WASHINGTON — As crews rip up pavement and put new pipes in trenches, the National Park Service is warning people walking and riding bikes to stay out of the long-term construction zone on Beach Drive.
Park Service contractors have installed new orange fences to keep cyclists and others out of what looks like open road, but is actually an active construction zone where heavy equipment and other vehicles could pose a serious safety risk.
The trail, or in one stretch a separated section of the road, is open to cyclists and pedestrians to continue commuting or exercising in that part of Rock Creek Park even as the road is closed to car traffic.
Katie Harris, trails coalition coordinator at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, said keeping the trail open was very important to maintain commuting options, especially ahead of major Red Line work that begins this weekend. But she emphasized that safety and following signs to stay in designated areas should trump any perceived benefits from slipping through a fence.
“If you see a fence, that means closed to you … the road is closed to all users, that’s not just cars, it’s people on bikes, it’s people on foot as well,” she said.
During this initial stretch of work, contractors have already uncovered an old wall under part of the road. Park Service archaeology teams recorded the details before work continued.
The road is shut down in two segments to cars, one south of Porter Street and one north of Piney Branch Parkway. In the southern work zone, crews have begun to rip up pavement, replace the railing on a bridge and put new pipes and manhole casings in deeply-dug trenches.
North of Piney Branch Parkway, work crews have torn out some of the trail that runs along the road. A temporary space on the roadway has been opened until the trail construction is complete.
“Be really cognizant that [you] are riding adjacent to an active construction zone, so maybe being more aware than you typically would, not letting your mind wander, but reminding yourself, you know, these big machines are right here, they’re loud, they’re doing construction, so be really responsible,” Harris said as a bulldozer revved up a few feet away.
These sections of the road are due to reopen in the first half of next year, with work then shifting to shut down the stretch of Beach Drive north of Tilden Street. By 2018, the work will shift north again.