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DDOT Prepares Study on Klingle Road Effect
NW Current
Beth Cope

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 May.

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.

For additional information, please email support@repairklingleroad.org