Sunday, April 18, 2021
The George Washington Parkway is a scenic and vital thoroughfare running through the 30th District. The parkway holds a special place in history, specifically on the National Register of Historic Places, and was the first parkway built by the United States government. Today it serves as an access point to parks, neighborhoods, and heavily used routes by commuters and tourists. Unfortunately, due to increased usage rates and design flaws the GW Parkway can be incredibly dangerous for motorists and pedestrians alike. High speed, severe outcome crashes, especially at intersections below Alexandria occur at unacceptable and all too regular rates.
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va) was successful in securing necessary funding for the National Park Service (NPS), which maintains and oversees the parkway, to undertake a traffic and safety assessment. Engineers evaluated crash data, conducted fieldwork, considered potential engineering and traffic safety alterations, and took hours of public input during the process. The study was released April 5.
The assessment focused on nine intersections in the southernmost 6.3 miles of the roadway (From Belle Haven to Mount Vernon) and conducted analysis of crashes, speed, and traffic markings which informed the need for solutions that enhance the safety of drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.
Narrowed down from 89 proposals, which were evaluated on criteria that included traffic safety benefit, implementation timeline, construction cost, and community support, the study presents both general and concrete suggestions. The resulting 26 proposed improvements range from engineering fixes to driver education and enforcement solutions.
Though a range of alternatives are provided in the study, the authors acknowledge that each intersection will likely require its own custom solution to correctly address the traffic and capacity issues. Some of the specific suggestions include reapplying pavement markings, installing “mumble strips” to keep vehicles on the roadway (mumble strips are a quieter version of rumble strips which alert drivers when they begin to veer out of their lane), developing a tree trimming program, and starting an excessive speed education and enforcement program. Educational campaigns to inform motorists about seasonal increases in pedestrian and bicycle traffic, as well as wildlife signage were also suggested.
Based on the study, The National Park Service (NPS) is planning to implement a “road diet” to reduce the number of lanes in areas most likely to see dangerous speeds between four intersections (Morningside Lane, Wellington Road, Waynewood Boulevard, and Vernon View Drive) in 2021. The NPS plan provides for signs and striping to keep drivers oriented and create a center turn lane. NPS also plans to improve signs and striping to five intersections (Belle Haven Marina, Wellington Road, Collingwood Road, Waynewood Boulevard, and Fort Hunt Road).
The report provides evidence-based suggestions to the National Park Service as they make decisions and plans for the future of the parkway. I requested another opportunity for community input, details of which will emerge in the coming months. Should you have any questions or concerns about the implications of the report, which you can read here, I hope you will consider attending the event. I’m encouraged by the suggestions for safe alternatives and pleased that NPS is already carefully considering implementation and the potential impacts of the solutions presented.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District.