Broad Branch improvements would harm Rock Creek Park

Originally published on 3 January 2014 in The Washington Post

    Broad Branch Road NW
    The curving route of Broad Branch Road defines the western edge of Rock Creek Park, with an undeveloped character markedly different from the neighborhood of houses located some twenty feet above the roadway. (Image credit: D.C. Department of Transportation)

    The Dec. 26 Metro article “Broad Branch Road is neither broad, sturdy” noted several issues regarding the proposed D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) rehabilitation of Broad Branch Road, including substantial tree loss and the desire to provide safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. While the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts would support the goals of improved safety and access, a significant widening of the road would damage the character of the park for which it serves as a boundary.

    Congress intended Rock Creek Park—an important public resource and the largest piece of the urban park system of the District—to be retained as a natural area. The stream valleys, in particular, have been identified since the early planning of the park as being of exceptional natural value and worthy of protection. As shown in DDOT’s widest alternative, the narrow Broad Branch valley would be irrevocably changed by the near-doubling of the full infrastructure of the road, which includes such things as shoulders, curbs and sidewalks, with 16-foot-high retaining walls on the west side of the road. 

    It is well worth a visit to this road now to imagine what a great increase in pavement and retaining walls almost three times the height of a person would look like before we make such drastic changes to what The Post called “a classic country road in the middle of the city.”