Greater Greater Washington

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1886 plan would have built atop Rock Creek

Tom from Ghosts of DC found an 1886 Post article about a plan to put Rock Creek in a tunnel from about M Street to just north of R Street, fill in the ravine, and create city blocks between Georgetown and Dupont.


Photo by Evan Parker on Flickr.

Proponents estimated it would create 50 "squares" (generally city blocks) of space, for a cost of about $600,000 to $650,000, or about $15-16 million in today's dollars.

By keeping Rock Creek, DC has not only a surface waterway but a number of park spaces on the banks, such as Rose Park. Unfortunately, a different plan ultimately greatly marred the creek: Rock Creek Parkway, which dominates this section of the creek valley.

At any spot, someone trying to enjoy the edge parks or trail has to contend with a large freeway creating most of the noise and taking up much of the ravine floor. National Park Service management practice in this part of Rock Creek prioritizes motor vehicle traffic over any other user. Features in the park, like signs that tell trail users to yield to cars when crossing the on- and off-ramps, further make clear that nature and recreation come last here.

Here is the map from the article:

Tom also has an excerpt from the story:

"From what I have seen in the papers," said Capt. Symonds, when asked by a POST reporter for his opinion regarding the cost and practicability of the proposed Rock Creek tunnel, "I should consider it a perfectly practicable and feasible scheme, and I should think that the benefits resulting would fully justify the outlay necessary."

"How long would be the tunnel?"

"From the location as described it would require a tunnel about 2,000 feet long with some open cut work at the ends."

"What would be the cost?"

"Its cost would depend largely on the nature of the rock encountered. It would probably be necessary to arch it over throughout its length and if the excavated rock were suitable in quality it could be used for this purpose. In this case I should estimate the cost of the tunnel, with a sufficient water-way for all floods, to be about $250 per lineal foot. This would make the 2,000 feet of tunnel cost $500,000. Another $100,000 would cover all the open work at the ends, and all engineering expenses, etc. If it was found necessary to use brick for arching the cost would be about $50,000 more. This would make the cost from $600,000 to $650,000, which I believe would cover all expenses for the work proper without including any question of right of way. The excavated material would be used for arching in the form of rubble masonry, not in the form of concrete. The bed of the creek could not be used for a dumping ground. It could not be filled up directly with the excavated material, for it would have to be kept open for the passage of water until the tunnel was completed.

"It is not at all improbably," continued Capt. Symonds, "that a sufficient amount of good material would be excavated to arch the creek over from the lower terminus of the tunnel to the outlet of the canal. In this way the improvement could be made more far-reaching and beneficial. The creek would be blotted out of sight from Lyons' Mill to the mouth of the canal. I should think that the best use for the excavated material, beyond that used for curbing the tunnel, would be in building embankments across the valley of the creek connecting the streets of Washington and Georgetown, thus doing away with bridges and uniting the two cities. The spaces between the embankments could gradually be filled in. If properly managed it would be a splendid improvement.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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And yet while NPS prioritizes car throughput the nature of the roads and the ramps are kind of ad hoc (like the stop sign once you're under Connecticut which can throw you off if you're not that familiar with the road. It'd be fine (for a given level of fine) for the road to be a freeway if it actually was a freeway.

I'd rather make the road less freeway like. You'd still get a lot of use out of it (no stop lights!) to get to upper NW and such but without the white-knuckle aspects.

by drumz on Jun 10, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

I live in upper NW, and the Rock Creek Parkway is often the easiest and most direct route to Alexandria/Arlington and points south. Otherwise, that trip requires stop and go traffic through either downtown or Georgetown, or going completely out of the way heading North & West to the Beltway. Furthermore, I am not sure it hinders the enjoyment of the parks and trails through Rock Creek Park in such an egregious manner so as to negate the benefits of having a thoroughfare there. For instance, hiking and running along the trail towards Dumbarton Oak Park takes you far away from the noise and traffic of the Parkway, to the point of feeling like you are in a very rural area and not almost literally within a stone's throw of downtown DC.

Could the Parkway have been designed better and with less impact to the area? Probably - but it needs to be there nonetheless.

by Eric on Jun 10, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

@Eric - ..it needs to be there..

"need"? You mean you like it there and you want it there.

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

I'm in the same position as Eric. But I'd still remove that road in a heartbeat. Convenience or not, it'd be better as a park with a multi-use path running down the center. (Or maybe a light rail line on those cool tracks with grass around them. I could live with that.)

by RDHD on Jun 10, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

DC is certainly going to shift its emphasis from accommodating driving from the suburbs and from peripheral parts of DC to central DC, in favor of a range of other priorities.

