Klingle’s Back! Road Fight Enters Realm of Absurdity With Federal Court Battle
Sweet baby Jesus.
We thought this was all over a year ago, when the District Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration decided that Klingle Road through Rock Creek Park—a 0.7-mile stretch behind the Kennedy-Warren apartments in Cleveland Park that has been closed since it washed out two decades ago—should become a hiker-biker trail, rather than reopen to cars. Finally, finally, the most acrimonious fight over the smallest issue in Washington had been resolved.
But the people in favor of restoring the road weren't done fighting. In November, five Ward 4 residents—including Advisory Neighborhood 4A Commissioners Gale Black and Steven Whatley—filed a 59-page complaint in federal court asking for an injunction on construction of the trail. Denying vehicles access to the road, they argue, could put nearby residents in mortal danger.
The barricading of the right of way is adding to traffic congestion nearby, water pollution with attendant impacts on public health. The proposed action will permanently expose persons who live, attend school or work in areas adjacent to the new trail to unnecessary traffic congestion and airborne pollution, including particulate matter and other mobile source air toxics that cause asthma and other respiratory diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases that contribute to increased medical costs, lost work and school days, and early death.
The suit, which names as defendants seven public officials including federal Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood, makes a number of other arguments regarding jurisdictions, authorities, and procedures.
Last month, the feds responded with a motion to dismiss, arguing that the D.C. Council had passed a law in 2008 prohibiting the former road from being re-opened as a road, and disputing the plaintiff's standing to sue.
And just yesterday, the environmentalists who've been fighting this battle as long as anybody filed their own motion to intervene on behalf of the defendants. Ironically, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth claim standing on the same grounds that the plaintiffs do: That re-opening the road would increase traffic congestion, posing a health risk to their members.
The plaintiffs have another month to respond, and then Judge James Boasberg—son of the Cleveland Park-based former Historic Preservation Board chairman Tersh Boasberg—will decide. Hopefully for the last time.