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Flooding damages Rock Creek bike path next to National Zoo

The path could be closed “for a whole year”

National Zoo
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Officials have closed roughly half a mile of a bike path on the Rock Creek Trail between the National Zoo and a highly trafficked, narrow tunnel on Beach Drive NW following heavy rain.

For the foreseeable future, cyclists will have to use that tunnel, which cars and pedestrians share using two lanes of traffic and two thin sidewalks, to bypass the closed part of the trail. Those sidewalks are so thin that pedestrians usually have to walk single-file on either side of the tunnel to fit, and cyclists either have to dismount or ride alongside cars on Beach Drive.

The Smithsonian-run zoo issued a notice about the shutdown on its website on Tuesday, saying “deterioration from recent flooding” was to blame. The D.C. region has seen several inches of rain this past week, with the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang warning of “a water hose in the sky, [also] known as an atmospheric river.”

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) was more poetic about the situation on Twitter. “You know that section where you always think, ‘it looks like this trail is going to fall into the creek?’ the group wrote. “Turns out it’s about to fall into the creek.”

WABA described the alternative of cyclists riding through the Beach Drive tunnel as “definitely not ideal” and said the trail closure could last for as long as “a whole year.” “Take it slow, yield to pedestrians and ride single file,” the group advised, adding that “the closure is going to be measured in a scale of months, not days.”

WABA also noted that the District Department of Transportation plans to renovate the affected portion of the trail next year and that it is “talking to the agency to see if that can be accelerated.”

On Wednesday, spokespeople for DDOT and the zoo could not immediately clarify who made the decision to close the trail grounds or who would make the decision to reopen them. A spokeswoman for the zoo initially directed Curbed DC to DDOT for comment. A spokesman for DDOT confirmed that the agency was planning work on the trail grounds, but could not say who would determine when to reopen them.

“This trail has been deteriorating for a long time,” says Greg Billing, the director of WABA. “Now, everyone who’s walking and biking and driving has to be stuffed into the tunnel.”

This post has been updated.