But would you really prioritize shutting RCP vs say, road diets and traffic calming on the larger avenues? And yes, that may well be the tradeoff, giving the legitimate continued need for some auto traffic to the center city, the political influence of both Marylanders (this isn't that big in issue for NoVa, as taking out I395 in DC does not appear to be on the table) and residents of peripheral NW DC, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

It strikes me that you could deck it over right now too. There isn't much 'park' at the ravine floor anyway. The 'park' bits are on the higher ground, places like Rose Park, Dumbarton Oaks trail.

Let the commuters zip through the town on the parkway in a subterranean tunnel, and put a walkable street grid with parks and multi-use trails up top.

I'm starting to think that this might not be such a crazy idea..!

by renegade09 on Jun 10, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

I jog on this section of Rock Creek Parkway regularly and I don't think the sound from the car traffic is a hindrance to my enjoyment of the trail. In the portions where the trail crosses over the road, the drivers are usually very accommodating to peds and cyclists - they will often stop to let us pass. In my experience the signs requiring trail users to yield to traffic are often not observed by trail users, and the law still requires drivers to yield to peds or cyclists who are in crosswalks regardless of what the signage on the trail says.

I would say the trail suffers from a lot more problems than noise from cars. For one thing it's not wide enough. And then there are the typical multi-use conflicts such as recreational cyclists whizzing close by runners and walkers. And then there are the problems of poor lighting at night, as well as graffiti, litter and other sorts of unsightly vandalism on the trail area.

by Scoot on Jun 10, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

I'd like to see NPS get some direct benefit from having to manage what is basically a commuter highway. They pay for the upkeep, occasional reconstruction and police presence to change RCP's direction twice a day. NPS should install overhead automatic toll readers (EZPass) like they have on the Intercounty Connector, which could be southbound at the zoo tunnell and northbound at the Kennedy Center. If they charged a buck a vehcile (or even $0.50), NPS would be able to recoup costs and perhaps have a revenue stream for other park needs. Plus, it would ensure that users pay fees directly. I'd like to see NPS do the same thing on the GW and BW parkways.

by James on Jun 10, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

I wouldn't shut RCP. I would narrow it by 1 lane and make that lane a multi-use trail, and end the reversible lane policy. I would put stop signs and/or lights at the intersections with the side roads.

by David Alpert on Jun 10, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

Folks, can't we have at least one traffic artery that allows easy access between North and South DC? And between DC and the suburbs?

This mantra that DC has to hermetically seal itself from its suburbs by making auto transit difficult is silly, and economically self-destructive.

I like buses, streetcars, and bikes as much as anyone. But we need at least a *few* real roads through the region as well. Parkways are efficient, and the current version does just fine at accommodating both recreation and transport.

by JM on Jun 10, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

@Tina

Yes on both fronts. Do I want an Interstate through there? Absolutely not. Do I want a sensible thoroughfare there which can provide a relatively direct automobile trip into that part of Virginia? Yes. Do I think a thoroughfare there can serve the needs of drivers, runners, cyclists,etc. and provide value to all groups? Yes. I feel that the Parkway serves an important function in the District, and it's existence does not take away from most people's ability to enjoy Rock Creek Park. The running and cycling path are always teeming with people who seem to be enjoying the area (especially the obstacle course!), and picnickers can take full advantage of several areas just off of the roadway area (Dumbarton Oaks Park, Montrose Park ) which affords playgrounds and green space not right next to traffic. I am saying this not just as someone who commutes on the Parkway, but also someone whose favorite jogging path in DC starts in Woodley Park, traverses down along the Parkway (sometimes right alongside it and other times diverting into the treeline well away from traffic) and concludes with spectacular views along the Potomac ending at the Lincoln Memorial. If anything, I think the the Rock Creek Parkway is a relatively positive example of a roadway designed to incorporate various uses by a diverse subset of the population.

by Eric on Jun 10, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

I hate the parkway but overall I'm happy with what NPS did with Rock Creek. Glover Archibold Park is also nice. This reminds me I should plan a picnic along there soon.

by Alan B. on Jun 10, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

Rock Creek Parkway isn't ideal, but it's not going anywhere any time soon (if ever). It's pretty much the only non-stop roadway running north-south through the District and is an important link from Maryland and upper NW to downtown. Furthermore, the fact that it is NPS land means that any move to shut it down is going to be squashed outright by MoCo's representatives in Congress.

