D.C. marathons to have strict parking restrictions

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The number of marathons the city has, along with the restrictions those runs have, are starting to become a headache for the community. (photo courtesy of Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and Washington.org)

Clean streets are a desideratum in all cities, but the District government is giving the term a makeover as part of a push to keep people safe during special events.

A new policy, called “Clean Streets,” requires the routes used by marathons and 5Ks in the District be car-free during the races. Residents will now be required to move their cars from streets along the route for events like the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, coming up on March 10.

The new policy came to light when Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A (Foggy Bottom, West End) met on Jan. 17.

Diane Thomas, a representative of the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, appeared before the commission asking for its support for a special event application. Such matters come up often at ANC meetings and are generally dealt with as matters of routine.

But at the end of her presentation, Thomas mentioned to commissioners that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) had told marathon organizers about the new “Clean Streets” policy – meaning that parking along the marathon route will no longer be allowed.

Officials and members of the public who were present greeted the news with surprise and dismay. Commission chairman Patrick Kennedy acknowledged the threat of car bombs and other terrorist acts is real, but said the no-parking rule will pose problems for residents who own cars.

“This is going to be an issue in the future, with races that have more of an impact [than the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon], because they go through more residential neighborhoods, ” he said. “We have nine or 10 races a year that come through here.”

Sara Maddux, a member of the West End Citizens Association and former ANC 2A chairwoman, said the policy makes such events too disruptive.

“I think it’s absolutely outrageous,” Maddux said. “If it’s so dangerous, they better find a better place to run a marathon.”

MPD Assistant Chief Jeffery Carroll, head of the department’s Homeland Security Bureau, said the use of vehicles to inflict harm in recent years makes the policy necessary to ensure public safety.

“There’s a potential for vehicles to threaten spectators and participants,” Carroll said. “Our goal is to keep people safe during these events.

“At any event involving street closures, our goal is not to have vehicles on the route while participants and spectators are there. We want to keep vehicles separate from any pedestrians.”

Carroll noted other American cities take precautions to keep vehicles from having access to the route of parades and other special events. He cited the example of restrictions at Times Square in New York on New Year’s Eve.

Carroll said parking will be disallowed only along the actual route of the marathon, not on the feeder streets that are also closed during the event. He also drew attention to the rolling nature of the road closures – once the runners have finished using a street, it will be re-opened to traffic and parking.

The no-parking rule will be enforced with towing and the possibly of tickets.

“If cars are in violation, they will be towed and relocated,” Carroll said. “They will not be taken to a lot, but moved to another nearby legal spot. Owners can call 311 and find out where their car has been relocated. Cars may be ticketed because they are in an emergency no-parking area.”

Carroll said signs announcing the parking restrictions must be posted 72 hours before the event on the affected streets. The department will also use press releases and social media to alert residents.

According to Carroll, events like the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon are reviewed by the Mayor’s Special Events Task Force, of which the MPD is a member. The District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency oversees the group.

In Foggy Bottom, the only streets with residential parking that will be closed during the marathon are 18th and 19th streets NW, between Constitution Avenue and E Street. In other areas of the city, street closures and no-parking zones will affect more residential areas. Parts of Calvert Street, Columbia Road and Harvard Street in Northwest will be closed between 6:30 a.m. and noon. Other streets affected include North Capitol Street, H Street NE between 4th and 13th, Minnesota Avenue SE, and several streets in Bloomingdale and on Capitol Hill. A complete map of the course is available on the marathon’s website: runrocknroll.com/dc/the-races/course/.

Thomas said in past years, only a few stretches of the marathon route had parking restrictions, owing to the presence of water stations. Parking was not allowed on the south side of Harvard Street NW in Adams Morgan during the run because of the narrowness of the street.

The marathon begins at 7 a.m. at 14th and Constitution NW, and ends at RFK Stadium.

Thomas said the marathon attracts 24,000 runners and has a $24 million impact on the District economy, with spending on hotels, food, travel and entertainment. She said about a quarter of the participants are from the District.

The race also has a charitable component. The chief beneficiary this year is St Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

At the urging of Commissioner William Kennedy Smith, Thomas agreed at the meeting that organizers will relocate a stage slated to be set up at the corner of Rock Creek Parkway and Virginia Avenue, in a grassy area on the east side of the parkway. The ANC’s approval of the special event application was contingent on moving the stage.