Most Washingtonians probably haven't used it and don't even know it exists, but the Kalmia Road Culvert between West and East Beach Drive Northwest was shut down today. DDOT says it will stay closed for at least six months.
It's a small bridge, but its closure is already having a big impact on traffic.
District resident Ashley Sexton said, “Yeah that's terrible, because I drive on this everyday.”
Each day, DDOT says 17,000 drivers use the culvert to access Rock Creek Park.
Engineers are now rebuilding the structure, which has suffered significant storm water damage over its 70-year lifespan. In fact, they decided to start the project a couple months early.
DDOT Deputy Chief Engineer Muhammed Khalid said, “The bridge is still safe, as of today, but this is a precautionary measure for future rain storms we might get. Matter of fact, we might get one Thursday or Friday and we just didn't want to take a chance.”
Pedestrians and bicyclists can still use the crossing – until a temporary foot-bridge is built. But it's closed completely to vehicular traffic, through at least May.
After pulling up to the closure for the first time, many drivers expressed confusion and frustration. There were several illegal U-turns and a few cases of road rage. Some blamed DDOT for a lack of notification.
But more than a year ago, the department says it started holding public meetings and contacting local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners about the closure.
And yet, all day long, many drivers learned the hard way their favorite short-cut had been cut off.
DDOT Communications Director Reggie Sanders said, “Most of the people who use it are probably not even Washington residents. It's a great cut through to go from Silver Spring right over to Chevy Chase and Bethesda very easy.”
The closure is also an inconvenience for residents who live here nearby. But at the same time, some say, they might like the closure's calming effect.
DDOT spent Tuesday posting and adjusting detour signage to help guide traffic around the closure.
Even if you don't normally use the Kalmia Road culvert, drivers across this section of Northwest are encouraged to allow extra travel time because thousands of drivers will now need to access alternate routes, including 16th Street, Georgia Avenue, East-West Highway and others.