If we could go back in time and re-design Rock Creek Park to more effectively separate the Parkway from the recreational uses, that would be great. Barring time travel, though, the current shared road and recreational use are a compromise that will likely remain with us for the foreseeable future.

by Potowmack on Jun 10, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

@Tina/RDHD
This is what people mean by the war on cars. Do you want people to go from NW to Arl/Alx and back or not? Eliminate RCP and the trip takes twice as long. It would be easier to go to Baltimore.

Like it or not, RCP fills an important need in the area and is here to stay.

by movement on Jun 10, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

I think it's important to have RCP but right now its more of a frankenstein approach to a road. It had ramps but it also has stop signs that abruptly change the right of way. It's one-way in spots during certain times of the day which can be a real problem if for some reason you're going from Va. to Upper NW in the morning for instance. Meanwhile you have definitely sub par walking and biking facilities (for the volume of users you have). So yes, its important but I think its eminently doable to make the road a little more consistent throught out its length while improving the situation for everyone else.

Is there a bus route that goes along RCP? I know there is a bus line or two along GW parkway in parts once it starts heading towards DC.

by drumz on Jun 10, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

"I wouldn't shut RCP. I would narrow it by 1 lane and make that lane a multi-use trail, and end the reversible lane policy. I would put stop signs and/or lights at the intersections with the side roads. "

Ah, a road diet on RCP. that seems like much more of a base for realistic discussion than shutting it down.

Still, I wonder if theres a "road diet budget" implicit in the political forces (if not formally) IE if you road diet RCP, it will make it harder to road diet Wisconsin, etc? I honestly don't know.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

I wouldn't shut RCP. I would narrow it by 1 lane and make that lane a multi-use trail, and end the reversible lane policy. I would put stop signs and/or lights at the intersections with the side roads.

I can't speak for everyone, but that's not a trail I'd like to use. I'd much prefer to use a trail that is separated from the road by some sort of grassy area or at least a guard rail over a "trail" that is essentially a converted road lane. The only time I find it pleasant to jog in the road is when the RCP is closed to car traffic on weekends.

by Scoot on Jun 10, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

Road diet, two directions, tolls during rush hour. Sounds good to me. Same things on BW and GW "park"ways. I'm OK with roads in urban parks, because some people need cars to access them, but the National "Park" Service should be mostly about conservation and recreation, not providing socialized public financing for free high-speed throughput for upscale car commuters on "park" land. Parks first!

by Greenbelt on Jun 10, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

Lots of good comments here. Here's an even more modest option for a road diet and a question. Couldn't we just have the tiniest bit of enforcement (and fines for NPS coffers)? Just ticket the people that speed on Piney Branch, Beach, and RCP and (above all) the idiots that tie up traffic merging on to Beach from RCP by trying to cut in at the end illegally.

The question: Anyone know if there's a chance of the proposed trail rehabilitation project? That could go a long way to alleviating overcrowding, and is needed just for basic maintenance too.

See: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=198&projectID=34546&documentID=44497

by John on Jun 10, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

A while back, when NPS was more bike friendly than DC or MD (ok--a long time ago), the one of four lanes was designated a bike lane during rush hour. A few cyclists breezed by while drivers stewed at the relative gridlock. The Park Servive reversed itself shortly later.

We know alot more today about traffic flow management. NPS should try it again, or some variant.

This article is an interesting counterpoint to the article last week about all the creeks that did get filled. While those smaller creek valleys were alot easier to fill, they would also be easier to bridge. I wouldn't mind seing one of them brought back--over the course of a century--now that we know how to maintain a clean stream in an urban environment.

by JimT on Jun 10, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

...can't we have at least one traffic artery that allows easy access between North and South DC? And between DC and the suburbs?

I can name several: Wisc Ave, Conn. Ave., 16th St, 14th St, 13th St, GA Ave/7th St, North Cap, RI Ave, DC295/Kenilworth, Mass Ave.

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

Duh Tina, they're talking about arteries where you don't have to stop!

Beep beep! Outta my way!

by MLD on Jun 10, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

Slow news day, huh?

I take my dog to RCP almost every single weekend. I wouldn't do that if it weren't for the parkway - I can't afford a house in any of the very expensive nearby neighborhoods, cycling an hour round trip in order to walk the dog is pointless, and even if public transit welcomed animals it's completely unreliable to use it to get to RCP on the weekends. And I live in DC. I'm sure all of this is doubly true for Northern Virginians.

