The Last Klingle Road Post Ever?
Don't bet on it.
The D.C. Council yesterday voted 10-3 to try yet again to end the decades-long debate over whether to repair a city street that happens to go through Rock Creek Park. The street, Klingle Road NW, is both an extremely convenient shortcut for east-west drivers who want to avoid the congestion around Connecticut Avenue, and a bucolic passageway through a surprisingly quiet and green oasis in the heart of the city.
You can blame the rain--a big one--for the washout that rendered Klingle Road impassable back in 1990. Add the city's legendary incompetence, and the road stayed shut for years. Now toss in the intensive lobbying efforts by local neighbors who didn't want cars going past their houses anymore, and environmentalists who saw a chance to get some cars out of Rock Creek Park, and dogwalkers and naturalists who view the roadbed as a pedestrian paradise, and residents of neighborhoods east of the park who crave a driving alternative to the sometimes congested Porter and Tilden street passages through the park, and you had yourself year after year after year of protests, political appeals, lawsuits and dinner party debates.
For the entire run of my column, I have made great efforts to avoid writing about Klingle Road, mainly because I could not imagine playing any role in egging on the various factions that devoted absurd amounts of time to arguing the merits of a street that runs less than seven-tenths of a mile. I always saw value in both sides of the debate: Yes, the District needs more east-west routes, and yes, the park should be used less for commuting and more for recreation. (I've always favored closing Beach Drive to commuters.)
I visited Klingle Road again this morning and found a work crew unloading Jersey barriers (that's the business to be in during a recession--no one ever says No to a suggestion that more Jersey barriers are needed.) Beyond the ROAD CLOSED fence, I found two people walking their dogs, a couple holding hands, a sleazy guy who ran off the semi-paved pathway as I approached, and at least two rats under the Connecticut Avenue bridge.
In all, it's not exactly an inviting scene right now, but that changes on weekends, when the former street is quite popular among walkers, runners and dog people.
It's probably too late now, but I do have a compromise proposal: I'd open the street to automobile traffic and leave it in its current overgrown, broken-down condition, warning motorists that they could proceed at their own risk. The state of the roadbed would keep speeding to a minimum, and Klingle would be a great place for kids to learn how to drive and for really determined commuters to do an end run around the traffic. Most of the time, it would be empty enough for pedestrians to enjoy it by themselves. The ultra-rich would gain access to the mansions that are scheduled to be built alongside the closed road (six houses approved by the mayor's agent for historic preservation in 2006), and the workers who need to cross the park would have a convenient way to do so. Off-road enthusiasts would gain a splendid rough patch on which to play. And the neighborhood activists who revel in enforcing the letter of the law would be stymied by the existence of a street on which virtually anything goes.
Well, we can dream, can't we?
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Posted by: Mike Licht | May 14, 2008 4:46 PM
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