Why Not: Allow Some Streets to Revert to Cobblestones?

Streetcar Tracks in the West Village

Last week we asked why not switch back to the old Georgetown street names; this week GM stays on the nostalgic side of our streets and asks: Why not allow some of the smaller and quieter streets in Georgetown to replace their asphalt streets with cobblestone or brick? There are many benefits to cobblestone or brick streets beyond aesthetics. Find out after the jump:

Asphalt roads first appeared in Washington in 1877 with the paving of Pennsylvania Ave. Thus the initial wave of paving was not performed for the benefit of automobiles but rather the horse and buggies that still dominated the city’s roads. 


Theodore Roosevelt riding down Pennsylvania Ave. to his second inaugural.

Theodore Roosevelt riding down Pennsylvania Ave. to his second inaugural. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Eventually, it was for cars that the roads were ever improved. But the thing about roads is that when you engineer them for speed, that’s exactly what you get. But it doesn’t have to be that way for every street. Some streets should be driven very slowly on. Georgetown has several quiet roads that would fit that bill.

Poplar St.

One of those quiet little roads is the diminuitive Poplar St. It is only about 100 feet long and is a dead end. There is no rush to drive down that street because there’s nowhere to rush to. In fact the recently formed Poplar St. Neighborhood Association had much the same thought. As the Current reported last summer, the residents of Poplar St. wanted to take advantage of a routine road rehabilitation to bury the bird’s nest of overhead wires beneath a brick paved street. Well, as a trip down that quiet lane now demonstrates, DDOT wasn’t interested in the neighborhood association’s wishes. The ashphalt and wires remain.

Why not allow the citizens of Poplar St. to trade a smooth ride for beauty and a little speed reduction? Other streets that could benefit from this move include:

  • Cambridge St.
  • Dent Pl.
  • Avon Pl.
  • Scott Pl.
  • Sutter La.
  • Jones Ct.
  • Pomander Walk
  • Cecil Pl.

Some of these are just alleyways (some may already have brick pavers), but the point remains, why not allow the residents to remove the asphalt? It slows cars down, it’s more in keeping with our historical neighborhood, and it requires less maintenance than asphalt.



Filed under Why Not

13 responses to “Why Not: Allow Some Streets to Revert to Cobblestones?

  1. It may be more of a maintenance issue, in that DDOT doesn’t know how to, and may have very little interest or incentive (or give a rat’s rear) to know how to repair and maintain these streets. Then there is bugeting because I take it these types of streets may require specialized labor (labor that needs to be rewarded for specialized knowledge) as opposed to the contrator guys on the asphalt/concrete truck.
    There are cobblestone streets and alleys in Old Town Alexandria. These were to be avoided during bad weather (snow, rain, or ice) when walking, because I have nearly fallen on my butt walking on them. Depending on the stones, these streets would be off limits to women in tall tiny heels.

  2. jkc

    the urban alternative to speed bumps….interesting.

  3. Rather than cobblestones, which are rough, and pose problems for pedestrians, bicyclists, and those with mobility impairments, I am a big fan of Belgian block. E.g., see #15 in this entry: http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2008/02/revised-peoples-transportation-plan2008.html

    Keep up the good thinking!

  4. Michael

    I think it’s a maintenance issue as much as anything. Both O and P Streets (with cobbles) are in terrible condition. When there is a decision to handle maintenance, we have conflicts like this, and nothing gets done:


  5. Pingback: Why Not: Secede From Washington? «

  6. Pingback: Why Not: Shut Down M St. on Weekends? «

  7. Pingback: What Lies Beneath: Cobblestones, That’s What «

  8. Pingback: Why Not: Set Up an Ice Rink at the Waterfront? | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  9. I love this idea (6 years old at this point), and would love to see more cobble streets in Georgetown. Just one observation, cobblestones and belgian block don’t work well with mechanical plowing during snow events, so there would have to be an acceptance that snows can and will effectively shut down these roads. Salting and Mag Chloride can still be applied though, so maybe its worth the tradeoff.

  10. Pingback: Cobblestoned Cliché | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  11. Pingback: Now and a Long Time Ago: 35th and Canal | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  12. Pingback: Bring Back the Cobbles! | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  13. Pingback: Do You Mean Bricked? | The Georgetown Metropolitan

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s