Relief is on the way for commuters who have been dodging all the potholes that recently have turned the Baltimore-Washington Parkway into a virtual moonscape.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the National Park Service said it will close portions for the parkway for two nights this weekend for enhanced patching: From 7:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday, the southbound parkway will be closed from Maryland routes 198 to 197. From 7:30 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday, the northbound lanes on that same section will be closed.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who called the situation “unacceptable,” told WTOP on Wednesday that the emergency work comes after discussions between Maryland’s congressional delegation and the park service.
“They have informed us that they will begin emergency contracting procedures,” Van Hollen said. “They will make this a priority and get the job done, so that we can go back to having a reliable, safe BW Parkway.”
These enhanced patch repairs will involve a different material and approach, the park service said, and will improve conditions until a larger repaving project — previously scheduled to begin in the fall — gets an expedited start in April.
In that first phase, the parkway will be repaved from Maryland 197 to 198. In the summer, crews will begin repaving the parkway from Maryland 198 to 175. This second phase will also involve repaving access ramps in both work areas.
Van Hollen had written a letter to the park service, after hearing from many motorists who couldn’t believe how bad the road was. He and other public officials said the situation was unsafe.
“We immediately raised this with the park service, brought them here to Capitol Hill for a meeting,” Van Hollen said. The meeting was held last week and “out of that meeting they agreed to take emergency action.”
The senator said he’s pleased it’s moving forward. “We’re sorry the conditions got as bad as they have, and we’re working around the clock to remedy the situation,” Van Hollen said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has also been sharply critical of the maintenance on the parkway, calling it “outrageous” and unacceptable. Hogan wants to transfer control of the parkway from the park service to the state.
“The federal government is right to recognize the overwhelming outcry from Marylanders about the dangerous driving conditions on 295,” Hogan said in a statement Wednesday. “We are glad that the focus is on fixing the road as soon as possible.”
Last week, the park service said that the parkway had been scheduled for repaving between Maryland routes 197 and 198 in the fall. But a spokesman said it quickly became clear that they couldn’t wait to get work done. It has been filling potholes every day the weather allowed, the park service said.
Pictures taken earlier this month showed a pockmarked parkway that made driving stretches like going off road.
WTOP’s Jack Pointer contributed to this report.