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Work underway on Rock Creek Parkway

By Robert Thomson

Just as the Ohio Drive reconstruction is wrapping up, the National Park Service this week launched an 18-month project to repair and rebuild parts of the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway between P Street NW and Calvert Street NW, and an area along Cathedral Avenue.

The $7.2 million project, paid for with federal stimulus money, already is causing concern among drivers who use the parkway in the Woodley Park area, who are confused about how to get on and get off the parkway.

The National Park Service said today that In this first, two-month phase of the project, work will close the ramp to Calvert Street from the northbound parkway. Also closed during the morning rush are the Cathedral Avenue and Woodley Road ramps to the southbound parkway.

The park service says variable message boards have been placed on southbound Connecticut Avenue near the zoo to warn drivers about the closings.

Traffic patterns
Here's what the park service says about entering and exiting the parkway during this first phase. Between 6:30 and 10 a.m., traffic can enter the Calvert Street ramp (adjacent to the Shoreham Hotel) and proceed to the southbound parkway.

At all other times, including the afternoon rush, from 3:45 to 7 p.m., parkway traffic can go northbound only on the ramp to Calvert Street.

After 10 a.m., traffic can go northbound only onto Cathedral Avenue and onto Woodley Road and Connecticut Avenue. But there will be no access to the Calvert Street ramp and the parkway from southbound Cathedral Avenue during this phase of construction.

Phase 2
Once construction is done on the northbound exit of Shoreham Drive, the next phase of the project will start. That will involve repair and reconstruction on the southbound lane of Shoreham Drive, leading from Calvert Street onto the southbound parkway.

Here's a map of the area.

View Larger Map

By Robert Thomson  | November 16, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories, Construction, District  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Rock Creek Parkway  
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This is still confusing to me. In the morning I take a right onto the ramp off Calvert Street next to the hotel, coming from Cleveland Avenue. In the evening I go back the same way. Message boards on Connecticut Ave near the zoo don't help me because I never get there from Connecticut. On Monday during evening rush hour I was in one of the southbound lanes reversed to go north, but the two lanes going north were blocked off at the bottom of the Calvert Street ramp. The police officer wouldn't let anyone go north. I had to go further a get off at later exit. So was this not supposed to have happened?

Posted by: moni70 | November 16, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

This makes no sense.

How does someone get on the Parkway southbound from Woodley Park?

This explanation makes it sound as if all southbound access is blocked except during AM rush hour (via Calvert ramp by Omni Shoreham).

What a nightmare for those of us who live in Woodley Park.

Posted by: DCMike1 | November 16, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: What I'm saying in this posting is based on the latest traffic pattern information -- today -- from the National Park Service. It may not match up with what you experienced on Monday.

But I find it difficult to follow also. I've been studying it on a map, but haven't had time to get over there today and drive it. I've gotten a half dozen e-mails from travelers who say they don' understand what's going on. I hope this posting helps, but do let me know if it's not matching what you're going through out there, and we'll figure this out.

Posted by: Dr_Gridlock | November 16, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Finally, the National Park Service is actually talking about the existance of this project. I could not find **ANY** information on this project at all, not online, not on DDOT's site, not on the Park Service's site, nothing. They need to do a better job informing people that stuff is closed.

Yesterday night, there was no entrance from Woodley Park onto the Parkway, the only options were to go down to Massachusetts or P Street or up to Porter Street. The only exit from the Parkway/Beach Drive was onto Cathedral Ave.

This morning was a cluster for sure, and was absolutely unacceptable. Hundreds of cars were turning in onto Cathedral Ave...clearly the sign by the zoo wasn't adequate if everyone was turning into the neighborhood, only to have to turn around and come back out. I saw screaming matches, plenty of horn honking, "gestures", etc. I don't mind that they are doing the work. But they have to do a better job informing the public of what is going on.

