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.