A proposal by the National Park Service
to close Beach Drive NW in Rock Creek Park for several hours on weekdays
has drawn opposition from community activists worried about spillover
traffic in their neighborhoods.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who once
endorsed the idea, is now having second thoughts about closing a major
traffic artery out of town while the city is on heightened alert for
possible terrorist attacks, he said last week.
The draft proposal, published in the
Federal Register on March 14, would close three segments of Beach Drive
in the northern portion of the park to cars and other vehicles on
weekdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The proposed closure would affect
Beach Drive between Broad Branch Road and Joyce Road NW, the section
that is closed to motor vehicles on weekends.
"I'm amazed that in a city that has the
worst traffic in the United States, that they would even consider
closing a major thoroughfare at any time," Tim Letzkus, president of the
16th Street Heights Civic Association, said yesterday.
The association won't take a formal
vote on the proposal until its next meeting April 8. But Letzkus said he
doubts that residents in the 14th and 16th Street corridors and other
affected communities will feel positive about an action that could clog
their streets with motorists heading north and south.
Williams (D) once supported closing
sections of Beach Drive to motor traffic as an experiment, but he
doesn't think the time is right for more traffic restrictions. "In the
context of the heightened threat level and transportation problems we're
having right now in the city, it's really premature" to close Beach
Drive, the mayor said on WTOP's "Ask the Mayor" radio program.
Mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock said
Williams liked the idea of preserving more of the park for bicyclists
and pedestrians -- but that was before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Washington Area Bicycle Association
and the People's Alliance for Rock Creek, which have long pressed for
more recreational outlets in the park, support closing Beach Drive to
cars and other traffic.
The plan was one of three proposals for
Beach Drive that were published in the Federal Register, although the
Park Service has called the closure option its "preferred alternative."
A second proposal would implement high-occupancy vehicle restrictions on
Beach Drive during rush hours, and a third would permanently close
certain segments of Beach Drive north of Broad Branch Road to traffic to
promote non-motorized recreation in that area of the park.
Bill Line, a Park Service spokesman,
said yesterday that closing Beach Drive during non-rush hours "would
improve the use of the park's resources and enhance educational
opportunities, including increasing interpretive activities with park
He stressed that all options, including
making no change, will be discussed at public hearings in early May. No
dates have been set, he said, but the Park Service is working to arrange
a convenient location for two evening hearings.
An environmental impact statement
analyzing the three proposals can be viewed at
Written comments are due by July 15 and can be e-mailed to
or sent to Superintendent, Rock Creek Park, 3545 Williamsburg Lane, NW,
Washington, D.C. 20008.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratte
contributed to this report.