It has been 14 years since storm water and erosion closed a key section of Klingle Road, but the struggle over the future of the old east-west route through Rock Creek Park has been anything but a walk in the park.
In 2003, the D.C. Council passed a measure mandating that the three-quarter-mile stretch be rebuilt and reopened to traffic. Last night, the D.C. Department of Transportation presented an environmental impact study on five possible courses of action.
Transportation Department officials favor rebuilding Klingle between Porter Street NW and Cortland Place NW as a two-lane route, as it used to be, though officials said that could change. Other possibilities considered in the study were keeping the road closed, building a one-lane, one-way road with or without a walkway and building a two-lane road with a path.
" 'Preferred' is preliminary. We're not locked in," Kenneth Laden, the department's associate director for transportation policy and planning, told about 60 people at a hearing last night at the National Zoo, just south of Klingle Road. "It's how we're leaning right now."
Laden said building a walkway along the road would require the National Park Service, as well as some homeowners, to give up some land.
Years of debate over Klingle Road seem to have done little to build a consensus. Barbara Ioanes and Sally MacDonald are best friends, but they were on opposite sides of the debate last night.
"Klingle Road was a road I used for many years, especially when my son was younger and playing sports on the other side of the park," said Ioanes, who lives about a block and a half from the road. "I would like Klingle Road restored to a two-lane road like it used to be. . . . It's an invaluable asset for people in Woodley Park."
But MacDonald, former president of the Woodley Park Community Association, said the environmental and traffic-flow reports she has read have made her skeptical about reopening the stretch.
"Every single report I've seen or heard of said there should not be a road like that on this land," she said in an interview before the hearing.
Other residents of the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park neighborhoods, on the western side of Rock Creek Park, said the road would bring congestion, noise and a hefty price tag.
The crowd seemed about evenly split. "I cross the park six times a week," Paul McKenzie said. "We need another route to get across the park."
D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) spoke in favor of restoring the two-lane road, as did a representative of council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large). Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) disagreed, calling any restoration a waste of resources.
"I know this issue is very divisive," he said, "and I regret that."
Laden said he hoped officials will approve a plan by the end of the year. If plans proceed, he said, construction could begin in late 2006 or early 2007.