- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

D.C. road crews are responding to calls faster and repairing streets more quickly than ever before, city transportation officials said.
"We know we have a ways to go … but we are moving forward to give citizens a smoother ride," said Robert Marsili, chief of street and bridge maintenance in the D.C. Department of Public Works transportation division.
Road crews closed 1,206 of 1,397 reported potholes in March and April, and 590 of 611 reported last month, transportation director Dan Tangherlini said.
The time between receiving a report to filling a pothole decreased from nine days to six days in April — and is now at 72 hours 85 percent of the time, officials said. "There has been a tremendous paradigm shift towards addressing potholes," said Mr. Tangherlini. "We are now able to be preventive."
The push in road repairs comes as officials with the U.S. Olympic Committee examine venues around the greater Baltimore-Washington area in this regions bid to host the 2012 Summer Games.
Transportation officials attribute their recent success to enlarging their crews by 25 workers, upgrading training and stationing workers in specific wards, allowing them to "take ownership" of their areas, Mr. Marsili said.
A new pothole mixture has helped keep potholes filled longer, the officials said. The new mixture, which is cheaper than a previous mixture, has increased the success rate of pothole repairs remaining in place from 7 percent to 83 percent. 7 percent CQ
Mr. Marsili said crews are repairing sidewalks with asphalt as a temporary measure to keep pedestrians from tripping over broken concrete. The crews then forward requests for permanent repairs to the construction division, he said.
The transportation division receives about 40 pothole complaints per day during its heavy season. Ten crews usually work around the city to fill reported and unreported potholes. Those crews now will be joined by evening and weekend crews that can avoid rush-hour traffic and respond more quickly to reports of potholes.
In testimony before the D.C. Council this spring, Mayor Anthony A. Williams noted that 50 percent of the 600 miles of roadway maintained by the District scored only poor or fair in a 1998-99 pavement-smoothness and quality index. By contrast, 73 percent of the 400 miles of roadway maintained by the federal government — mostly arterial streets like New York, Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues — scored good or excellent on the pavement index.
The federal government each year spends $250,000 per mile to repair the roads it maintains in the city; the District, $8,333 per mile for its roads. Local funds — and political resolve — for road repairs were lacking during the 1990s, when the city experienced a financial crisis.
Last month, council members approved dedicating the citys right-of-way fees — about $23 million — to road repair.
The council members dedicated the fees after a dispute with Mr. Williams, who they said diverted millions of dollars in road-repair funds to administrative costs in his 2002 proposed budget.
Last year, the District recommended instituting fees that charge utility companies rent for the underground space they use for cables and pipes.
The rights-of-way fees, as they are called, were projected to raise more than $30 million in local revenue annually.
The council and the mayor agreed that the fees collected in the first year should go into the citys general fund.
For 2002, the council intended the money to go to the local roads construction and maintenance fund.
Instead, the mayor allocated $23 million from the fees to cover "bureaucratic" costs of the citys transportation division, council members said, allowing him to use the money for other departments.
Through some creative financing, the council was able to find funds and return the $23 million to the road-repair fund while leaving other agency budgets alone, according to council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican and chairman of the public works committee.
Mrs. Schwartz said she is pleased by the outcome, adding that she will make sure the money is spent to improve roads.

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