Mayor Muriel Bowser spent much of her 51-minute State of the District address on Thursday speaking to citywide concerns: rising costs for housing, inequalities in education and failures of infrastructure.
But she also made room for several issues specific to Northwest, which include the Fillmore Arts Center, a D.C. Public Schools program that has been repeatedly at risk of closure; the National Park Service project to rehabilitate stretches of Beach Drive NW; and the D.C. Department of Transportation project to replace the closed section of Klingle Road NW through Rock Creek Park with the controversial Klingle Valley Trail.
In her remarks, Bowser touted what she described as “expanding our investment” in the Fillmore Arts School program, which currently serves students from five area public schools but will drop two of those schools — Hyde-Addison and Marie Reed elementaries — from its roster next school year.
The mayor has previously emphasized a new option that allows public schools anywhere in the city to apply to use the Fillmore space. Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh told The Current on Tuesday that she’s thrilled to see Fillmore in the 2018 budget as promised, though disappointed that it will receive $1.24 million, compared to the $1.47 million it received in 2016, when the mayor’s budget last funded the program.
John Claud, president of the Friends for Fillmore Arts group, told The Current that he doesn’t see the administration’s current approach as an expansion, given that the program was almost shuttered entirely and will see its staff numbers decline next school year.
“I fully anticipate that we’re going to have another existential fight on our hands next year,” Claud said. “It took the guys from D.C. Public Schools to come out and see how crowded Stoddert, Ross and Key [elementaries] are before they said, ‘We’ve made a mistake here.’”
Meanwhile, Bowser also called on President Donald Trump and Congress to help the National Park Service put the multi-phase Beach Drive road and trail rehabilitation project back on schedule. The three-year effort began in September after numerous delays, but the Park Service extended the timeline for the first phase — Rock Creek Parkway to Tilden Street NW — to accommodate a modified approach, according to Park Service spokesperson Ethan Alpern.
Instead of finishing road work first and then diverting trail users onto the road during the trail portion, both parts are being completed simultaneously. Despite that change, the project is still slated for completion by fall 2019, Alpern said.
“This way they can take advantage of on-site crews and equipment to more efficiently manage the work,” Alpern wrote in an email. “Completing these projects together will significantly reduce future impacts to visitors, commuters and local residents.”
The first phase will be finished this summer, and the next segment — Tilden to Broad Branch Road — will be shorter than the first, though Alpern couldn’t provide an estimate for that portion.
Nearby, the Klingle Valley Trail project in Woodley Park — which Bowser described as “getting even closer” to completion — is set to wrap up in June, six months later than the previously announced date. The delay can be attributed to the late addition of a DC Water project to rehabilitate sewers along the trail, according to D.C. Department of Transportation spokesperson Michelle Phipps-Evans.
“Although not in the original scope, it is critical that this DC Water work is completed before the trail, since the new trail would not be able to sustain the heavy equipment needed for the sewer rehabilitation,” Phipps-Evans wrote in an email.
That work is almost done, and will be followed by paving the trail surface with porous asphalt, installing benches and signs and a few other minor touches, according to Phipps-Evans. A final public meeting on the project will be held next month, she said. Project updates are posted regularly on klinglevalleytrail.com.