Up to 26 miles of District streets will have to be cleared of parked cars the night of March 9 for the 10th Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, including a significant chunk of Capitol Hill. Residents with cars parked on either side of streets along the route of the marathon must find somewhere else to park by the evening before the event, as part of the city’s new ‘Clean Route Initiative.’
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will enforce the initiative on behalf of The Mayor’s Special Events Task Group (MSETG), which is the group within The Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) responsible for overseeing special events. The event sponsor will post ‘no parking’ signs along the entire parade route. All parked cars along the entire race route will be ticketed and towed the evening before the race. Race organizers will pay the cost of towing offending cars. Vehicle owners will be issued summonses.
Diane Romo-Thomas, director of Community Relations for The Greater Washington Sports Alliance, raised the enforcement of the initiative at this week’s meetings of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6A and 6C.
According to ANC 6C Parks and Events Chair Joe McCann, MPD informed his committee that the initiative had not yet been written into the Mayor’s Special Task Group guide for special events. The Hill Rag has confirmed this. It had so far only been applied to the Cupid’s Undies Run on Feb. 10, a much smaller event than the marathon scheduled for March 10, McCann stated.
The committee recommended that the Mayor’s office work to minimize impact to residents, including by identifying alternative parking locations for residents to use during the event. It also asked the Mayor’s office to ensure MPD adhere to regulations regarding the adoption and publication of the policy so that the public could understand the policy and offer comment, which it has not yet been able to do.
Vehicles as Weapons
The enforcement comes after an increase in the use of vehicles as weapons. On Oct. 31, 2017, a man drove a pick-up truck down a Manhattan bicycle path, killing eight people and injuring 11. Officials called it an act of domestic terrorism. That incident came only five months after one person was killed when a driver drove into pedestrians milling through Times Square.
The Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon course includes a total of about 26 miles of streets throughout the District, beginning in northwest Washington, through Capitol Hill and Anacostia, ending near Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Stadium. 25,000 people are expected to participate in the run, elements of which begin as early as 7:30 a.m. and conclude at 12:30 p.m. Road closures throughout the District begin at 2 a.m. the day of the race, and all roads are expected to be re-opened by 3 p.m.
The MPD issued this statement: The Metropolitan Police Department is responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone who attends special events held in the city. With the advent of vehicle attacks that we have seen in the United States and around the world there is a necessity to implement parking restrictions which include removing all vehicles along special event routes, particularly during races and parades. We understand that this measure can be inconvenient for some residents and visitors, but we are convinced it is the best practice for protecting citizens from being injured or killed. The goal is to ensure the safety and security of special event participants, spectators, residents, and visitors in Washington, DC.
ANCs Oppose Initiative
ANC 6A and ANC 6C both came out in opposition to the enforcement of the ‘Clean Routes Initiative.’ Commissioners expressed doubt about its efficacy, noting that the enforcement of the policy would have a significant impact on smaller, community-based events.
One such event, the Capitol Hill Classic, is scheduled for May 20. The event is a major annual fundraiser for the Capitol Hill Cluster School, a group of three District Public Schools including Peabody Primary Campus, Watkins Elementary and Stuart-Hobson Middle Schools. The race is run entirely within the Capitol Hill neighborhood and is expected to draw 3,500 participants. That event, which includes a fun run, 3K course and 10K course, would require cars to be removed along both sides of the street for approximately 33 residential blocks, said race Chair Jason Levine at the Feb. 15th meeting of ANC 6C.
Race organizers are obligated to remove vehicles left along the course before the start of the event, Levine added. He said that the costs of doing so for the Capitol Hill Classic would be about $10,000 –which he felt was a tremendous amount of money to ask from the public-school fundraiser.
Levine said such costs are prohibitive to small, local organizations. The Capitol Hill Classic is now in its 38th year, but Levine said this obligation could prevent the event from getting to a 40th anniversary.
Allen: ‘Threat to Viability’ of Events
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D), chair of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, expressed concern about the impact of the initiative on community-based events.
“This new policy doesn’t seem grounded in any credible risk to the Capitol Hill Classic or other local runs that do nothing but raise funds for neighborhood schools and community causes,” Allen stated. “Rather, it poses a serious threat to the viability of these events and their ability to gain ANC and community support.”
“I have asked the Chief of Police to reconsider the agency’s position and look to address security concerns in other ways,” Allen added.
Levine noted that a representative from the Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM) had offered to help mitigate the $10,000 cost, which he appreciated. Terms had not yet been finalized, he stated. The EOM had suggested providing placards to exempt residents and churches from the restrictions. It was unclear what form these, or the enforcement of these, would take, Levine added.
At the ANC meeting, Levine stated that the initiative itself was not useful as a security measure. “I find this entire endeavor of ‘Clean Routes’ to be questionable at best.” Levine clarified that this was his personal opinion rather than that of the schools or the event.
Levine pointed out that there were far more pedestrians on downtown sidewalks parallel to traffic during rush hour than would be attending the school fundraising event.
ANC Commissioner Mark Eckenwiler (6C-04) agreed, questioning if provision will also be made to block active intersecting roads where they meet the marathon route, for instance by using large dump trucks to prevent vehicular access.
Eckenwiler said that if such action is not taken “they’re locking the window and leaving the front door open,” calling the initiative without the closure of these literal gaps ‘security theater’.
This story originally published February 16th on www.hillrag.com and appears in print in the March issue.