Sometimes having good access to public spaces is as important as preserving them. After all, if nobody could get there to enjoy it, nobody would care when it was bulldozed.

by Kristen on Jun 10, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

@Kristen -this conclusion is nullified by the years of data on huge numbers of people who support protecting National parks they will never visit. See ANWR as an example. I'm just saying that people appreciate knowing a place w/o asphalt exists whether they visit it or not. I'm sure that is as true locally for RCP as it is for Ft Dupont Park, Kenilworth Gardens and the National Arboretum in this area.

Besides, there are many places to access RCP and get on a wooded trail that you and your dog would love don't involve driving on Beach Dr.

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

@Tina: I think if NPS ever lifted a finger to enforce the actual posted speed limit on RCP/Piney Branch/Beach Drive people wouldn't think of them as a wormhole through NW DC.

@David Alpert: A road diet should also remove the slip lanes at intersections.

by Steve S. on Jun 10, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

This sounds exactly like the plan to concrete over McMillian Park for development that the so-called smarter growth people support today.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 10, 2013 3:52 pm • linkreport

@Kristen I live four or five blocks away from RCP in a neighborhood that's not expensive at all (or didn't used to be). If I feel like a walk in the park I'd rather walk a mile or so down to Meridian Hill because all the jerks whizzing by on Piney Branch Parkway give the "park" the ambiance of a highway shoulder.

by Steve S. on Jun 10, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

The notion of appropriating vital freeway lanes to turn back into recreational space is totalitarian socialism.

The act of appropriating vital recreational space to build subsidized freeway lanes, however, is not.

by Crickey7 on Jun 10, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

"This sounds exactly like the plan to concrete over McMillian Park for development that the so-called smarter growth people support today. "

rock creek was a place that was physically to dangerous to enter freely and was fenced off?

"Tina: I think if NPS ever lifted a finger to enforce the actual posted speed limit on RCP/Piney Branch/Beach Drive people wouldn't think of them as a wormhole through NW DC. "

I disagree - even at posted speeds, its a better driving route than Wisconisn or Mass Ave. Let alone 14th street. I would rather speed limits were obeyed, I hate when people go too fast on RCP - I say that as a DRIVER.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

"See ANWR as an example. "

thats not a park, its wildlife refuge, valued for the habitat it provides. Im not sure RCP is seen the same way.

I think DA's suggestions are worthwhile. I think discussing closeing RCP is perhaps distracting. Not that I would put it off the table, but I do think that it inherently competes with road diets on parallel avenues.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

@AWITC - ANWR can be visited. RCP is also valued for its habitat to wildlife there are dozens of migratory birds, like the Baltimore Oriole, whose populations depend on places like RCP.

There are fish whose populations dependents on Rock Creek. Several years ago a fish ladder was installed at the dam at Peirce Mill for migrating fish. Previously they were dependent on volunteers scooping them up with buckets and carrying them over the dam.

A large contiguous habitat like RCP is very valuable and important to many species.

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 4:17 pm • linkreport

For more information about the importance of RCP to migratory birds see this: http://www.nps.gov/rocr/international-migratory-bird-day-page.htm

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

Walker- McMillan was a beautiful public park for many years. The pretense for fencing it off in the 40's was to stop spys from poisoning the water supply. The real reason was integrated couples seen there. All this "dangerous pits" business is of late and more and more people are demanding the fence come down and people be allowed back in the park.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 10, 2013 4:20 pm • linkreport

"Birds are a significant cultural, scientific and economic value to the United States and around the world. Washington area residents should become aware that birds migrate along flyways in which significant urban areas have been developed.

Critical bird habitat is often interspersed within these metropolitan areas, providing much needed rest areas for migrating bird populations to feed and breed.

Public awareness about these issues helps build and maintain support for natural areas that help to sustain birds as well as all wildlife in these urban settings. IMBD education helps build awareness and support for conservation projects, and support for partnerships that are critical to the long term sustainability of migratory birds."

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

@ Tina

Since when is it easy to to get to NW ? I have lived in all quadrants of DC in my life and it is f**king hard to get around DC by driving and by bus it is some times impossible.

Many of the problems are due to windy roads and streets and diagonal roads.

North Capitol functionally ends at New Hampshire after which it gets smaller and then about a mile later is a side street. North Capitol is backed up from Mass Ave to Rhode Island Ave every single day.

Wisconsin & Conn all that needs to be said is traffic 7 days a week

16th Street is okay once you get to Military Rd

Georgia Ave/7th Street nope to many traffic lights. if you are downtown, or in SW there is no easy way to get north while staying inside of DC. Depending on the time of day it is quicker to take New York Ave to BW Parkway to the Beltway to get to Silver Spring, Wheaton, White Oak, Bethesda than it is to go up 7th Street.

