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Face on Klingle.

Second vote nears on Klingle Road fate

By IAN THOMAS,  Staff Writer  NW Current

Though the D.C. Council voted May 13 against reopening Klingle Road and for creating a hiking and biking trail instead the long-debated issue is not finished, with both proponents and opponents pointing to looming hurdles that could derail the councils latest effort to close the book on Klingle.

In 2003, the D.C. Council authorized reopening the 0.7-mile stretch of roadway with federal funds, but that money has been stuck in the federal approval process ever since. Funding has not been secured for a hiker/biker trail, though Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh, who championed the most recent efforts to convert the road into a trail, believes federal money will be available for the conversion. 

In a recent interview, Cheh said that under her amendment to the city's 2009 budget, $2 million of any federal money allotted for the roadway must be spent on remediation and construction of a permeable surface trail.  She said it is unclear whether $2 million would cover the entire cost.  In 2003, the DC Department of Transportation said it would cost $1.1 million to deconstruct the roadway and build a trail.

The council gave initial approval to the budget support act last week, and it will take a final vote June 3, Cheh said she has no reason to think the second vote will go any differently than the first.

But Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham, who favors reopening the road, said he hopes the council will again change its position on Klingle Road, one of the most hotly contested issues in the city since it was closed in 1991 after years of deterioration.  In the most recent council vote, only Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser and at-large Council member Carol Schwartz backed Graham.  I think its going to turn on just how much public outrage is expressed, Graham said.

Graham and other advocates for reopening Klingle say it is a vital alternative to the few east-west connectors in the city.  

He said Porter Street is highly congested, and residents need an alternative.  I think its more than a shortcut, Graham said.  Its a way to avoid the bottleneck at Porter.

Cheh disagrees.  Their geography is screwy, she said.  Klingle doesn't do much of anything.   

Its a shortcut. This was not, in any sense of the word, a major alternative road."

Cheh also disagrees that Porter Street is congested.  She said that, as a Forest Hill resident, she uses the road often.

Klingle Road
Bill Petros/The Current

The D.C. Council will take a final vote next week on budget legislation that calls for constructing a hiker/biker trail rather than reopening the road.

The DC Department of Transportation would be charged with overseeing construction of the trail.  Karyn LeBlanc, a spokesperson for the agency, said preliminary plans are in the works and that the Transportation Department is working with the Federal Highway and the National Park Service.

Laurie Collins, a longtime advocate for reopening the road to vehicles, said she doubts Mayor Adrian Fenty, who supports the roads reopening while in his previous position as Ward 4s council member, would push for a paths construction.

If there was money, why would the mayor build a bike path? Collins asked.  I just don't see our administration doing that.

In his 2009 proposal to the council, Fenty included $2 million in local funds to help pay for the roads reconstruction.  But Cheh successfully removed that money from the budget and with her amendment and transferred it to a citywide program to improve alleys. 

Cheh said she has no reason to believe the mayor would run interference on the project.  I have a good working relationship with the mayor, she said.

Cheh said that during a recent roundtable discussion on Klingle Road, she asked Transportation director Emeka Moneme whether he would push the hiker/biker project along, and he answered that he would.

Collins suggested that the District might face a legal challenge from a developer who has plans to build five houses on the closed stretch of Klingle Road.

Cheh dismissed that notion.  This is a speculative project, she said of the developers plan.

Despite the councils latest decision, people on both sides of the issue are not accepting it as done.

Its back and forth, like Ping-Pong, said Collins, We are no further than we were.

Jim Dougherty, a board member of the Sierra Club, which backed creation of a hiker/biker trail, said he is taking nothing for granted.  We've learned a lesson from the proponents of the road, he said.


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