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Still Debating Klingle Road

Copyright, DC North February 2003

The worst thing that we can do, sighed DC Department of Transportation Director Dan Tangherlini, speaking about problems associated with the closed and crumbling Klingle Road, "is to do what we have done for the last twelve years; largely nothing." Many citizens speaking at a January 21st Town Hall Forum on the issue still exuded the passion that has marked the Klingle road debate. But many also prefaced their comments with a frustration similar to the one expressed by Dan Tangherlini.  Fortunately, the 12-year old issue may soon be decisively resolved. At present two alternatives bill proposals sit before the city council. One proposed bill, drafted by the mayor (but sponsored by Chairman Cropp at his bequest), would turn Klingle road into a combination bicycling/hiking path. The other proposal, drafted by Chairman Cropp and Councilmember Schwartz, calls for the repair of Klingle road and re-opening to vehicular traffic.

Citizens had an opportunity to hear and be heard on both sides of the issue at the town hall meeting organized by Coucilmember Phil Mendelson and held at Adas Israel Congregation. DDOT, National Park Service, and Emergency Medical Service representatives also gave brief presentations. Proponents of repairing and reopening the road focused on potential benefits to traffic congestion in the district. "Klingle Road is one of the few cross-town roads that DC operates," said Laurie Collins of the Coalition to Repair and Reopen Klingle Road. "It could again serve as a link to three city wards, connecting the communities on both sides of Rock Creek Park."

Road supporters also claimed that the closing of the road greatly increased congestion of the other cross-park thoroughfares, especially around Porter street and Connecticut avenue. "Much of the traffic that used to come down Klingle Road," testified Eleanor Oliver, a resident who lives in the vicinity, "now comes down my side streets." But the road-supporters did not stick to potential traffic efficiency benefits, they also contended that the road is a vital thoroughfare for the cities emergency vehicles. "A death has been attributed to the closing of Klingle road," challenged Jane Ingram, holding up letters from an area paramedic alleging that Porter Street congestion stopped his crew from reaching victims in a timely manner. The letters went on to claim that Klingle road, if  opened, would have provided the paramedics with a better option. "Why are you playing  politics with publicsafety?" finished Ingram.

Citizens opposed to reopening the road emphasized the fragility of the Klingle Creek ecosystem and the technical difficulties of the topography. "Klingle Valley is a federally designated flood plain," 6th Ward Resident Jim Doherty informed the crowd. "It doesnt make much sense to build a road in a flood plain anyway." "I have been in the creek on multiple occasions," a young Andrew Ross admitted, speaking to the natural beauty of the valley, "and I can tell you it wouldnt be good to let cars come down the road." Many road critics were members of Save-The-Valley, an organization appropriately sponsored by the conservationist Sierra Club and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The group also had strong allies in the National Park Service and the Districts Department of Transportation. "It is still the opinion of National Park Service that Klingle Valley can not support the development associated with repairing the road," read Rock Creek Park Superintendent Adrienne Coleman from a statement issued by the NPS.

In addition, Dan Tangherlini, head of the Districts Department of Transportation, told the audience that according to DDOTs calculations, "opening Klingle road to vehicular traffic will have negligible impact on traffic in the district." He also appraised the savings of constructing a bike/hiking path over a road at around 4 million dollars. "The Williams administration," he stated, "believes that money could be better spent on other transportation related expenditures, such as new non-polluting busses or repair of roads serving greater numbers of commuters."

Road Repair supporters were not mollified by government opinions or statistics. They responded by saying that the 4 million dollar savings was "just a drop in the bucket," and claimed that much of that would probably be eaten through by a proposed implementation study.

"And I want to know," asked Eleanor Oliver, "when are we going to have a town hall meeting on the Cropp- Schwartz plan?" "All of the councilmembers knew they were welcome to attend this meeting," responded Councilmember Mendelson after the meeting. "This meeting forum was held with the hope that we could help inform people about the issue, and I think we succeeded in doing that." Now it is up to the council to make its decision, and possibly retire the question of Klingle Road.

For additional information, please email support@repairklingleroad.org