No street/avenue/parkway allows easy access between North and south DC. Prove me wrong show me a route in DC that gets someone from Southern Ave to Western Ave easy

What we need whether people like it or no is a limited access road going North/South, East/West and one that cross the Anacostia, where there is a lack of bridges.

In DC east of the Anacostia the only real main roads are Penn Ave and East Capitol every other street changes its size or becomes a non main road (Alabma Ave, South Capitol St, MLK Ave, Minnesota Ave, Borroughs Ave) Eastern and Southern Avenues end then start up miles later

Quite frankly I would turn 16th street, Military Rd, MacArthur Blvd, and Alabama Ave into highways all connected via 295, 395, Whitehurst Fwy and the Suiltland Pky to actually create a network of ways to get to any part of the city easy without going through local roads, streets or other jurisdictions.

by kk on Jun 10, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

Tina

sure. But as Kristen said, access benefits people wanting to preserve. so there is some habitat of value in RCP - is that valued enough that people who never see RCP would fight for it as for ANWR? I think there are issues of scale, of uniqueness, etc.

Also, it doesnt sound like the existence of the roadway is a problem for the fish, at least. Not sure about the songbirds.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

@ Tina

"I can name several: Wisc Ave, Conn. Ave., 16th St, 14th St, 13th St, GA Ave/7th St, North Cap, RI Ave, DC295/Kenilworth, Mass Ave."

All of these routes go through heavy traffic/dense neighborhoods, with the exception of 295 on the other side of DC, and thus not useful for travel from NW. This is exactly what we're trying to avoid by using the RCP. As has been mentioned several times in this thread, cities require at least a few high-volume thoroughfares to move people - having none at all is a recipe for gridlock and an economic drain. The RCP serves the purpose of moving people from NW DC to Arlandia relatively efficiently, as well as serves the needs of cyclists, joggers, and others who want to enjoy Rock Creek Park. I agree that many highways that run through cities are terribly planned, poorly built, and have destroyed what could have been the best parts of that city. This is not one of those cases. I wouldn't advocate for closing the jogging trails simply because I have to pause in my car at the intersections along the RCP, so why advocate for closing the RCP because of a perceived problem with noise and traffic (a problem which several posters have pointed out is really non-existent)? If safety is your concern, then by all means lets enforce speed restrictions with cameras and more NPS officers. But let's not create more gridlock on surface streets ( and shifting all the safety problems that that creates into those neighborhoods) by arbitrarily closing a major thoroughfare.

by Eric on Jun 10, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

Duh Tina, they're talking about arteries where you don't have to stop!

And? Nothing wrong with that in of itself.

RCP seems to be a pretty big success overall. It's popular with drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. It's a middle ground solution that might not be perfect for any of the different type of users, but it seems to be good enough for all parties.

Limited urabn space requires compromises, and RCP seems to meet the needs of diverse groups pretty well overall.

by Potowmack on Jun 10, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

"Walker- McMillan was a beautiful public park for many years. The pretense for fencing it off in the 40's was to stop spys from poisoning the water supply. The real reason was integrated couples seen there. All this "dangerous pits" business is of late and more and more people are demanding the fence come down and people be allowed back in the park. "

Im not asking for the history of it, but if its really NOW like RCP then. Also the Sand filtration site was never officially a park, IIUC, despite the stories from old folks of going there.

And from all I understand the cells are in fact dangerous, and making it into a park would require work to secure them.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris
McMillan was a beautiful public park for many years.

The area around the reservoir was a park. I haven't really seen any evidence that the sand filtration site was a park open for public use.

by MLD on Jun 10, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

@AWITC - doesnt sound like the existence of the roadway is a problem for the fish, at least.

Rain water run-off from roads into creeks is a big problem for fish and all aquatic life.

Not sure about the songbirds.Not sure about the songbirds.

Yes its a problem for several species who require a certain amount of forest density; i.e. contiguous. There are some places in RCP that can support some of those birds. if the road weren't there more could be supported.

My point to Kristen was that people value parks like RCP and ANWR (and the national arboretum, Ft Dupont and Kenilworth Aquatic gardens) whether or not they visit them. Yes i agree support is strengthened when people visit those places, but we know that even when people don't visit they still support them.

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

@Eric -I was responding to an assertion that Beach Dr was the only "traffic artery connecting north and south DC and DC to suburbs".

All of these routes go through heavy traffic/dense neighborhoods, with the exception of 295 on the other side of DC, and thus not useful for travel from NW.

