GM happened to notice this weekend that a couple small patches of asphalt on 31st St.29th st. have eroded away to reveal the wonderful cobblestones that lie beneath (alright, if you must be a stickler, they’re really called Belgian blocks or setts, but let’s not get hung up on that).
GM tried to do a little research to find out how many of Georgetown’s streets still have these stones underneath the asphalt, but came up empty-handed. At the very least 31st street does (Update: an astute reader pointed out that this photo is of 29th st., not 31st. But GM does remember seeing Belgian blocks on 31st when they repaved it last year). Obviously there are cobblestones on O and P where you can still see the streetcar tracks, but (for now at least) those tracks and the stone continue underneath the asphalt along the route’s old loop by the University. (The tracks currently under asphalt will be removed during the streets’ rehabilitation, which is set to begin later this year).
But could it be that the rest of Georgetown also still has Belgian blocks as their foundation?
GM has argued before that some streets should be permitted to convert back to cobblestones. They’re attractive and are a highly effective way to slow cars down. While O and P streets are a hazard, they are a hazard because of the streetcar tracks are elevated over the settled stones. Once the tracks are made flush with the stones again, the roads will be safe. (And, to head off a likely counterargument, there is much debate about whether it’s better for a ambulance to drive fast in the first place).
Belgian blocks are incredibly durable and would cost significantly less to maintain than asphalt after you take into account the cost of periodically resurfacing. And yes, they can be plowed in the winter.
Georgetown preservationists are so rigid about so many things, yet seem to disregard history as soon as it means a slight inconvenience to their driving. Here’s a chance to be true preservationists and restore a real part of Georgetown’s past. It’s just a few inches below our feet.