The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Public Spaces

Klingle: Even more cars in Rock Creek?

San Francisco has the Embarcadero Freeway. New York has the West Side Highway. In both cases, nature forced the city to close a road which it would never have had the political fortitude to do otherwise. In both cases, residents realized they didn't really need the road after all.

Rock Creek Parkway. Photo by
bankbryan on Flickr.

Would DC do this? If the Southwest-Southeast Freeway fell down, would we restore Virginia Avenue? Actually, we have an example. In 1991, Klingle Road, an express bypass through Rock Creek Park from Mount Pleasant to Woodley Park, flooded and had to be closed. For 17 years, people have gotten by okay. But Mayor Fenty and Jim Graham are set on rebuilding the road, even using DC money to do it. And most DCist commenters agree. "It's a road, and always has been a road." So was the Embarcadero Freeway.

We already dedicate too much natural space to cars. Biking or walking along Rock Creek Park means navigating a very narrow, windy path alongside a four-lane expressway. Rock Creek Park may be nice in the far north, but for most of the stretch is far from a peaceful natural oasis, of which we have precious little.

And advocates of reopening Klingle are ignoring the reality of induced demand. In 17 years, traffic patters have adapted to not having the road. If we reopen it, people will choose to drive instead of take the bus, or choose to live across the park from their workplaces knowing that they have this shortcut. I'd rather all of Rock Creek Park be a park, not a freeway; it's nice for residents of Mount Pleasant or Crestwood to be able to zip downtown at high speeds, but that just means it's appealing to live up there and zip downtown at high speeds, or even to work in Virginia and drive every day. This may be the reality today, but we should absolutely not encourage any more.

Let's make this road a walking and biking trail instead.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


Add a comment »

Completely agree. Well written.

by it's me silly on Mar 25, 2008 9:00 pm • linkreport

In the same area: I have always wondered what the deal is with the apartment building on the 2700 block of Porter St, just after Klingle passes over Rock Creek Park, and across the Quebec House. There is an identical building just to the right of it, which is occupied, but this building is vacant, with windows missing, etc. Any idea why this building, in a seemingly perfect location, could be vacant for all these years? I have searched the web, but to no avail, and it doesn't seem to be on the list of vacant buildings with DCRA.

by Jimmy D on Mar 26, 2008 7:11 am • linkreport

Keep it close, spend the money on improving the bike trail. However, Rock Creek when used correctly, is a very convenient way to get in to NW DC, especially when the Metro is single tracking the Red Line during the weekend.

by RJ on Mar 26, 2008 7:33 am • linkreport

RJ: Get in to NW DC from downtown or from Maryland? Aren't the park drives closed on weekends? Besides, I've always found the regular roads like Connecticut and 16th to be just fine on weekends. Saving 5 minutes on a Saturday isn't really a good reason to have a road taking up most of a park. (I totally agree that the single tracking is extremely annoying!)

by David Alpert on Mar 26, 2008 8:55 am • linkreport

David: It really depends on where you are coming from, for me (via downtown) there is no comparison Rock Creek is much much faster. You are right Beach is closed during the weekends, but that’s only till it reaches Broad Branch, the rest is wide open. Whatever they do the District, or the Park Service, needs to improve the bike trail. An improve bike trail will increase the number of people biking and thus the demand, and possible outstrip the demand for roads, thus getting to your goal of a car free Rock Creek.

by RJ on Mar 26, 2008 9:10 am • linkreport

Yes, the bike trails needs major improvements. Sections are falling apart, and overall it is too narrow to share with walkers and joggers.

I'd rather see Klingle closed to cars. I'd prefer to see a Metro tunnel underneath for a new line, or why not an east-west gondola?

by Michael on Mar 26, 2008 2:14 pm • linkreport

the cost would be HUGE!

all so a couple of cars do not have to wait at the Porter Street stop light?

that is the problem

they keep trying to make it easier for people to drive

maybe if gas prices continued to climb

and traffic increased

then people would seek other options

yes... some people will have to drive

dropping the kids off at school will demand a car

as would getting to work where the metro does not go


many people drive when they do not have to

the sad thing

less cars on the road would only reward the people who continue driving

by gwadzilla on Mar 27, 2008 8:57 am • linkreport

That primarily benefits the wealthiest and most influential as our Cissy Pattersons, and those holding stocks in petro-chemical industries.

Joe Average may choose looking at alternative propulsion technologies -- fuel cells, water splitting, etc -- as a superior investment then the extra time on 'ass transit then the intelligentsia prescribes.

by Douglas Willinger on Apr 17, 2008 10:31 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us