1) You must have never been on N. Cap.
2)right, the roads are both "heavy traffic" and "not useful". Kinda sounds like "nobody ever goes there anymore, its too crowded"

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

@kk - I have lived in all quadrants of DC in my life and it is f**king hard to get around DC by driving and by bus it is some times impossible.

This is why I bike.

I didn't say driving was easy. I said there are indeed major traffic arteries in addition to Beach Dr.

The commenter asserted Beach Dr was the only "traffic artery". The rest of your comment underscores this point.

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

The parkways in Central Park are far more limited than the RCP. Only parts of the parkways are open for a few hours each day. The balance between being a thoroughfare for cars and being, you know, a park is significantly tilted in favor of recreation. It's not because traffic is any easier in Manhattan. I'm sure plenty of drivers there would love to be able to cut through the Park 24/7, as is possible on the RCP.

Describing the current situation as a 'middle ground solution' is astounding. Between K St and P St, Rock Creek 'Park' is basically a road with a stream running next to it. The number of commuters using the park in that section each day must be 500x the number of people using it for recreation. That to me seems like a failed park. Take the New York solution, and restrict use of the parkway to 2 hours in the morning and evening. Too extreme? Start by closing it altogether at weekends, and restrict further from there.

by renegade09 on Jun 10, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

^"The rest of your comment underscores this point, that there are many traffic arteries in addition to beach Dr."

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 5:02 pm • linkreport

Re: Wisc Ave, Conn. Ave., 16th St, 14th St, 13th St, GA Ave/7th St, North Cap, RI Ave, DC295/Kenilworth, Mass Ave.

At various points in my 50 years here, I have commuted on all but 2 of these routes. All were intended from inception to be transportation corridors--some have been in continuous use for 200 years.

The present use of RCP as a commuting throughfare is not a middle ground. It's a blatant surrender of intended recreational and wildlife preservation values to transportation convenience. It violates the Park's charter for all spaces north of the Parkway, which is governed by a Congressional act that amended the original charter.

by Crickey7 on Jun 10, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

Describing the current situation as a 'middle ground solution' is astounding. Between K St and P St, Rock Creek 'Park' is basically a road with a stream running next to it. The number of commuters using the park in that section each day must be 500x the number of people using it for recreation. That to me seems like a failed park.

Just because a lot of people use RCP for commuting purposes doesn't mean the park portion is a failure. Maybe the relative levels of use reflect the relative levels of demand for road versus park.

Recreation is all well and good, but the road infrastucture provided by RCP contributes a lot of economic activity to the District.

Take the New York solution, and restrict use of the parkway to 2 hours in the morning and evening. Too extreme? Start by closing it altogether at weekends, and restrict further from there.

Why would we want to do that? The current system seems to be working for everyone involved. Why mess with it?

by Potowmack on Jun 10, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

It only works for one group. All others have been driven off. You ride or roller blade on the roadway at risk of your life--I can attest to that. The carnage to animals is heartbreaking. Whole stretches of the Creek are completely devoid of aquatic life.

by Crickey7 on Jun 10, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

Describing the current situation as a 'middle ground solution' is astounding. Between K St and P St, Rock Creek 'Park' is basically a road with a stream running next to it.

This. Some of the comments in here make me wonder if people have ever used the MUP between P and K along the parkway. There is no "park" there - it's a road with some steep green space.

by MLD on Jun 10, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

Recreation is all well and good, but the road infrastucture provided by RCP contributes a lot of economic activity to the District.

This sounds like:
"health and well-being are well and good but making money is whats really important".

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

Tina - re runoff A. could something be done with road redesign, surface, etc? B Changing the road to a paved trail wouldnt help - are you suggesting ripping it up entirely? Or most of it?

Ive biked in Rock Creek Park. Ive walked around Bloomingdale and Eckington including crossing North Cap.

I think it would benefit DC more to put North Cap on a road diet, and leave traffic in RCP (perhaps with the changes DC suggested) vs closing RCP to all traffic and doing more limited road diets on traffic sewers through residential areas like North Cap.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

by the way, for central park, you are not talking about the transverses?

You are talking about north south routes. For which there are numerous alts, including two limited access roads - the FDR drive and the Henry Hudson Parkway.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 5:20 pm • linkreport

"It only works for one group. All others have been driven off. You ride or roller blade on the roadway at risk of your life--I can attest to that."

but it sounds like there are alternatives that would help, that dont necessarily involve closing RCP to autos completely.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

@AWITC - re you suggesting ripping it up entirely

I have made no suggestions about doing anything with the Road. i have pointed out that:

1)Beach Dr is in no way the only traffic artery connecting N & S DC and DC to suburbs,
2) Parks are supported by large numbers of people even when those people never visit those parks,
3) its easy to access wooded trails in RCP w/o driving on Beach dr.,
4)RCP is VERY important habitat for migratory birds as well as an important habitat for other species,
5)The road is very damaging to the aquatic ecosystem as well as disrupting to the continuity of the forest habitat

re runoff A. could something be done with road redesign, surface, etc? Sure! I'm aware of materials, designs and methods that could help mitigate the run-off problem.

