Ground broken to rehabilitate GW Parkway; work will impact commutes

For the first time since the George Washington Parkway was completed 60 years ago, the scenic past-its-prime commuter route — combined-with-a-national park and trail system — is getting a major rehabilitation.

And it will begin soon.

“We anticipate by late summer to be involved in transition lanes,” said Charles Cuvelier, superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

The agency and its contractors will be laying the pavement to cross the median of the parkway, to facilitate different road configurations during the project.

“We basically will have half the parkway closed for construction,” Cuvelier said. “Then, we’re going to put three lanes on the current two-lane footprint — basically to allow a reversible lane.”

As with any road construction involving lane shifts, traffic delays are likely.

“You’re definitely going to see some traffic pattern changes,” said Cuvelier. “We want to get the word out to the public, so they can make appropriate adjustments to their commute, in and out of the city.”

On Monday, ground was broken for the rehabilitation of the 7-mile northern section of the parkway, running from Spout Run to the Capital Beltway, along the Potomac River. The northern stretch is the busiest on the parkway, serving 26 million drivers annually.

The project includes replacing the asphalt pavement and roadway drainage system, redesigning portions of the Virginia Route 123 interchange, repairing storm-water management systems and lengthening entrance and exit lanes at some interchanges.

Commuters have become familiar with bumpy road surfaces and potholes along the parkway, as the National Park Service struggled for the funding to do the deferred maintenance.

The park service and Federal Highway Administration awarded the $161 million contract — one of the largest infrastructure investments funded by the 2020 Great American Outdoor Act — in December.

The rehabilitation, Cuvelier said, should prevent a recurrence of a 2019 sinkhole.

“This should fix it. This will basically rebuild all those stormwater management systems, and in the process, create a road system in like-new condition,” Cuvelier said.

In the groundbreaking ceremony, Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — both Democrats — said the work is overdue.

“We have, in so many areas, our infrastructure slowly decaying,” said Warner. “And all we do, when we put off those infrastructure investments, we raise the price for when we ultimately fix those things.”

Kaine and Warner worked to provide the funding for what is currently $13 billion in deferred maintenance for the park service — nearly $1 billion is in Virginia parks.

“Fewer potholes means easier commutes, to be home with family,” said Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA 10th District).

“I don’t know that George Washington ever would have envisioned a parkway named after him that would be handling 70,000 commuters a day,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA 11th District). “But I do know he’d be proud of the fact that we’re improving it, we’re making life better, we’re improving the environment, and we’re making an investment for ourselves for future generations.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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