- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said his decision to keep Klingle Road closed to cars "is one that could cost me political support."

But after studying arguments from both sides, he said the cost of repairing the road is too high.

Mr. Williams decided yesterday not to reopen the half-mile stretch of Klingle Road in Northwest to vehicles, to the dismay of opponents who want the roadway repaired to handle traffic. He opted, instead, to remove the roadway and preserve the land for green space by putting in a pedestrian-bike path.

"This was a difficult decision. I have considered all views. Vehicular-car traffic should not return to the unopened portion of Klingle Road," Mr. Williams said.

Supporters for reopening Klingle were irate. Many said the damage to Klingle was caused by the city's inaction.

"The city should have fixed the drainage system 12 years ago. But they neglected the system and it has gotten worse over time," said Jeanne M. Ingram, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 3.

While supporters applauded Mr. Williams, opponents said the mayor was further dividing the city along racial and socioeconomic lines. Some said Mr. Williams was trying to increase the property values of affluent Ward 3 residents to garner more support.

"I have watched the manipulation of government officials for many years in this town; I thought this administration would be different. It is not," Mrs. Ingram said. She said the support Mr. Williams anticipates is suspect. Only one council member, Ward 2 Democrat Jack Evans, showed up to endorse the decision. But at least five other council members are taking the mayor's side.

Some residents, like Mrs. Ingram, from Wards 1, 3, and 4, have pushed for years to have Klingle reopened to car traffic again. It is one of only a few east-west routes through Rock Creek Park. They felt it would help ease some traffic problems and decrease the arrival time of emergency vehicles to Ward 3 neighborhoods.

But Mr. Williams cited a report from Louis Berger, Inc., an international consulting firm for civil, structural and mechanical engineering, which says "reopening Klingle would give negligible reduction to easing traffic congestion." The city paid Louis Berger Group almost $200,000 to conduct the study, which yielded seven options for the road.

Mr. Williams' plan Option D recommended by Department of Public Works Director Dan Tangherlini, is to remove the road and repair the retaining walls. The city would spend $1 million to design and construct a pedestrian-bike trail.

Reopening the road could cost more than $5 million, said Mr. Tangherlini, adding: "If we reopened the road, it would not meet current environmental and transportation standards."

But he said the decision is not final. The city will revisit the reopening and other east-west traffic options for Rock Creek Park after taking care of more immediate traffic concerns "like the upgrade of 16th Street Northwest to a six-lane road to begin in March."

But members of the Coalition to Repair Klingle Road said most of the money would come from available federal funds, not local funds.

"What is at stake is our right to travel on D.C. roads and whether [the mayor] will be allowed to ignore the ANCs and deny access to a public road without going through the D.C. Council," said officials from the Klingle Coalition.

Mr. Williams said his decision does not have to be approved by the council, with exception to appropriation, because he is not entirely closing the road. But the general counsel for the D.C. Council is looking into the matter.

The mayor said he would veto any legislation that goes against his decision.

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