To moni70...the main problem this morning was people turning from Connecticut into the neighborhood and then discovering they can't get to the parkway and having to turn around and come back out. If you are on Calvert Street and you pass by the entrance, it is either open or closed, in which case you can turn onto it or continue past it and turn right onto Connecticut if the entrance is closed. Advance warning isn't as critical since you aren't turning into a neighborhood and then finding out the road is blocked.

I think this summarizes the traffic patterns as I understand them:

1) Access between Beach Drive and the Parkway and vice versa is as it always has been.

2) Cathedral Ave. southbound onto the Parkway is closed all the time.

3) Cathedral Ave. northbound from the Parkway is open all times except 6:30 AM to 10:00 AM (I suppose that means traffic going north from 9:30 AM to 10:00 AM is forced onto Beach Drive). Most of the time this is the only way off of the Parkway.

4) from 6:30 AM to 10:00 AM, the on-ramp next to the Omni Shoreham is open southbound. This is the only way onto the Parkway from Woodley Park in the AM rush hour.

5) from 3:45 PM to 7:00 PM, the on-ramp next to the Omni Shoreham is open northbound in addition to the Cathedral Ave exit. During evening rush, you'll have to exit the parkway single file, and then choose either Cathedral or go up the hill to Calvert.

6) Outside of AM rush hour, there is no access from Woodley Park to the Parkway. You'll need to continue in on Connecticut. Don't follow the detour signs, they are pointless and take you right through DuPont Circle. Alternates include cutting through Kalorama to the Massachusetts Ave on-ramp, going down 34th Street (for areas west of Connecticut) to Massachusetts Ave., or take Connecticut to Florida which becomes 23rd, make a right onto P and left onto the Parkway. If coming from north of Woodley Park, get onto Beach Drive at Porter Street.

Posted by: thetan | November 16, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

DC Mike, your assumption that there is no access from Woodley Park to the southbound Parkway outside of AM rush hour is correct. Last night, both the Cathedral Ave and Calvert Street entrances were blocked. The only exit was to Cathedral. That will take you to Connecticut northbound or Calvert Street west (via Woodley Road and either Connecticut or 27th Street south). If you have to go east on Calvert Street into Adams Morgan, you'd be far better off staying on Beach Drive through the tunnel, and exiting at the "National Zoo" ramp to Adams Mill Road.

Posted by: thetan | November 16, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

The northbound Shoreham Drive/Calvert Street ramp was blocked this evening at 6:30 and cars could only make a hard right on to Cathedral. I live in Cleveland Park and commute to work via Rock Creek Parkway during the week. The NPS did a terrible job communicating this project - there is mention of it today on Dr. Gridlock's blog and yesterday on a WUSA post. Yes, there are signs on the Parkway but they were vague and certainly did/could not portray the scope of this project.

Posted by: amyblues1 | November 16, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

What a nightmare for those of us who live in Woodley Park.

Posted by: DCMike1 | November 16, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

You realize Rock Creek is, in fact, not a commuter highway, but a National Park? Just saying...there are other roads.

Posted by: jbartoszek | November 16, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock, thanks for posting this. I was one of the confused souls who emailed you asking for more (actually, any) information on this project.

I live directly across from "the ramp to Calvert Street," better referred to as Shoreham Dr. I was off work today and stepped out on my deck several times to see what's going on. Based on what I've read and seen, I'm starting to piece it together.

For the next two months, the usual northbound lane of Shoreham Dr. will be closed entirely, at all times. Traffic will be re-routed onto what is usually the southbound lane, making Shoreham Dr. a one-lane, one-way road. Presumably, there will be a realignment in a couple months when they begin rebuilding the other lane, with Shoreham Dr. continuing to be a one-lane road. It's going to be a long winter.

From 6:30 AM to 10:00 AM, Shoreham Dr. is one-way going southbound toward the heart of the city. As noted above, this is the only time that you can take this road heading south.

From 10:00 AM to around 6:30 PM, Shoreham Dr. is one-way going northbound. Because traffic is on what normally is a southbound lane, an officer is stationed at the top of Shoreham Dr. to prevent anyone from Calvert St. attempting to turn onto Shoreham Dr. and into oncoming traffic. Note that's "around 6:30 PM," not "7:00 PM" as the Park Service apparently told you.

