- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2000

The District of Columbia Department of Public Works is losing the war against potholes, and officials are looking to welfare-to-work employees to bolster their ranks.

Last month, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and DPW officials said they hoped to have most of the pothole work completed by early June. DPW started a "pothole blitz," but residents have swamped city phones over the past month, at one point reporting potholes as fast as crews could fill them.

The department is making progress but still faces a backlog of more than 2,000 road holes.

"We're now filling more potholes than people are calling in," said Dan Tangherlini, acting director of transportation. The total is about 800 more than a month ago.

Additional manpower should help, Mr. Tangherlini said.

"It's a win-win situation," Mr. Tangherlini said. "I'm looking to double the number of crews."

DPW officials would like to add an additional four or five crews made up of welfare-to-work recruits. But officials say they will have to address safety training concerns before the plan can become a reality.

"The city's trying to move 13,000 people off the [welfare] roles, 20 or 25 is not going to be an issue," said Keith Cross, assistant director of employment services.

"My target is 30 days," Mr. Cross said. "But we've got to make sure all the parties are in sync."

Despite the backlog of potholes, city officials said they are a third of the way finished with the goal of resurfacing 150 city blocks by August. The city has resurfaced a few corridors, like Fourth Street NE between H Street and Massachusetts Avenue, Mr. Tangherlini said.

"We're looking at probably five years of neglect," Mr. Tangherlini said. "We just need some resources for just plain old resurfacing."

But resurfacing and repairs to utility cuts aren't moving fast enough for Laura Ragans, who manages the Manulife Financial building at 1100 New York Ave. NW. She said she's tired of dealing with street cuts on 12th Street between H Street and New York Avenue. She receives complaints via phone and e-mail every week from her tenants.

"They just patched a little area right in front of the curb it's real tricky to drive on it and it's a real problem for our parkers," Ms. Ragans said.

Ms. Ragans said utility cuts were made three months ago, just before the city placed a moratorium on new cuts. But because of the moratorium, the company was unable to complete the work, which is why permanent repairs haven't been made on the block, Mr. Tangherlini said.

On April 23, Mr. Williams removed the month-old moratorium on new cuts.

City crews are responsible for filling potholes, but utility companies usually contracting with private construction crews are required by law to pave over the cuts they make.

"It's just been an ongoing problem that's lasted way too long… . I've made many calls so far I haven't had any luck," said Ms. Ragans, who has been calling DPW for the past two weeks.

Two-inch-deep utility cuts run along the right lane of the block, and a medium-sized pothole serves as an obstacle on the left side of the street. Some repairs were made south of New York Avenue, but it's an obstacle course from H Street to Massachusetts Avenue.

"That area looks like little Bosnia," Mr. Tangherlini said. "That whole area needs to be resurfaced it's not our proudest gateway."

Last Friday, the utility companies, which have made mincemeat of city streets over the past months, were required to submit reports on all the resources they have citywide.

Washington Gas, WASA, MCI WorldCom, Starpower and ESpire have yet to file those reports. Until they are filed, the city will not issue any new permits for street cuts, Mr. Tangherlini said.

City officials will compare those reports with their own logs. Utilities will be charged from 14 to 39 cents for each foot of roadway cut, providing the city with $4.6 million in revenue this year and $7 million next year, Mr. Tangherlini said.

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