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Mendelson Would Restrict Beach Drive To Commuter Use

November 1, 2002

At a candidates forum, At-Large Candidate Phil Mendelson revealed that he supports closing Beach Drive to vehicles except during rush hours, effectively limiting the historic parkway to a commuter traffic route.  Siding against the majority of citizens in surrounding wards and neighborhoods, Mendelson stated that he supports and backs up the Mayor in closing Beach Drive 7 days a week.

Closing Beach Drive would be contrary to the original purpose of the parkway, which was established by Rock Creek Parks creator, Frederick Law Olmsted, to provide public access to the parks beauty.  Set aside as a pleasure ground for all people of the United States, the National Register of Historic Places recognizes that [a]ll of the park's serpentine roads were designed as pleasure drives, which was a major recreational activity in the park before 1941.  The present road system continues to reflect their original purpose of providing public access to the enjoyment of extraordinary rural scenery.  Although adapted to the automobile, the designed alignment, width and environmental surroundings of these scenic roads has not substantially changed since the 1920s.

Closing Beach Drive also will further cripple our already over-crowded transportation system, this in the nations third most traffic congested city.  The roads of Rock Creek Park form a historic and significant circulation system that is vital to the transportation and recreational needs of local citizens.  Beach Drive provides an alternative route that is considerably more desirable than the available options, such as Connecticut Avenue and 16th Street, which are overcrowded and significantly more dangerous travel corridors. 

Mr. Mendelson continues to show that he has lost touch with citizens, consistently espousing the impractical views of radical idealists.  Closing roads ignores reality.  We live in an urban area.  Our city is choked with traffic.  A new multi-million dollar campaign seeks to attract new businesses and residents.  No transportation alternatives exist that are adequate to our roads.  Expansion of the public rail system is decades away.  These practical considerations stand in stark contrast to the romantic notion of reducing our transportation capacity.

Even more ironic, the ideologues would have us reduce our existing transportation capabilities in order to expand an extensive trail system in Rock Creek Park that is vastly underutilized.  Moreover, other alternatives exist for expanding the trails of Rock Creek Park and protecting its environs, without sacrificing the legitimate transportation and recreational needs of local motorists.  We could better maintain and expand existing trails.  A creative approach could be taken to designing and installing new trails.  Even Beach Drive itself could be made friendlier to multimodal use by enforcing speed limits aggressively and consistently.

Mr. Mendelson should be denied the power to impose on his electorate an environmental agenda tipped heavily in favor of an idealistic minority, while ignoring the practical needs and concerns of the citizenry that elected him.  We need a candidate who supports what is best for all of us. 

Copyright, the NW Current, Wednesday, October 30, 2002


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