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Bureaucratic Gridlock - DDOT Fails to Use Highway Funds Effectively

June 24, 2002
Copyright The Washington Times
By Laurie Collins

The D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) recently announced that it received a huge, $155 million windfall of federal highway funds from the canceled Barney Circle project, yet none of that $155 million will be used to repair Klingle Road, a long-broken and vital link across Rock Creek Park in Northwest City officials have first-hand knowledge of how important access to Klingle Road is to those who drive in the District, as demonstrated by the vigorous correspondence of Repair Klingle Road's supporters and the votes of affected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. The barricade across Klingle Road literally cuts one-half of northwest Washington from the other and impedes traffic on nearby major arteries such as Connecticut Avenue and Porter Street in Cleveland Park.

Traffic once carried by Klingle Road has been forced onto Porter and Macomb, nearby residential streets. Porter Street already carried over 14,000 vehicle trips per day when Klingle was shut down. It now struggles to handle traffic volumes far beyond its maximum capacity; Macomb Street, which previously carried 3,000 vehicles per day, now carries over 8,000 vehicles.

Fewer roads in Cleveland and Woodley Park mean more traffic and more air pollution in densely populated neighborhoods, more wasted gasoline, and more wasted time. Public safety and emergency preparedness are compromised, and federal and local tax dollars are wasted as Klingle Road becomes increasingly more expensive to repair due to neglect.

The mayor cannot limit the function of a public road. The District government has the duty to repair and preserve a dedicated road for full use by all D.C. taxpayers, not just those who choose to bike or are able to walk. By purposefully failing to allocate funds for its repair and with willful disregard for the wishes of the vast majority of residents who were affected, the government, then and now, worked to the detriment of many for the benefit of a privileged few and, through neglect, actively demolished Klingle Road.

The city's failure to direct any of the money from the Barney Circle project's federal funds to Klingle Road's long-standing disrepair, and its failure to repair a road that has never been officially closed and remains the city's obligation to repair, neglects the very environment the city bureaucrats and the mayor claim to cherish. It is as embarrassing as it is wrong.

Yet, here we are six months later, and the city is embarking on an $85 million road-resurfacing project funded by federal largesse.

The city has a fundamental duty to keep our public roads in good repair. Repairing Klingle Road would better serve our transportation needs than a hike/bike trail; and D.C. than would benefit more by restoring and preserving the road for its historic purpose in the city's road grid. As we strive to reduce suburban sprawl, revitalize our inner-city core and provide better public transportation services, we must repair and maintain our existing urban road infrastructure. The fact that the city has intentionally and consistently bypassed this and other opportunities to repair Klingle Road by using federal funds is inexcusable.

The environmental arguments are false. The road must be rebuilt, with access for utilities and emergency vehicles in order not to lose the right of way and to service the water, sewer and electrical utilities to nearby homes and apartment buildings. Therefore, it must be engineered to accommodate heavy equipment vehicles, utility repair vehicles and fire and emergency vehicles. Surely, an average car will be able to use such a road. There is no logical reason to deny access to the driving public once this type of road construction takes place.

To paraphrase Mayor Anthony Williams' testimony before Congress in favor of reopening the closed section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House:
As we work to rebuild the District, our ability to use Klingle Road is fundamental to our economic viability and social unity. We cannot continue to divide the people on the east from the people on the west.

 Laurie Collins is vice chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1E and is the chair of the Public Safety Committee of ANC 1E of Mount Pleasant.

For additional information, please email support@repairklingleroad.org