GW Parkway, Mount Vernon Trail could soon get some safety changes

Driving on the southern portion of the George Washington Parkway could look very different in years to come.

The National Park Service is looking at safety improvements to an 8.5 mile stretch of the George Washington Parkway, from the Hunting Creek Bridge, just south of Old Town Alexandria to the Mount Vernon estate. Changes are also being weighed for the popular Mount Vernon Trail.

“This plan involves comprehensive rehabilitation to restore the historic 1932 roadway and drainage system for the first time,” according to the park service, including complete replacement of the deteriorated road surface, repairing or replacing drainage systems, and rehabilitating four bridges.

Among the proposed changes detailed in the park service’s recent Environmental Assessment is a reconfiguration of what is generally two travel lanes in each direction, with hopes of reducing the number and severity of crashes, involving cars, bicyclists and pedestrians at several intersections with side streets.

Referred to as a “road diet,” instead of two travel lanes, portions of the parkway would be reconfigured to include one through lane in each direction, with a dedicated turn lane providing access to side streets.

“The proposed road diet would improve safety by reducing the speed differential between travel lanes caused by drivers speeding to weave around slower or turning vehicles; the road diet would result in vehicle speeds limited by the lead vehicle in the through lane,” according to the assessment.

The reconfiguration would be accomplished with re-striping to remove a travel lane, and repurposing the pavement for center median turn lanes and dedicated right or left turn lanes.

The goal is to reduce “double threat” crash scenarios, in which pedestrians at crosswalks with two or more lanes of traveling in the same direction may be blocked from seeing oncoming vehicles.

Formal crosswalks would be established at nine intersections.

“The crosswalks would provide safe, accessible crossings for pedestrians from adjacent neighborhoods that would connect to the Trail and/or other amenities on the east side of the parkway,” the park service said.

The adjacent Mount Vernon Trail also needs improvements, according to the park service.

“The Trail is relatively narrow and characterized by meandering curves (some with steep down grades and poor sight distance), deteriorating pavement and timber bridges, and in some areas dense overhanging vegetation that result in the potential for user conflicts and crashes to occur,” the assessment stated.

Proposed improvements include widening and minor realignments, and new asphalt. Four trail bridges would be replaced, including with pilings to avoid disturbing wetlands when possible.

Public comments on the proposed parkway and trail improvements are being sought through Oct. 24, according to the park service.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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