundary takes a right hand turn on to Good Hope Road and continues for almost two miles to Martin Luther King, Jr Ave and the exit ramp from 295 and the 11th Street Bridge.”

On Monday, September 17, 2018, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) held a meeting at the Anacostia Library to give a presentation titled: Rehabilitation of Anacostia Freeway Bridges over Nicholson St., SE. The project will entail upgrading Nicholson St., SE, and rehabilitating the three bridges crossing over Nicholson St., SE (the mainline bridge of Interstate 295 north and southbound (SB), the on-ramp to I-295 SB from Pennsylvania Ave. eastbound (EB), and the off-ramp from I-295 northbound (NB) to Pennsylvania Avenue EB). The upgrading of Nicholson St. will include the sidewalks, bringing the curb ramps into ADA compliance, pedestrian LED lighting, improved drainage, and repaving the roadway. The project, begun in June 2018, is scheduled to be completed, baring no significant weather impacts or further delays, by April 2019.

The project goals are to: 1) eliminate structural deficiencies, i.e., the poor condition of the deck slabs (holes in the deck), leaking joints, substandard barriers, etc.; 2) minimize community impact by condensing the timeline using rapid construction techniques, weekend only ramp work, minimize noise, limit detours, and all without affecting residential parking; and, 3) keeping the community informed through the website and a contact person.

Using FastTrack contract construction techniques will reduce the on-site construction time. Using a prefabricated bridge unit will improve site constructability, total project delivery time, as well as work zone safety for the traveling public. It will also reduce any traffic impact, on-site construction time, and weather-related time delays.  Without these techniques, the ramps would be closed for four full months. Instead, the ramps will only be closed for six consecutive weekends.

The timeline for the Nicholson St. reconstruction, from Fairlawn Ave. to Anacostia Dr., is from June 2018 to April 2019 and two-way traffic will be maintained while also creating a pedestrian walkway on the south side of Nicholson St. Where before there was only a pedestrian walkway on the north side of Nicholson St. The mainline bridge will be reconstructed in four phases and will involve construction of a 32 foot bridge median crossover to create additional lanes for traffic shifts throughout the mainline project phases. Those phases will involve demolition and reconstruction of the NB and SB bridge sections and the installation of median barriers. 

The timeline for the mainline bridge reconstruction is anticipated to be October 2018 through January 2019 and would involve maintaining two lanes at the project location with a full right lane closure on I-295 NB from Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. to the I-295 off-ramp to Pennsylvania Ave. EB then a lane shift on I-295 SB which will cause traffic using the on-ramp from WB Pennsylvania Ave., to yield as the merge lane will be closed. 

Phase 5 will replaced the on-ramp bridge to I-295 southbound from Pennsylvania Ave. eastbound and is anticipated to take place over four consecutive weekends between January and February 2019 from Friday at 9 PM through Monday at 5 AM. Phase 6 will replace the off-ramp bridge from I-295 NB to Pennsylvania Ave. EB and is anticipated to occur over four consecutive weekends between February and March 2019 from, as before Friday at 9 PM through Monday at 5 AM. 

When the on-ramp to SB I-295 is closed the detour would involve taking Minnesota Ave. to Good Hope Rd. then the local MLK/11th St. Bridge to SB I-295. Similarly, when the off-ramp from I-295 NB is closed the detour would involve taking the WB Pennsylvania Ave. exit, the SB I-295 ramp, then the EB Pennsylvania Ave. exit. 

DDOT will also present at the ANC7B meeting on Thursday, September 20th and they have put in a request to be on the ANC8A for their Tuesday, October 2nd meeting and are awaiting confirmation. Questions or concerns involving this project may be directed to Ms. Alberta Paul at or call (202) 671-4667.

From a community perspective

Overall the presentation was well received. While DDOT inundated the community with postcard invites in the week prior to the presentation, only about 10 neighbors were present when the presentation began around 6:20 pm. Another four or five people arrived after the formal presentation had finished around 7:10 pm. DDOT spoke to them individually. There were easels with maps and pictures as well as handouts of the project plans. Bottled water, assorted chips, and granola bars were also available. 

The PowerPoint-style presentation gave an overview of the existing conditions, the project goals, FastTrack construction techniques, project phases, and the construction schedule. DDOT asked that questions be held until the end and there were very few questions. Some questions were about other concerns like the challenge of turning onto Fairlawn Ave. from EB Pennsylvania Ave. and having to cross the merge lane traffic from the NB I-295 to EB Pennsylvania Ave. exit ramp, or about the soil decontamination work going on at the contested CubeSmart storage facility site at Fairlawn Ave. and 22nd St., or why is the little triangular park at 22nd and Minnesota Ave. fenced in? DDOT was commended for planning the work in a way that minimized community impacts and road closure traffic disruptions.