DDOT Prepares Study on Klingle Road
March 24, 2004
The Federal Highway Administration and
the District Department of Transportation put out notice last week of
their intent to prepare an environmental impact statement assessing
potential impacts of reopening Klingle Road to vehicular traffic.
The statement, published in the
Federal Register March 17, comes nearly a year after the D.C. Council
approved reopening of the road as part of a budget act. The May
legislation called for work on the road to begin within 180 days and
acknowledged that environmental analysis would be necessary.
Transportation Department officials
say they have been working since June on aspects of opening the road.
There are several things we
agreed to do with respect to re-creating Klingle Road, said deputy
director for transportation planning and policy Ken Laden. Safety work
is largely completed; a hydrology study ... should be finished this
spring; the environmental impact statement took longer getting started.
I think were following the letter
and spirit of the law, he said.
Laden said the department had to
obtain additional funds from the Federal Highway Administration, which
is partnering with the Transportation Department on the study and
funding 80 percent of the road rebuilding, before starting the study.
The department then had to get a consultant under contract, which took
a little longer than we hoped, he said, noting that a contract with
Louis Berger Group was finalized January.
Since then, they have been collecting
background data, he said. Last weeks notice was a required step which
marked the formal kickoff of the study, he explained.
The issue of reopening the road, which
was closed in 1991 because of deterioration but never officially closed
by the council, has been a contentious one, spawning avid citizen groups
and a conflict between the mayor and council. Mayor Anthony Williams
proposed rehabilitating the road, a 0.7-mile stretch that runs through
Rock Creek Park from Porter Street to Cortland Place, as a hiker-biker
trail, but the council unanimously voted to reopen it to vehicles in
Laurie Collins, a leader of the
Coalition to Reopen Klingle Road, said Monday she is angry that it is
taking so long for the city to get started.
The Department of Transportation did
not start work immediately, but dragged their feet, she said. It took
them almost a year to get started, which is annoying. Lets face it.
How many projects do you know of in the District that have gone through
this long process? she asked rhetorically.
Collins added that the council had
called for an environmental assessment, a much-less rigorous test of
environmental concerns than an environmental impact statement, and she
thinks the department has taken an unnecessary leap.
According to Collins, the council said
that once the legislation was signed, an environmental assessment should
be made, not an environmental impact statement.
Laden said that an environmental
assessment looks at whether there are environmental concerns that
require further study.
The feasibility study [done in the
past] indicated some air- and water-quality issues that needed to be
addressed. We already knew what the environmental issues were, he
said, noting also that the roads location through a National Park
contributed to the decision. We thought we might as well start out with
an EIS [environmental impact statement] and save time.
The environmental impact statement
requires a public meeting, and Collins indicated shes worried about
reopening the can of worms of the old Klingle debate. Were not going
to start over again, she said.
The public meeting will be held in
April or May, according to the Transportation Department.
Laden said that safety work done in
the fall and winter included removing debris and downed trees, dealing
with crumbling asphalt and repositioning fences and signs.
There were large sections of pavement
that had broken loose, he said, noting the Transportation Department
discouraged people from going down there.
The hydrology study, which he said is
nearly done, will help the department make sure that when the road is
rebuilt, drainage problems that plagued the old road will not return.
Laden said the long-term schedule is
to complete the environmental impact statement this year, design the
roadway in 2005 and do construction in 2006. As for whether Klingle will
be open to cars at the end of 2006, he said, Hopefully so.