Opinion: Commentary: Improving Parkway’s Safety

Opinion: Commentary: Improving Parkway’s Safety

The George Washington Memorial Parkway, especially the portion that is south of Alexandria, is not the safe and scenic parkway as was envisioned back in the 1930s when it was built. It is too narrow and curvy, has no shoulders, very few median areas, and too many cars speed on it. It is almost impossible for bikes and pedestrians to cross, and it can be extremely difficult and dangerous for cars to go north (left as you are facing the river) from most of the intersections coming out from our neighborhoods.

On Monday, April 29, there was not just a serious accident that stopped all traffic going in both directions during rush hour, but tragically, a 55-year-old taxi driver lost his life, and two others were airlifted by helicopter to the hospital for emergency treatment of serious injuries. A third injured person was taken away by ambulance. It was a very bad accident, and this was on a day where the weather was wonderful. Indeed, from a 2016 study by the Federal Highway Administration of just the “Morningside Lane intersection reported that 30 crashes had occurred there from 2006-2012, an average of 4.3 per year, and the vast majority of the incidents happened in clear, dry and daylight conditions,” as was reported in this newspaper Oct. 26, 2017.

As readers know, your local elected officials, following Congressman Don Beyer’s lead, have worked hard to push federal officials to focus on making this federal road safer for the community. Sen. Scott Surovell and I, having grown up in the Mount Vernon community and witnessed the increased speeds and volume of traffic on the parkway, have long been concerned about its safety. After a serious crash in 2017, I sent a letter to the Superintendent of the National Park Service citing safety issues brought up to me by constituents and other stakeholders promoting improvements that can be made to address these concerns while preserving the beauty of our neighborhoods. Some of these include reducing the speed zone between Belle Haven and Mount Vernon, creating a median at Morningside Lane, or putting in a rumble strip along the centerline of the parkway. Senator Surovell has also suggested the addition of speed cameras at intersections as a method to reduce the speed of traffic.

The National Park Service is currently conducting a traffic and safety study along the parkway that we pushed for and that the congressman urged be expedited. This study began on Feb. 25 of this year but its completion was delayed due to the government shutdown earlier this year. There will be an opportunity for public comments on the final draft of the traffic study at a soon-to-be-scheduled meeting with National Park Service officials, most likely to be held at the Martha Washington Library on Fort Hunt Road. Though the exact date for this meeting has yet to be set, I will be sure to provide updates and more details as I receive them on social media and in this newspaper. You can find me on Twitter at @KrizekForVA and on Facebook at Paul Krizek for Virginia.

Our communities have grown, the number of cars on our roads has increased, and changes are necessary to ensure we can travel safely. This study is critical to making this happen. I will continue to work with Congressman Beyer, Senator Surovell, Sen. Adam Ebbin, and Supervisor Dan Storck to explore all possible avenues for keeping our parkway a safe byway for residents to enjoy.