- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

For anyone who frequently drives around town, D.C. roads seem to be a near constant source of consternation.

And the city’s transportation authority agrees.

The D.C. Department of Transportation classifies 38 percent of locally funded roadways as being in “poor,” “very poor,” or “failed” condition. That’s compared to only 9 percent of D.C. roads that qualify for federal funding that have fallen into the same state of disrepair.

A lack of proper funding is part of the problem, transportation officials said at a Tuesday hearing before a D.C. Council committee.

“The local road has not been funded adequately for many, many, many years,” said Muhammed Khalid, DDOT’s interim chief engineer, explaining the reason for the road deficiencies. “We are recovering, but it is taking quite a bit of time considering the funding level.”

The statement stumped D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, who presided over the hearing and said such pronouncements about a lack of funding were not made as the city considered its fiscal 2015 spending plan in the spring.

“I didn’t quite hear this story during budget oversight,” she said, indicating that she increased funding for local road repairs.

Of the city’s 4,300 miles of roadway, about half, or 2,300 miles, are considered local roads and paid for only with local funding.

The District receives about $150 million annually from the Federal Highway Administration to help pay for upkeep of federal roadways, such as highways and major thoroughfares. But the allotment of federal dollars is also used for work on bridge repair and streetscape reconstruction, interim DDOT Director Matthew Brown said.

“We’re directing our resources to keep the roads that are at good and fair condition at good and fair,” he said.

Transportation officials said at least part of the problem this year has been potholes, which riddled city streets after a winter of unusually erratic weather.

But Ms. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, also drew attention to the transportation department’s lack of efficiency in how it responds to repair requests.

The agency’s website directs people to a citywide call center or allows them to complete a service request online. Ms. Cheh, quoting the complaints of her constituents, said the agency’s responses appeared to be reactive rather than proactive.

“The fact that it will take years to fill requests in is somewhat unacceptable,” Ms. Cheh said.

Transportation officials also offered their support to the Public Space Maintenance Contracting Authorization Amendment Act of 2014. The bill, in short, would allow the city to work with business improvement districts to help improve sidewalks, signage and other street features.

Members of a council representing the business improvement districts — defined as commercial areas where property owners can approve services that go above and beyond what the city provides — also supported the bill, saying the city could save time and money in its contracting.

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