I guess guess I would go for @David Alperts suggestion and/or @renegade09's, with an aim for what @Crickey7 is pointing out: the mission of the park

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

It only works for one group. All others have been driven off. You ride or roller blade on the roadway at risk of your life--I can attest to that. The carnage to animals is heartbreaking. Whole stretches of the Creek are completely devoid of aquatic life.

I bike or jog through Rock Creek on a pretty regular basis. The trails are clearly very popular. The roads aren't for joggers or roller-bladers, just like the trails aren't for cars.

This sounds like:
"health and well-being are well and good but making money is whats really important".

It's not like there's a lack of recreational areas and parkland in Northwest. I really don't think people in this part of the District can reasonably complain that they don't have access to outdoor spaces where they can go exercise.

by Potowmack on Jun 10, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

Tina

eric above only said that the road needs to be there - he did not say in exactly its current form. Most of the subsequent comments seemed to imply that there should be no road there at all.

I dont know the park that well - Ive been in it outside a car only in the part below P street (not counting the zoo or carter barron). But I will accept that it needs to be made better as a park at the expense of auto traffic. But I do think having a relatively fast auto route in that corridor that is NOT a residential/commercial street (with all the costs of designing such streets for auto traffic) is a good thing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 10, 2013 5:37 pm • linkreport

I agree with Potowmack, as a regular user of "the MUP between K St and P St" and as an occasional user of the roadway itself, I find the roadway to be among the least problematic features of the immediate area.

A lot of recreational activities would be enhanced by just widening the the trail. I don't think this requires eliminating vehicle lanes and/or extending the trail into the roadway - why not just excavate some of the land on the side of the valley, level and resurface it to extend the width of the trail away from the roadway?

Other than the usefulness of a bike lane on the roadway, which would help get some of the speedier cyclists off the trail, I'm not seeing too many good reasons to put this section of RCP on a diet. I think the roadway functions as a very helpful way to divert car traffic away from the surface streets in the area neighborhoods.

by Scoot on Jun 10, 2013 5:48 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity

Spot on.

@Tina

1) I actually find Capitol Hill to be a lovely neighborhood. Ever had the pancakes at Market Lunch?
2) I think you misunderstood my point - coming from NW DC, 295 is "not useful" to get to to Arlandia. Unless I am planning on stopping off at Market Lunch for pancakes.

by Eric on Jun 10, 2013 5:53 pm • linkreport

For all you folks who think that the need for convenient roads merits equal/greater consideration as having a proper park, would you also favor this 1950s proposal to build a 4-lane parkway along the Glover Archbold trail?

http://biodiversity.georgetown.edu/searchfiles/infosearch.cfm?view=all&IDNumber=1537

To quote: "This improvement (sic) is considered essential to relieve the serious congestion along Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues."

by renegade09 on Jun 10, 2013 6:06 pm • linkreport

coming from NW DC, 295 is "not useful" to get to to Arlandia. But Wisc Ave, Conn Ave, 16th, 14th & 13th St's & Sherman Ave/9th St would all get you there. Also, Beach Dr runs parallel for much of its length to the Red which connects to the Organge line. "Need" is a strong word for a conveniently placed road when said road has life and death impacts for inhabitants that don't drive.

by Tina on Jun 10, 2013 6:06 pm • linkreport

coming from NW DC, 295 is "not useful" to get to to Arlandia. But Wisc Ave, Conn Ave, 16th, 14th & 13th St's & Sherman Ave/9th St would all get you there.

I really have to question whether people who say stuff like this actually live on/near or commute along these roads on a regular basis, or are just looking at a Google map for an answer.

As someone who does live here, let me tell you that with the occasional exception of 13th St (shhh, don't tell anyone), those roads are VERY VERY congested (particularly in rush hour and even on the weekends). They're also heavily used by us pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders and quite frankly we would prefer not to contend with any more crazy drivers if we can help it -- since we're on the topic of "life and death impacts for inhabitants who don't drive" and all.

I live fairly close to the stretch of RCP in question and as such I would prefer that vehicles get routed to the parkway so as not to needlesly congest the surface streets of my community. I'd prefer just to improve the quality of the recreational trails of the RCP than close the road entirely.

