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  • Writer's pictureTiffani Johnson

Update on Beach Drive

Hi Brightwood neighbors,

After an extensive public comment period, National Park Service just issued their proposal for the future of Upper Beach Drive, which has been closed to vehicular through traffic since the start of the pandemic. The proposal is a seasonal closure of Upper Beach Drive between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day each year, with Upper Beach Drive reopening to vehicular traffic the rest of the year except for weekends and holidays.

The decision is not yet final. There will be an open public comment period from July 11-August 11 when any resident can provide comment at this link or by mail. There will also be a virtual public meeting on Monday, July 18 from 6:30pm-8pm that can be accessed at the same link. You can also read NPS's full environmental assessment for NPS' rational, details on the decision, and impacts on issues like traffic, the environment, disability access, etc...

Upper Beach Drive won't reopen until NPS finishes its review of public comments submitted July 11-August 11 and makes a final decision. That could be completed by September 6, but it may also not happen until later in the fall depending on the number of comments received. In its environmental assessment (p. 22), NPS also outlined several traffic mitigation measures that could be implemented to address the impact of Upper Beach Drive's closure, including:

  • Signalize the intersection of 16th Street and Blagden Avenue (already approved)

  • Modify signal timings on 16th Street

  • Provide left turn phasing for Military Road westbound to Glover Road southbound (only AM peak period)

  • Modify signal offsets at 16th Street at Missouri Avenue/Military Road ramp intersections

  • Provide a three-way stop at Beach Drive and Blagden Avenue

  • Re-sign and re-mark the intersections of Beach Drive/Broad Branch Road, Beach Drive/Wise Road, and Beach Drive/West Beach Drive

Here's the full announcement:

For Public Review - Rock Creek Park Upper Beach Drive Management Plan / EA

To improve recreational opportunities, minimize impacts to natural and historic resources, and address the needs of people who drive and those who use non-motorized transportation, the National Park Service (NPS) is proposing to close the upper portion of Beach Drive NW to motorized vehicles from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day every year. Previous proposals for the management of the upper portion of Beach Drive called for making the current full-time closure to motorized vehicles permanent or reverting to the pre-pandemic schedule of weekend and holiday closures. After careful consideration of the potential effects of these alternatives on park resources, as well as consideration of traffic analysis and the many comments received from the public, the NPS sees the seasonal closure as the best way to protect park resources and strike a balance of different uses - whether visitors are walking, cycling, commuting or scenic-driving. Beginning in late April 2020, the NPS temporarily expanded the closure of the upper portion of Beach Drive. This closure has provided a valuable opportunity for park visitors to recreate more freely and safely within Rock Creek Park. This closure, however, has affected other park uses and has increased the creation of informal, unofficial trails, which can cause natural resource damage. Adopting a seasonal closure schedule will allow visitors to enjoy the park's recreation and nature opportunities during the summer and will allow drivers to commute through the park when there are fewer recreational visitors. In addition, the denser vegetation of the summer season will discourage the creation of and use of informal trails and reduce potential damage to the forest and the important habitat it provides. The EA acknowledges that while a seasonal closure for recreation could delay motorists and increase travel times to key park sites or through the park in the summer, including during peak weekday travel times, these impacts would not be substantial. Based on a traffic analysis performed in collaboration with the District Department of Transportation, traffic delays and impacts are predicted to be minor and could be mitigated with tools like adjusting traffic light timing, adding signals and stop signs and implementing traffic calming measures. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic on the upper portion of Beach Drive varied between approximately 5,500-8,000 vehicles per weekday. By comparison, the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway averaged approximately 50,000 vehicles per weekday. If implemented, the NPS will monitor the effects of a seasonal closure. The selection of the preferred alternative will allow the superintendent to expand or reduce the closure in the future, based on changes to the condition of park resources and the visitor experience. Get involved : Public participation is vital to the planning process. During the previous 45-day public comment period, the NPS received more than 4,100 individual comments, which shared a range of thoughts and suggestions. We invite the public's continued interest in this issue, and we look forward to the conversation. Attend the public meeting:  The NPS will host a live, virtual public meeting on July 18, 2022 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Join the meeting by clicking this link: To connect via phone only dial, +1 202-640-1187, 146280403#. A recording of the meeting will also be available to view here after the meeting.   How to comment:  You are invited to review the proposal and provide comments from July 11 - August 11, 2022. If you prefer to mail your comments, make sure they are postmarked by August 11, 2022, to receive consideration. 


Alex Taliadoros (he/him) | Communications Director Office of Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George

C: 603-721-6795 | W: 202-286-5268

Constituent Services: 202-724-8052

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