Panel Rejects Plan to Reopen Road in Rock Creek Park

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 1, 2008

Renewed hopes to reopen Klingle Road, an east-west route through Rock Creek Park that was closed 17 years ago amid contentious debate, appeared to come to a dead end yesterday.

The D.C. Council's Committee on Public Works and the Environment voted 3 to 2 to reject Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's proposal to use $2 million to start work on restoring the pathway, which was closed because of drainage problems. The money was part of his $5.7 billion local spending plan set for a council vote May 13.

The vote yesterday reversed an 8 to 5 decision by the council in 2003 to reconstruct more than a half-mile stretch of the road. Fenty (D) voted yes while he was a member of that council.

The committee voted yesterday to recommend that the council approve of permanently closing the road and using the $2 million to repair alleys throughout the city. An additional $2 million in federal money would be used to improve hiking and bike paths along Klingle Road. Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), chairman of the committee, said he will hold a public meeting on the issue at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday at the John A. Wilson Building.

Graham, who voted to reopen the road in 2003 and yesterday, said the "spur-of-the-moment" action five years after the council had approved the reopening was unfair. Opponents of the closure had not been properly alerted to the possibility of the council's reversal, he said. "People have gone to bed and fallen asleep on the assumption that Klingle Road would be reopened," he said at the committee meeting.

The vote occurred on a fairly uneventful second day of budget markups by the council.

The Klingle Road issue has stirred passions for years. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who has made environmental issues a priority, led the reversal, joined by Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large).

They were not swayed by Graham, who brought history into his arguments. The 1885 deed granting the city ownership of the road called for a highway, he said. He was backed by council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), who said restoring the road would unclog traffic.

But Cheh said the vote was about saving green space and the democratic process. "We are a democracy. We are now expressing the will of the people in how we might vote today," she said.

The decision to keep the road closed apparently took Graham by surprise. When he called for a vote on his proposal to delay action and hold a hearing, he counted three votes in his favor in a voice vote.

"Roll call. The ayes don't have it," Cheh said.

Graham then asked for a show of hands and saw that he was outnumbered.

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