Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Parkway: Not Designed for Heavy, High Speed Traffic

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Parkway: Not Designed for Heavy, High Speed Traffic

The following is an open letter to Del. Paul Krizek.

I read with interest your opinion piece in the Mount Vernon Gazette, May 2-8, “Improving Parkway's Safety.”

As a Fort Hunt area resident, and former United States Park Police officer, who patrolled the George Washington Memorial/Mount Vernon Parkway (GWMP) for many years, and a detective with the same agency who investigated fatal motor vehicle collisions, I would like to address some issues you brought up.

The parkway was designed and established to carry vehicles from Alexandria to Mount Vernon, for tourism, replacing the old trolley line that ran on the same route. Federal parkways, GWMP, Clara Barton and Baltimore / Washington, do not adhere to the same safety standards set for inter-state or intra-roads.

The parkway was not designed for heavy, high speed traffic. It was designed for a scenic leisurely drive from one place to another.

The fact that your constituents use the roadway for commuting, at high speed has altered to purpose of the parkway. Re-designing the parkway to accommodate your constituents would be cost-prohibitive.

Your statement to place “speed cameras at intersections as a method to reduce the speed of traffic” is concerning. I am under the impression that the Virginia Supreme Court found the use of traffic/speed camera to be unconstitutional some years ago. Has something changed?

You failed to mention the bridge strikes at the Alexandria Avenue overpass, three of which have occurred in the past four weeks, resulting in the closure of the parkway. Two were by tourist buses transporting high schoolers and one by a rental truck that was prohibited from being on the parkway. Granted, these recent bridge strikes do not compare to the fatal incident that took place in the early 1980s at the same location, but they are a cause for concern.

You failed to address the continued use of the parkway by bicyclists who have been known to slow or snarl traffic. The regulations restricting bikers on the parkway was met with heavy resistance from these same bicyclists who put themselves and others at risk.

Again, as I mentioned, my work as a detective with the Park Police required me to respond to motor vehicle collisions around the clock. Where was this concern about the parkway when fatalities were occurring after midnight and before 6 a.m. Same parkway, different hours?

I understand your need to respond to the demands of your constituents. Many of these people, including myself, who are inconvenienced by any parkway closure. But let's ask them a question, are they operating their vehicles at a safe speed on the parkway? Are they obeying all traffic regulations on the parkway?

One suggestion you failed to mention, and one that would be cost-effective, how about increased uniform and unmarked patrols of the parkway? Just a thought.

Kevin Fornshill