Over the next 60 days, city officials will begin sorting out the finer details of what work needs to be done to address a number of issues plaguing the roads and sidewalks in the Melrose neighborhood in southern Hyattsville.
Currently, along 40th Avenue, Buchanan and Banner streets, the roadways have featured scarred, pot hole afflicted asphalt paving, inadequate and poorly engineered storm water drainage, and sidewalks which are buckled and girdled by tree roots.
Residents say they have been asking city officials to address these issues for years, but are only now beginning to see momentum develop behind a plan to fix their streetscape. Residents have even coined their own nickname for the neighborhood to reflect the poor state of the infrastructure: Soggy Bottom.
During a community meeting last night at city hall out which outlined the initial scope of the project, Mayor Marc Tartaro said he hoped to hire an engineering contractor to begin design work by the end of January.
The meeting was encouraging to at least one Melrose neighborhood resident.
"It sounds more hopeful today than it has been," said Teresa Thiemann, a Banner Street resident of two years. "But I have heard the doubt expressed by others over the years and there is concern that it will not be completed in the way that it was described to us today.
While the project scope is still being refined, Tartaro said that it will include a tree management plan for the neighborhood to deal with the issue of trees interfering with overhead utility lines.
"We need to look at how we can have the trees co-exist with the power lines," said Tartaro, responding to a resident's concern about how the tree canopy might be impacted by the project. "I'm not suggesting to go in there and cut all the trees down, but it's an issue that needs to be dealt with."
The project is centered around six design principles calling for the preservation of the character of the neighborhood, enhancing pedestrian access with sidewalks, reducing vehicular traffic and vehicle speeds, avoiding impacts with resident improvements in the public right-of-way, and to save existing mature trees where possible and recommend new species of trees to be planted.
Over the next two months, Tartaro said that the city wants to receive feedback from residents about the scope of the project. The city will also use that time to review tree management issues with PEPCO and Verizon.
The project could end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Tartaro.
"This is going to be a significant cost," said Tartaro during the meeting. "I don't have a number but it's going to be significant. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a half-a-million dollar project."
Money for design and engineering work for the project has been set aside in this year's budget. Money to construct the project will have to come in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2013.
Thiemann said the work would be worth it.
"We're right on the river, so it's a big deal that we manage the storm water," said Thiemann. "The sidewalks are also a concern. We have two little kids and they are always running and tripping on the sidewalks."