Despite gaps, Cap Square work comes closest to brisk ideal

Traffic, pedestrians, and construction perform a balletic dance in front of the Capitol Theater block on July 2.

Sidewalk work, inherently disruptive, is proceeded with unusual intensity and speed in the East Arlington business district.

Crews on June 22 began demolishing the sidewalk on the half block that runs from Lake Street to Derby Farm (formerly Wings Over Arlington, formerly Nellio’s, formerly Gellio’s).

Ideally once this noisy, dirty, and disruptive works begins in any single location, it should proceed as rapidly as possible until done, with no breaks and no idled half-built sidewalks.

That was the promise that the construction team made in 2014. The work in front of the Capitol theater has come the closest to this ideal.

Nonetheless no work took place on June 24, and very little on June 25, according to Jan Whitted, who owns Artbeat.

Sidewalk work on the Chandler-Edgerton block on July 2.

Sidewalk work on the Chandler-Egerton block on July 2.

Whitted praised the construction team: Contractor “Lynch has been great—very accommodating to the businesses and the many pedestrians.”

Work in the business district is complicated by the need to install electrical conduit for the pedestrian-scale lighting and by the two-toned pavement scheme, which requires additional pours. Conduit installation has already added several days to the work in front of the Capitol.

These sidewalks to the west of Teel St. were left unworked for a time until the cement crews visited on xx.

These sidewalks to the west of Teel St. idled for a time until the cement crews returned on June 25.

Open sidewalks on other stretches of Mass. Ave. have sometimes idled unfinished for weeks.

As we have seen, sidewalk reconstruction entails at least the following steps:

  • Demolition
  • Replacement of granite curbs, often recycling old curbs
  • Preparation for pouring, including filling and grading and the construction of wooden forms
  • Pouring concrete, in stages. Pouring every other form adds at least a day; driveways can take as long as 6 days to complete.

Each step must be completed before the next can begin.

Sidewalk slabs are finished by hand, and skipping alternate forms gives the work crew access to the surface of each slab.

In theory, it takes a day for new concrete to cure enough to stand on. In practice, some sidewalks have been left in the awkward every-other-slab state for days.

One slab in front of the Trinity Baptist Church was inexplicable left unpoured for nearly a month after the abutting slabs were finished.

New driveways need 72 hours to become vehicle-worthy, but should be walkable after a day. A wide driveway might be poured sequentially in 2 sections to allow continuous use (of the half not being worked). If so, that will take 6 days.

Granite-edged planters and red borders entail additional construction time.

Architectural touches such as granite-edged planters and red borders entail additional construction time.

Additional work, such as the electrical conduit or the granite-edged planters, means more time that the sidewalk area is under construction.

The two-toned sidewalk design requires one or more additional pours.

Last-minute changes probably slowed work on the Winter-Cleveland block (Olivio’s to Fox Library), though not the project generally.

So while duration of construction might be an index of agony for residents and businesses, a true measure of efficiency could be based on how many days of avoidable inactivity there are on an open sidewalk.

By that yardstick while some blocks have apparently suffered, particularly on the northern side of the street, the construction team is making an extra effort to move briskly through the business district.

And of course, eventually the construction crews do return. Here’s the June 25 view from Teel Street (earlier photo above), where there have been weeks of idle days since Lynch first broke ground on May 18:


The cement trucks return on June 25


View is west from Teel St.

Work proceeded without interruption after that, and as of last week the north side of Mass. Ave. is largely poured except for a few gaps and temporary asphalt patches.

On this side one can walk the entire length of the project end to end on a level surface.

On the south side of Mass. Ave., sidewalk work has extended as far as Melrose Street, skipping for a time the short block between Chandler and Lake Streets (Flora to Christo’s).

The view from inside the new curbstones at Lake St. on July 2.

The view from inside the new curbstones at Lake St. on July 2.

Click here for recent construction news.



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