Next Monday, the federal portion of the multi-stage, multi-year, multi-project effort to rebuild both Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Park Trail will finally kick off. The result may not be everything bike advocates had hoped or asked for, but it will represent a massive improvement of a much-beloved, but much-criticized, bicycle facility.
The entire project, which entails a full reconstruction of the road and its parallel trail, will last about three years, according to the Park Service.
The adjacent trail, used for commuting and recreation by hundreds of cyclists, joggers and pedestrians, will be widened to 10 feet in areas. There will be new trail construction between Porter Street and Piney Branch Parkway and a new crosswalk on Beach Drive at Blagden Avenue.
The Post article makes much of the traffic disaster that is likely to follow the closures, saying it is likely to cause abysmal traffic.
Starting Sept. 19, a major road rehabilitation project will shut down a segment of Beach Drive, disrupting traffic patterns for thousands of commuters who use the route to get to downtown from Maryland and upper Northwest D.C. neighborhoods.
But fear not cyclists...
While the road is being reconstructed, the trail will remain open, and when the road is completed but not yet open to car traffic, and the trail is being reconstructed, then bicyclists and pedestrians will have access to the road.
It might even be a golden age for RCP bike commuting.
Still, I'm not sure that traffic is really going to be abysmal. Similar predictions of chaos have turned out to have been overblown. In fact, I'm hoping that it won't cause chaos. As I wrote last April
Phase four of the Beach Drive rehabilitation project involves the closure of the very section of Beach Drive, Joyce to Broad Branch, that faced opposition in 1983 and 2005. Will the impact of such closures—during the midday, not rush hour—be "minimal," as the Park Service concluded, or will it be "severe?" Will neighborhood roads be filled with traffic? Will safety be compromised? Will travel times dramatically increase? Will those with disabilities stay away from the park? And what are the impacts during rush hours?
We'll now get a chance to study these things in a much more robust way—during a real-world experiment, which is exactly what Norton, Van Hollen, Mikulski and others asked for.
And at a recent BAC meeting we were told that DDOT plans to do just such a study. But it looks like I was wrong about this part
Unfortunately, since the road won't be open for non-automobile traffic, we won't be able to determine to what extent its closure would increase recreational use.
In fact the National Zoo Trail gate will be open from 6am to 7pm to help bike commuters
Still, this is a project that people have been talking about since I moved here, so it's fantastic to see if finally about to start.