From around 6:30 PM until the next morning's rush hour (6:30 AM?), Shoreham Dr. is closed. Period. No northbound, no southbound, nothing.

I'm not sure if the Park Service gave you bad information or whether the Park Service police just don't feel like hanging around until 7:00 PM. In normal times, Shoreham Dr. is northbound only from 3:45 to shortly before 6:30 PM. Park Service officers begin taking steps to re-route traffic shortly before 6:30 PM, beginning at Shoreham Dr. Their routine will be a little different now, but it looks like they are sticking to the same time schedule regardless.

BTW, the Park Service's arrogance in this matter is really something. A little information goes a long way, but a couple flashing traffic signs doesn't cut it.

Posted by: gjtbiz | November 16, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Based on what I observed tonight, I'd say that the restrictions in my numbered list above are probably correct. appears that the times for the opening of the Calvert Street ramp are rush hours from 7 AM to 9:30 AM and 4 PM to 6:30 PM. At all other times, you will have Parkway access to Cathedral Avenue only, and no access from Woodley Park onto the Parkway.

I really wish drivers upon coming up to this new traffic pattern would just go and not stop in the middle of the intersection going "W T F" to themselves. Its not going to get anyone home faster if you stop in the middle of the road and don't go until you get beeped through by the driver who almost rear-ended you.

Posted by: thetan | November 16, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Well the signs posted near the zoo sure didn't work yesterday morning. For the first few days it would be useful to have more signage and even a few people helping to direct traffic. I'm not sure I understand why Cathedral can't be open southbound for the morning rush -- one lane only is used anyway for the last bit before the Parkway. It's a real mess in the afternoon with the lane closure. That may ease up a bit in a few days (I hope) as people get used to the lane closure.

And to the person who reminded everyone that the parkway is in a park -- it is deliberately configured to move as many people through as possible during the rush hours. That short stretch of parkway keeps thousands of cars from clogging the downtown area. It keeps commuters out of neighborhoods, which I think is very desirable.

Posted by: wyb3203 | November 17, 2010 5:53 AM | Report abuse

Per the NPS website, and the Post:

>>> Between 6:30 and 10 a.m., traffic can enter the Calvert Street ramp (adjacent to the Shoreham Hotel) and proceed to the southbound parkway.

But when I got to this ramp at 9:20 this morning, it was already closed to southbound traffic, and the policeman said they had closed it at 9:00 a.m. Why? Will this be the closing time going forward?

Posted by: red66 | November 17, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Part of the problem is that the National Park Service's mission is to maintain parks, not commuter routes. To the people at the NPS, Rock Creek Park is a park with nature trails and deer and streams...that just happens to have a road running through it. The road is of secondary importance to the park itself. Thus, the National Park Service isn't geared up to do these kinds of projects on major commuter routes, and also there are some with the attitude that cars shouldn't be in the parks to begin with, so "let 'em sit in traffic." That's the problem with being in the Nation's Capital where the Feds are in charge of stuff that would be under local control in any other city. The Feds are really accountable to no one, and the Feds can't possibly know what's best for my neighborhood, whereas my neighborhood and local leaders have a much better sense. This is why I tend to like local control of transportation projects, as opposed to some regional "council of governments", Richmond, or the Feds dictating what a community's needs are.

Seems like the Shoreham Drive work will be most painful for those of us in Woodley Park, but by sometime in the spring, it should be done and hopefully access will be restored. But then we have to endure the construction on the Parkway itself, which will likely mean "round the clock" lane closings through 2012.

