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First Step in Lincoln Park Makeover Is Complete

After a three-month delay, the western half of Capitol Hill’s Lincoln Park is outfitted with new sidewalks and has reopened for jogging and other summer recreation.

The portion of the park bounded by 11th and 12th streets and East Capitol Street was closed off for repairs until the beginning of this month.

Community members complained to the National Park Service throughout construction that the project was taking too long and that weeks went by with no apparent work being done.

Construction began in late October and was supposed to be complete by the end of January. Frank Young, the National Park Service’s manager for the project, attributed the delay to cold weather, unforeseen ground conditions and coordination issues with contractors.

“There was a short period during construction — just a couple of weeks — where temperatures were consistently below 40 degrees, and that’s where we saw fit to delay the project,” Young said. “But for the most part it was a very mild winter and we were able to get through with few weather-related interruptions.”

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Nick Alberti, who represents the area surrounding the park, questioned why the NPS chose to do the project in the winter.

If residents had been told from the start that the project would take six months, “We could have lived with that,” Alberti said. “But it was disingenuous to tell us it would take three months when they suspected they were going to have delays.

“My conclusion is there was poor planning and poor oversight of the construction.”

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) was barraged with complaints about the project, Alberti said. Wells’ office wound up meeting with staff of Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, to discuss the delay.

Alberti did say the new sidewalks are an improvement.

The NPS also plans to repair the eastern half of the park, between 12th and 13th streets, but funding is not yet in place.

The first phase cost $627,000, Young said, and the second phase is estimated at $839,000.

He said the National Park Service’s fiscal 2009 projects were just finalized and Lincoln Park is not on the list, meaning phase two might not begin until 2010.

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