Beach Drive, looking north from Broad Branch Road. Photo: Charlie Ban

Beach Drive, looking north from Broad Branch Road. Photo: Charlie Ban

The National Park Service announced the Beach Drive reconstruction project, initially planned for March 2016, will begin after Labor Day.

A 2-3 year reconstruction project will close alternating portions of the 6.2 miles of Beach Drive within Rock Creek Park, giving the road its first overhaul in in 24 years and runners carte blanche to try out the brand-new pavement in the process.

The paved Rock Creek Trail between Peirce Mill and Shoreham Drive will also be rebuilt and widened to 8-10 feet, and the sidewalk inside the tunnel near the National Zoo more than doubled in width.

The rebuilding will give the road a 25-year lifespan, with appropriate maintenance. The last reconstruction, in 1991, was intended to last for 20 years. Dramatic freeze-thaw cycles in recent winters have accelerated the road’s degradation.

The road itself will not be widened. A new trail will be paved between Porter Street and Piney Branch Parkway.

Construction was originally scheduled to begin in March 1, 2016, contingent on weather, with the southernmost portion of Beach Drive — between Shoreham Drive and Porter Street, but delays in the environmental permitting process pushed that schedule back. Where there is a paved path parallel to the road, the road will be addressed first. While the path is being repaved, the new road will remain closed to traffic, giving access to pedestrians and cyclists, traffic consultants said at a public meeting Nov. 17, 2015.

With few, if any, intersections along the road, each segment of the road will be closed completely to vehicle traffic, which will be rerouted to the west — south of Joyce Road — and to the east to the north of Joyce. Consultants estimated each phase would take between four and eight months, depending on the length of road, additional features and weather and contractor selected for each phase. 

The road in the tunnel north of Shoreham Drive will be shifted and the sidewalks, currently 2 feet, will be widened to 5 feet, and a 21-inch-high railing will be installed.

The work will be divided into four phases, down from five in the original plan and work will begin in the south:

Phase 1: Shoreham Drive to Tilden Street~1.8 miles

Phase 2: Tilden Street to Broad Branch Road~0.3 miles

Phase 3: Broad Branch Road to Joyce Road ~1.5 miles

Phase 4: Joyce Road to the Maryland line ~ 2.6 miles