Posted by: thetan | November 17, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Re: closing time of the Calvert Street likely closes at 9:00 AM because that is when Park Police "start" flipping the parkway back to 2-way. They always start at the north end and work their way south. It has always been that way that they forced Cathedral traffic to the stop sign (normal configuration) instead of to the yield sign on the left (AM rush configuration) at 9:00 AM. I suspected the NPS was wrong with their times, because if they had the Calvert Street on-ramp open till 10, that means for half an hour, all northbound Parkway traffic would have to go to Beach Drive.

re: why can't Cathedral be open in the morning....Probably because the section of Shoreham Drive between Cathedral Ave and Beach Drive is 1 lane Cathedral Ave traffic would somehow have to merge with Shoreham Drive traffic coming from Calvert Street. With the new configuration, that is a very sharp curve, and with the Jersey barriers and silt fences, there is very poor sight distance there. in otherwords, its just too dangerous.

Now I'd be fascinated to know what would happen if they opened up Cathedral and closed Calvert (avoids the merge situation). That would be far more convenient for those coming from Connecticut, but even more brutal for those coming from Calvert. I suspect if you look at traffic volumes, the Calvert Street ramp has more cars than Cathedral, and besides, Calvert is a straight shot onto the Parkway, whereas Cathedral would have that sharp turn that everyone would slow down for, which would diminish the capacity.

I don't work for the Park Service, so I'm not defending them or their lack of communication, nor do I know for a fact that what I'm saying is true....I am a traffic engineer so I'm taking some educated guesses about why things are the way they are.

Posted by: thetan | November 17, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Re: my comment about a nightmare for those of us in Woodley Park and jbartoszek's response -

I'm not a daily car commuter, and when I drive to work occasionally, it's not via the Parkway. But think about what this means:

1. Traffic on Conn Ave will now be a mess at all times, as people adjust to the new traffic pattern, deal with closed streets that are poorly marked, and now sit in traffic down Conn Ave to downtown (for travel from that part of the city to VA, to downtown, to Capitol Hill, etc.).

2. Already the traffic issue is a quality of life issue. I have never heard so many honking horns in the morning commute as the past two days. It was constant this morning. Living on Conn Ave, it's not going to be pleasant.

3. The roadwork just north of the Conn/Calvert intersection on Conn Ave was not completed properly. The road has been filled with potholes, is uneven and at times gushes water. Traffic must slow down to a crawl to get through the area (I watched someone have a tire go flat while hitting a bump the other day). So the route downtown is not going to move well either.

The Rock Creek is of course a park. But we also need to acknowledge that it is a key travel route in a city with a mass transit system that is already packed and with poor car circulation. Shame that NPS doesn't care.

Posted by: DCMike1 | November 17, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

THIS part was NOT true this morning: "Between 6:30 and 10 a.m., traffic can enter the Calvert Street ramp (adjacent to the Shoreham Hotel) and proceed to the southbound parkway."

I was going eastbound on Calvert this morning around 9:20 and I could not take the right onto the Parkway (via Shoreham Drive) because a police vehicle was blocking access. 9:20 is not nearly 10:00.

This is going to be a morning nightmare for a few months. Time to find alternate routes!

Posted by: gmcclure1 | November 17, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm as confused as most others are. I tried to get on Southbound Calvert/Shoreham around 6:45/7 AM this morning and it was blocked off. This seems to be the opposite of what NPS is saying is the case. I tried to follow the orange detour signs but they are not at all helpful, especially if you are new to this city (as I am).

My big question is this: if I can't get onto Rock Creek from Calvert/Shoreham, where do I go to get onto it? I don't know any backroad tricks or shortcuts and would appreciate any advice anyone has. I've tried looking at the NPS site and even Wikipedia, but I can't find any info that's of any practical use.

Posted by: anastasia_ks | November 17, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

NPS obviously is still working out the kinks. Shoreham Dr. has been open northbound all evening, with an officer stationed at the intersection of Calvert St. & Shoreham to keep the Calvert traffic from turning southbound on Shoreham. That officer has just been replaced by another officer (after the replacement officer seemed to relieve himself in the woods). It looks like Shoreham Dr. will be open all night, unlike the last two nights. That's certainly an improvement. Now, it would be good to get some predictability on when Shoreham changes direction.

Posted by: gjtbiz | November 18, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

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