DC Council asks that Upper Beach Drive be closed to cars permanently

The D.C. Council is now officially asking the U.S. Park Service to permanently close the upper portion of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park to traffic, a measure that began during the pandemic.

The council’s resolution passed on a vote of 9 to 4.

While some dissenting voters said they appreciate the District having a traffic-free resource for recreation, questions were raised about the potential impact on traffic flow and surrounding neighborhoods.

“Something that has been missing from DDOT’s initial look at this issue is the impact on connector streets in our residential neighborhoods,” said Janeese Lewis George, who was among those voting against the declaration.

“I’ve also heard from many parents whose commutes to schools and child care facilities would be impacted,” she said.

Councilwoman Elissa Silverman also was skeptical.

“I think in the end, this does have an impact on especially Ward 4 — let’s be clear — and … on Marylanders driving through us from Montgomery County to downtown,” she said.

“The Park Service has never really done anything that we wanted right away, so I feel like they’re definitely going to do the evaluation here,” council member Christina Henderson said before voting in the affirmative.

“This is our resolution to the Park Service,” said the lead sponsor of the measure, council member Mary Cheh. “They will have to conduct a full-blown analysis. They will have to engage with the community before any final action is taken.”

D.C. congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton supports the measure. During an event she sponsored in late March, Rock Creek Park Superintendent Julia Washburn was asked about the issue.

While she indicated a permanent closure was unlikely, “we will certainly be willing to listen to the mayor and the city to determine a way forward. But at the moment, the plan is to reopen when the city returns to normal operations,” Washburn said.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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