Sick of road work on Connecticut Avenue below Dupont Circle? Relief is in sight: Workers on Thursday began removing barriers along the major construction project in downtown Washington that has clogged the thoroughfare and its crosswalks for months.

Although District officials say there is more work scheduled on sidewalks and traffic signals, District Department of Transportation spokesman John Lisle said construction on the primary culprit behind traffic snarls -- the development of a 12-foot median -- is nearly complete.

The construction is the second phase of a streetscape project that planners say will spruce up a key retail area and enhance pedestrian safety along a quarter-mile stretch. A third segment will likely begin late in 2013.

"I wonder about the wisdom of putting these permanent barrier separations there."
-- AAA spokesman

"There are some things that definitely need to be replaced and updated and upgraded, and this is an opportunity to do all of those things," said Leona Agouridis, executive director of the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, which is partnering with the city on the project. "We've embraced the opportunity to create D.C.'s own Magnificent Mile and maybe even surpass Chicago because this is the nation's capital."

The centerpiece of the $2 million project is the raised median between Jefferson Place and L Street. The District has already completed a raised median farther south on Connecticut Avenue, between K and L streets. (See the embedded map below this story.)

Plans also call for a resurfacing of part of Connecticut Avenue -- a thoroughfare that more than 24,000 vehicles traverse each day -- along with the installation of bicycle racks, a light art display and a newly designed sidewalk.

And while city officials made allowances in their planning to keep traffic flowing, construction is mostly occurring during daylight hours -- and peak commuting times.

Unless the contractor receives approval from the District, the company is only allowed to work on the project from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

AAA Mid-Atlantic said it hasn't received complaints from drivers about the traffic crush, but the organization said it fears the project's long-term effects.

"I wonder about the wisdom of putting these permanent barrier separations there," said Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA. "Every time you put in permanent structures, you're making it far, far more expensive to have flexibility in lane usage and construction. I hope this isn't just another example of what we see all the time in Washington: We repave, and then a contractor has to come in and cut it up."

The federal government is paying for 83 percent of the project. District taxpayers are responsible for the rest, though Agouridis' group is contributing for landscaping and artistic components.

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