Changes are in store for traffic on the George Washington Memorial Parkway to make it safer in the southern
portion between Old Town and the Mount Vernon Plantation. After evaluating a safety study that was done last year, the National Park Service has identified nine “key intersections,” where they will implement several safety solutions over the next few years through education, enforcement and engineering.
“The changes are intended to make the parkway safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists while maintaining the parkway’s historic character,” the NPS said.
More specifically, the NPS will:
Restripe the road to implement a road diet while maintaining driving capacity.
On the parkway between Tulane Drive and Stratford Lane, the NPS will change markings so that there will be three travel lanes (2 northbound, 1 southbound) and one turn lane.
Increase visibility of lane markings and Mount Vernon Trail crosswalks.
Remove vegetation at intersections to improve visibility.
The NPS came up with this list of improvements after there were a series of accidents on the parkway, and then meetings with the surrounding communities on what would be needed to change driver behavior. According to their models, these changes will not impact the capacity of the road, but the NPS will monitor the situation.
“We are being responsive to comments from the public and the expert advice of transportation professionals,” Superintendent Charles Cuvelier said. “Whether you are a park visitor or commuter, these changes will make driving, walking and bicycling between Alexandria and Mount Vernon safer and more enjoyable for everyone.”
According to the NPS safety study “George Washington Memorial Parkway: Traffic and Safety Context Sensitive Solutions Assessment,” speed is a big problem. The speed data collected indicated that the median speed is above the posted speed limits, with the 85th percentile speed ranging from 8-to-12 mph above the posted speed limits.
The study is part of a continued effort by Rep. Don Beyer (D-8) and area elected officials Supervisor Dan Storck (D-Mount Vernon), State Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Del. Paul Krizek (D-44), and U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists on the Parkway.
Surovell looked at the success of the road diets on King Street and Seminary Road in Alexandria, and on the George Washington Parkway, the left turns pose a danger in a number of places so the steps the NPS is taking may be an answer. “There's no question we need to do something,” he said.
“Traffic volume and higher speeds on the Parkway have been a longstanding concern,” added Beyer. “I commend the work of the National Park Service for the report’s thoroughness and am pleased to see the commitment to immediately implement safety improvements like restriping pavement and enhancing signage. I look forward to working with the community to evaluate and, where practicable, implement the study’s recommendations and to secure Federal funding that supports further safety improvements.”
The parkway serves an estimated 25,000 vehicles a day in the southern portion, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which was a factor in considering any park changes so they are “context sensitive,” the NPS said.
Parkway users will see the initial improvements later this year.