Park service seeks input to make portion of GW Parkway safer

The National Park Service wants to know how to improve the George Washington Parkway in Virginia, and it’s asking for input from those who use it.

The park service maintains the 25-mile long George Washington Parkway, and during an information meeting on Thursday, residents received more insight into the problems the roadway is facing. They also shared ideas on how to solve those problems to make the road safer.

“We’re trying to understand where are points on the parkway where we can make improvements,” said Jonathan Shafer, spokesman for the National Park Service.

Using stickers and making notes, residents wrote down the problems they see in their neighborhoods or during their commutes. The information will be used in a study which is still being worked-shopped by the NPS.

An earlier study found there were more than 300 crashes on the south section of the road over a five-year period. Around 70% of drivers who use the road needed to lighten up on the gas pedal, data also found.

“People are driving over the speed limit on the south side of the George Washington Parkway, averaging about 7 mph over the speed limit,” Park Ranger Aaron Larocca said.

On one stretch, southbound on the parkway south of Collingwood Road, 85% of cars were clocked going over the 45 mph speed limit.

“That’s scary, that’s really, really concerning, I didn’t realize that it was that high,” said Joanne Tang, who lives in Huntington, a neighborhood in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.

People look at information at GW Parkway meeting
Area residents attended an information meeting on Thursday to discuss safety improvements to the GW Parkway. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
people look at GW Parkway information at community meeting
Residents look over display boards from GW Parkway info session. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
GW Parkway driving speeds
Display boards from GW Parkway info session. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
GW Parkway map
Display boards from GW Parkway info session. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
GW Parkway map
Display boards from GW Parkway info session. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Information at GW Parkway meeting
Display boards from GW Parkway info session. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Graphic at GW Parkway meeting
Display boards from GW Parkway info session. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
people attending GW Parkway meeting
The feedback provided by residents will be used in a NPS study. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
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People look at information at GW Parkway meeting
people look at GW Parkway information at community meeting
GW Parkway driving speeds
GW Parkway map
GW Parkway map
Information at GW Parkway meeting
Graphic at GW Parkway meeting
people attending GW Parkway meeting

Miles Keogh rides his bike to and from work using the Mount Vernon trail. He said speeding cars are a problem.

“I can’t be playing Frogger with 65 mph cars,” Keogh said.

Keogh said he bought a handheld speed radar gun and caught one car going 85 mph down the road.

For Catherine Schurr, who lives in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, she is also concerned about the accidents and speeding cars, which are both frequent sights on the road.

“I feel like [Interstate] 495 is safer than driving on the parkway,” Schurr said.

Some of the ideas residents shared included adding speed cameras to the road and roundabouts to slow drivers down.

“Personally I think speed cameras would go a long way toward solving the problem,” said state Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Va. He said the question remains if federal law would allow the addition of the cameras to the roadway.

For pedestrian and cyclists, there were requests for crossing lights, because of complaints that cars won’t stop for those looking to cross the road.

Some residents called for modifications to intersections so it is easier and safer for those who live along the road to enter on to it.

While the park service is seeking engineering ideas for reducing crashes and speeding, there are guidelines which must be followed.

“There are certain specific values that we want to manage here to keep this National Park unit, a park,” Shafer said.

George Washington Parkway opened in 1932 with a goal of serving as a Memorial for America’s first president that offers great views of D.C. for those headed to George Washington’s home Mount Vernon.

To submit your observations or potential solutions visit the NPS website. You can turn in your submission until Aug. 21.

You can send your suggestions by mail by Aug. 21:

George Washington Memorial Parkway
Attn: Alexandria to Mount Vernon Safety Study
700 George Washington Memorial Parkway
c/o Turkey Run Park
McLean, Virginia 22101

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