I'm certainly no expert on the wildlife of the parkland but I presume that there are ways to conserve the species without closing the road entirely. By my back of the envelope calculation, the arterial park roads running N-S through the Park use about 2% of the total parkland area. The other ~98% is more or less dedicated wildlife reserve.

by Scoot on Jun 10, 2013 6:37 pm • linkreport

I remember reading about "Lyon's Mill" in an article about the mills along Rock Creek in the 19th century. It's nice to see the location.

by Frank IBC on Jun 10, 2013 7:27 pm • linkreport

@crickey7' It violates the Park's charter for all spaces north of the Parkway'. Actually, the park was established as a parkway for the then nascent motorist community and not as a 'recreational area' for non-motorists. And that's what probably saved it from the alternative of having the creak put in a tunnel and the land above it developed into row houses.

by A neighbor on Jun 10, 2013 10:03 pm • linkreport

@Scoot-the arterial park roads running N-S through the Park use about 2% of the total parkland area. The other ~98% is more or less dedicated wildlife reserve.

Every time it rains, hot oily water gushes into the creek/s. The very presence of the road breaks up the continuity of habitat especially important to endangered migrating birds to whom RCP is an important stop on their flyway.

I'm not advocating closing the road necessarily - I'm emphasizing that pretending the roads don't have an important impact is a denial of reality.

I live in the area and I'm very aware of the traveling frustrations and the dangers commuters from MD pose to pedestrians along Conn Ave especially. I'm a member of the Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action group. http://www.capa-dc.org/. Maybe you can help us?

@neighbor - the park was established as a parkway for the then nascent motorist community and not as a 'recreational area' for non-motorists.

Except that: [the priority of] transportation convenience violates the Park's charter for all spaces north of the Parkway, which is governed by a Congressional act that amended the original charter.

by Tina on Jun 11, 2013 9:36 am • linkreport

"For all you folks who think that the need for convenient roads merits equal/greater consideration as having a proper park, would you also favor this 1950s proposal to build a 4-lane parkway along the Glover Archbold trail? "

theres a difference between building something and removing it - sunk costs are sunk. Almost no one supports building more urban expressways like the SE-SW freeway - but lots of people accept that either such freeways cannot be removed, or that it makes sense to remove them ONLY when they reach a point in their life that a major recapitalization/rebuild is required.

Note well - I am thinking mostly of the Parkway part, in lower RCP where changing status would presumably require capital dollars. I think a lot of folks here are focused on the upper portions.

I think the fact that we focusing on different parts of RCP is causing some misunderstanding.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 11, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

I live in the area and I'm very aware of the traveling frustrations and the dangers commuters from MD pose to pedestrians along Conn Ave especially

Unfortunately it's not just MD commuters, but many District residents as well. (It's admittedly more difficult to paint these folks as "other" when we realize they're not all coming in from somewhere else).

I think in order to determine the impact of the RCP on the level you describe it, we need a broader conversation about balancing the needs of wildlife species of the park against the needs of people who live and work here. It seems you agree that the road does serve at least some purpose such that it ought not be closed.

I would support better engineering projects to protect the creek from the runoff you describe, I'm just unsure as to whether a road diet is the best way to solve that problem. Certainly on the discussion of recreation in the park, I can think of a number of more pressing issues than a road diet, which I already mentioned in the comment thread.

As for "endangered birds" which migrate to the park, I'm not aware of any - to my knowledge the only endangered species in the park is a type of small crustacean. I read up a bit on the migratory birds and it appears that many of them are found to migrate to an industrial area of the park near the Maintenance Yard, about about 5 miles from the site of "Lyon's Hill".

by Scoot on Jun 11, 2013 11:16 am • linkreport

A large contiguous habitat like RCP is very valuable and important to many species.

Many of them invasive.

by Benjamin Banneker on Jun 11, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

@Scoot-As for "endangered birds" which migrate to the park, I'm not aware of any .

There is plenty of information about migratory song birds, their east coast flyway and the importance of both summer grounds and stop-overs. RCP is both to different species.

For more information please see:

http://policy.audubon.org/missing-birds-rock-creek-park

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/migration/sbj/document_view

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/02/090212-migratory-songbird-tracking-missions_2.html

@Benjamin Banneker - do you consider invasive species valuable and important?

If you care about the impact of invasive species you can volunteer to help rid the park of them:

http://www.nps.gov/rocr/supportyourpark/volunteer.htm

by Tina on Jun 11, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

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