WASHINGTON — Dreaded closures along Beach Drive started Thursday morning, bringing significant changes for thousands of drivers who normally use the route to get to and from downtown D.C.
The closures, part of a three-year reconstruction project, stretch from Tilden Street NW to the spot where Beach Drive begins at Rock Creek Parkway.
“This is something to pay attention to,” said Leif Dormsjo, director of the District Department of Transportation.
“Hopefully the parallel arterial routes will be able to absorb some of the traffic, but it will not be business as usual.”
Around 20,000 cars normally go through Beach Drive on weekdays. They will be now forced onto other busy roads such as 16th Street and Georgia, Massachusetts and Connecticut avenues.
“It’s going to put a lot of pressure on the roadway system,” said Dormsjo. “People really are going to have to find alternate routes.”
During the morning rush hour, southbound traffic will be detoured onto Tilden Street, past Pierce Mill and into Cleveland Park or onto Park Road toward Mount Pleasant.
During the afternoon rush hour, northbound traffic on Rock Creek Parkway will not be allowed to proceed through the park, and will be sent uphill into Woodley Park by way of Cathedral Avenue or Calvert Street.
Traffic on Piney Branch Parkway and Porter Street will be able to use a small section of Beach Drive to cut across Rock Creek Park during the first few months of work, National Park Service spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said earlier this month.
Tilden Street and Park Road will be remain open across Beach Drive throughout the entire project.
Traffic patterns, signals
Contractors are in the process of altering traffic patterns along the detour routes in order to help keep traffic flowing. The stop signs along Cathedral Avenue at Woodley Road and Hawthorne Street are being removed and the intersections re-striped.
DDOT is also expected to retime the traffic signal at Connecticut Avenue and Cathedral Avenue to give detoured drivers more green time. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that the number of southbound left turns from Connecticut Avenue onto Cathedral Avenue will double during the morning rush hour.
DDOT also plans to add a phasing, left-turn signal for westbound traffic on Tilden Street at Connecticut Avenue. Traffic control officers will be staged at the intersection of Porter Street and Connecticut Avenue, where federal highway officials expect a 200 percent increase in turning traffic.
There’s a map for that
To assist drivers having to make detours, the National Park Service offers a location-based, mobile, responsive map to help drivers navigate around the closure.
“You’ll be able to go to the map wherever you are, and it will tell you the best detour route to get from where you are to where you’re going,” Frank Young, deputy superintendent of Rock Creek Park, said Monday.
This is the first of four closures related to the Beach Drive reconstruction. Each one is expected to last six to eight months.
During road construction, Young said, access to trails along Beach Drive will remain open to cyclists, joggers and walkers.
Below is a map of the closure from DDOT (click to enlarge):
WTOP’s Kristi King and Dave Dildine contributed to this report.