Though the D.C. Council voted May 13 against
reopening Klingle Road and for creating a hiking and biking
trail instead the long-debated issue is not finished, with
both proponents and opponents pointing to looming hurdles that
could derail the councils latest effort to close the book on
In 2003, the D.C. Council authorized reopening the 0.7-mile
stretch of roadway with federal funds, but that money has been
stuck in the federal approval process ever since. Funding has
not been secured for a hiker/biker trail, though Ward 3 Council
member Mary Cheh, who championed the most recent efforts to
convert the road into a trail, believes federal money will be
available for the conversion.
In a recent interview, Cheh said that under her
amendment to the city's 2009 budget, $2 million of any federal
money allotted for the roadway must be spent on remediation and
construction of a permeable surface trail. She said it is
unclear whether $2 million would cover the entire cost. In
2003, the DC Department of Transportation said it would cost
$1.1 million to deconstruct the roadway and build a trail.
The council gave initial approval to the budget support act last
week, and it will take a final vote June 3, Cheh said she has
no reason to think the second vote will go any differently
than the first.
But Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham, who favors reopening the
road, said he hopes the council will again change its position
on Klingle Road, one of the most hotly contested issues in the
city since it was closed in 1991 after years of deterioration.
In the most recent council vote, only Ward 4 Council member
Muriel Bowser and at-large Council member Carol Schwartz backed
Graham. I think its going to turn on just how much
public outrage is expressed, Graham said.
Graham and other advocates for reopening Klingle say it is a
vital alternative to the few east-west connectors in the city.
He said Porter Street is highly congested, and
residents need an alternative. I think its more than a
shortcut, Graham said. Its a way to avoid the
bottleneck at Porter.
Cheh disagrees. Their geography is
screwy, she said. Klingle doesn't do much of anything.
Its a shortcut. This was not, in any
sense of the word, a major alternative road."
Cheh also disagrees that Porter Street is
congested. She said that, as a Forest Hill resident, she
uses the road often.
Bill Petros/The Current
The D.C. Council will take a final vote next week on budget
legislation that calls for constructing a hiker/biker trail
rather than reopening the road.
The DC Department of Transportation would be
charged with overseeing construction of the trail. Karyn
LeBlanc, a spokesperson for the agency, said preliminary plans
are in the works and that the Transportation Department is
working with the Federal Highway and the National Park Service.
Laurie Collins, a longtime advocate for
reopening the road to vehicles, said she doubts Mayor Adrian
Fenty, who supports the roads reopening while in his previous
position as Ward 4s council member, would push for a paths
If there was money, why would the mayor build
a bike path? Collins asked. I just don't see our
administration doing that.
In his 2009 proposal to the council, Fenty included $2 million
in local funds to help pay for the roads reconstruction.
But Cheh successfully removed that money from the budget and
with her amendment and transferred it to a citywide program to
Cheh said she has no reason to believe the
mayor would run interference on the project. I have a
good working relationship with the mayor, she said.
Cheh said that during a recent roundtable discussion on Klingle
Road, she asked Transportation director Emeka Moneme whether he
would push the hiker/biker project along, and he answered that
Collins suggested that the District might face a legal challenge
from a developer who has plans to build five houses on the
closed stretch of Klingle Road.
Cheh dismissed that notion. This is a speculative
project, she said of the developers plan.
Despite the councils latest decision, people on both sides of
the issue are not accepting it as done.
Its back and forth, like Ping-Pong, said Collins, We are no
further than we were.
Jim Dougherty, a board member of the Sierra
Club, which backed creation of a hiker/biker trail, said he is
taking nothing for granted. We've learned a lesson from
the proponents of the road, he said.