Opinion: Commentary: Resident: How To Improve George Washington Memorial Parkway

Opinion: Commentary: Resident: How To Improve George Washington Memorial Parkway

The following letter was sent to Superintendent Charles Cuvelier of the George Washington Memorial Parkway Unit, National Park Service.

Dear Superintendent Cuvelier:

I am writing to follow up on my initial comments to provide you with community feedback regarding traffic safety on the George Washington Memorial Parkway (“the Parkway”) and the Mt. Vernon Memorial Trail (“the Trail”).

Since the comment period opened, 551 respondents answered my George Washington Parkway Study Survey. These responses offer insight into how constituents are using the Parkway and how they think about proposed solutions.

First, the responses were provided voluntarily and do not represent results consistent with a poll. The vast majority providing comments live in the Fort Hunt/Mount Vernon area and in the 22306, 22307, 22308, and 22309 zip codes. Here is a breakdown of the zip codes of the respondents:

Zip Code/Number of Respondents





All others/196

Obviously, there are many users of the road who are not from the proximate community and few of those people responded.

Most of the respondents to the survey also showed they were using the road to get to Alexandria:

  • 82% - To Get To/Through Old Town

  • 19.3% - To Get To I-495

  • 12.8% - To Get To Fort Belvoir

Among those who responded, many use the parkway every day or a few times a week for many different purposes that go beyond commuting. Many also use the parkway to enjoy nature, run errands and exercise.

Total number of respondents including the following in their list of uses:

  • Running Errands: 283

  • Commute: 333

  • Enjoy Nature: 293

  • Exercise: 62

Source of the Problem

As I indicated in my prior letter, the problems on the Parkway originate around speed and traffic volume. That was reiterated in the survey results. Most respondents view speeding as the leading cause of injuries on the G.W. Parkway but do not support changing the speed limits.

As stated in my initial comments, I support maintaining the Parkway’s status on the National Register of Historic Places, preserving its historic nature, and ensuring that it remains the historic and scenic byway that it is. Sixty-one percent of respondents agree and are opposed to delisting the Parkway from the National Register of Historic Places and transferring it to VDOT.

Speed Cameras

A majority of respondents support introducing speed cameras to reduce speeding. I have supported a speed camera solution from the beginning, and I believe speed cameras at problem intersections — perhaps positioned in stone boxes — would go a long way toward reducing speeds. Many respondents support speed cameras but have reservations about them becoming so well-known that they are rendered ineffective. That is why many constituents who support speed cameras support placement both Northbound and Southbound with a nearly even split between placement in intersections and straight sections of road.

There is overwhelming support for a speed camera solution. I understand the budget constraint that the NPS experiences and the federal prohibitions on revenues benefiting specific park units. As stated in my initial comments, I am willing to advocate for financial support with Virginia’s Congressional delegation.

Traffic Diet

I did not have specific traffic diet options to suggest, but I solicited open feedback. Many people suggested lane narrowing and left turn lanes at problematic intersections.


Most respondents did not support adding stoplights on the Parkway and believe that if this solution is put in place, a maximum of fewer than five stoplights should be erected. Twenty-five respondents that support stoplights believe that there should be 11 stoplights.

The area where people want stoplights considered is consistent with accident history:

  • 65.1% - Belleview Boulevard

  • 58.4% - Morningside Lane

  • 47.8% - Belle Haven Road

  • 24% - Collingwood Road

  • 12.6% - Vernon View Drive

  • 9.7% - Tulane Drive

  • 8.2% - Waynewood Boulevard

Pedestrian Safety

The chart demonstrates that the vast majority of respondents support adding infrastructure geared toward pedestrian safety. The Mount Vernon trail is a valuable resource for our community. People use the trail on a regular basis for many purposes. Allowing pedestrians and cyclists to safely access the trail is crucial to preserving this community asset.

Most respondents support adding more pedestrian infrastructure on the Parkway.

Most crosswalk locations have support:

  • 82.3% - Belleview Boulevard

  • 56.6% - Belle Haven Road

  • 43.4% - Collingwood Road

  • 39.6% - Tulane Drive

  • 29.6% - Morningside Lane

  • 29.4% - Vernon View Drive

  • 26.2% - Stratford Landing

  • 25.2% - Wellington Road

  • 23.3% - Waynewood Boulevard

  • 12.9% - West Boulevard Drive

  • 10.9% - Northdown Road

I was surprised that Northdown Road did not have more support because I view the current situation as being extremely dangerous for users of the 11-Y Metrobus.

While almost a quarter of respondents were open to the idea of closing the Parkway to vehicle traffic to allow exclusive use for pedestrians and cyclists on weekends similar to the Rock Creek Parkway, most were opposed.

Mount Vernon Estate Parkway Terminus

There is significant sensitivity to make changes to the end of the Parkway where it intersects with Mount Vernon Memorial Highway and Mount Vernon Highway. Few people suggested that we do nothing:

  • 27.9% - Stop Light

  • 27.5% - Traffic Circle

  • 18.4% - Officer Directing Traffic

  • 13.5% - Don’t Know

  • 12.8% - Do Nothing

  • 8.2% - Eliminate Stop Sign and Eliminate Left Turns from Mount Vernon Highway

Mount Vernon Trail

As I stated above, the Mt. Vernon Trail is also a community asset. About half of respondents use the trail at least once per week. Respondents use the trail for a mix of activities. Surprisingly, only 50 of the 551 respondents responded that they did not use the trail. The Trail is a critical part of the overall park infrastructure and respondents are very sensitive to protecting it.

Looking toward the future for our community, safety is the top priority for respondents. We absolutely must find ways to lower speeds and provide protections for pedestrians and cyclists. Thank you for undertaking this study and I look forward to hearing further as you move forward.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Scott A. Surovell

State Senator (D-36)