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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > March 2002 > "DC Streets" is a Capital Success
March 2002Publication Number: FHWA-RD-02-008

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"DC Streets" is a Capital Success

For Washington, DC, drivers, the ride is looking and feeling smoother. Launched with fanfare in June 2000, the "DC Streets" initiative constituted the first urban, performance-based asset management project in the United States. The District of Columbia Division of Transportation (DDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and its engineering services consultant, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), worked together to develop the project. DDOT then awarded a contract to a private firm, VMS, Inc., to preserve and maintain approximately 121 km (75 mi) of the major streets and highways in the District. These roads make up the District's portion of the National Highway System (NHS) and are heavily used by residents, commuters, and tourists. A recent assessment of the first year of the project showed that substantial progress has been made toward meeting the contract's performance measures.

Assets that are being maintained under the 5-year, $70 million experimental contract include tunnels, pavements, bridges, roadside features (including curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and retaining walls), pedestrian bridges, roadside vegetation, and such traffic safety equipment as guardrails, barriers, impact attenuators, impact attenuators, and signs. Also covered is snow and ice control. Roads throughout the city have been worked on, including Pennsylvania Aveneue, I-295, and New York Avenue. The performance-based nature of the contract means that instead of specifying the materials or methods to be used, the desired outcome is outlined and it is then up to the contractor to achieve it. The contract is the largest transportation investment in DDOT's history and also represents the first time that FHWA has teamed directly with a city government on a program to preserve its highway infrastructure.

The evaluation compared the condition of the assets against the performance measures, providing an overall score and a score for each maintenance category. A score of 100 would mean that, on average, the condition of the assets meets the performance goal. The overall score for the first year of the contract was 92. "We're very pleased with the progress that's been made so far. The trends are going up in all categories," says Shannon Moody of VMS. "DC Streets has brought a lot of improvement to the NHS, although we still have a ways to go in realizing the goals of the initiative," says Edward A. Sheldahl of FHWA.

Reaction from the city has been positive also. "We've received a lot of feedback from residents and community members telling us that they think we're doing a good job," says Moody. The evaluation report noted that "the first year.showed a marked decrease in negative feedback from the public and press. Probably the most noted change was the lack of pothole complaints, which have plagued DDOT in years past."

"Contracting this work to VMS has brought wonderful results to our residential neighborhood and to the city as a whole," said Maria Taylor, Commissioner of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission. Washington, DC, resident Jim Wheeler noted the "prompt and good work VMS and its subcontractors have performed in repairing street signs, removing abandoned meter posts, installing temporary sidewalk patches, and repairing tree boxes along Wisconsin Avenue and on sections of M Street in Georgetown."

One of the contract's goals is to use innovative methods and procedures for infrastructure maintenance. Innovative technologies used by VMS in the first year included a mobile spray pothole patcher. The contract also has the goal of revitalizing the communities where the maintenance is being performed. During the first year, VMS worked with local community development organizations, participated in community projects, and focused on hiring local residents and businesses.

Word of the success of DC Streets is spreading. Presentations on the project were made last year at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Mid Atlantic Quality Assurance Workshop, and the FHWA Eastern Area Engineering Conference. Project staff also met with delegations from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Finland, and the Southern Africa Development Community.

For more information on the DC Streets initiative, contact Luke DiPompo at DDOT, 202-654-6134 (fax: 202-645-6129), Michael Kirk at VMS, 804-553-4001 (email: mkirk@vmsom.com), or Edward A. Sheldahl at FHWA, 202-219-3514 (fax: 202-219-3545; email: edward.sheldahl@fhwa.dot.gov).

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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