Glover Archbold Park today. Photo by l r on Flickr.

Major infrastructure projects, such as sewer construction, can cause a lot of disruption without many tangible benefits. But in Upper Northwest, proposed sewer repairs could result in new bike paths and connections to local parks.

DC Water needs to repair disintegrating sewer lines in Glover Archbold Park and the Soapstone Valley, which could include building an access road. Not fixing the lines could cause sewage to build up in the park. But both conservationists and the National Park Service, which owns the land, are afraid that it will require losing trees and disrupting wildlife habitats.

Another proposal, to completely move the pipes and build pumping stations, has residents concerned that DC Water and NPS are not fully considering all policy alternatives. At a public presentation in July, ANC3B Commissioner Mary Young, who represents Cathedral Heights, said the proposal could violate Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. “No one has spoken much about the enormous carbon footprint that the city will face with the pumping stations,” she said.

At the meeting, DC Water presented several options for the repairing the sewer. Their intent is to find a way to do so while also preserving parkland. Options include lining the pipes to repair them, daylighting some of the stormwater pipes, removing the lines completely, and building pumping stations.

If the pipes are abandoned and left as they are, sewage could build up in the park and become hazardous to everyone. In an email, DC Water spokesman John Lisle says the existing pipes and manholes are structurally compromised.

While the repairs may be disruptive, they present an opportunity to make it easier to reach Glover Archbold Park and the Soapstone Valley. The proposed pipe lining option will require an access road, which could provide connections to Glover Park. ANC3D Commissioner Kent Slowinski, who represents Wesley Heights, suggests that an access road created in consultation with NPS could have bike lanes and link to the future bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue, creating a direct route between Georgetown and American University.

The access road could accommodate other users as well, like visitors with disabilities. Today, the park is “totally inaccessible” to wheelchairs because of a lack of paved paths, said Young.

As with many infrastructure projects, DC Water and NPS will need to find a solution that creates needed sewer infrastructure while minimizing impacts on the ecosystem and neighbors. But the added benefit of a paved, multi-use path in the park could make this project much more attractive to the community.

Lisle notes that the design process has just started, nor have any decisions been made. It’s possible that construction may not happen for at least 2 years, he says. That means now is the best time for the community to weigh in. The National Park Services will take public comments on the proposal until August 18. After that, ANC3B will host representatives from DC Water and NPS at their next meeting September 12.

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Abigail Zenner, is a former lobbyist turned communications specialist. She specializes in taking technical urban planning jargon and turning it into readable blog posts. When she’s not nerding out about urban planning, transportation, and American History, you may find her teaching a fitness class. Her blog posts represent her personal views only.