NPS makes safety improvement recommendations for key GW Memorial Parkway intersection


Intersection of Belle Haven Road with the GW Memorial Parkway

The National Park Service (NPS) briefed community members last week on its proposed changes to a key intersection along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Congressman Don Beyer’s district chief of staff, Noah Simon, moderated the Nov. 30 online event, which had over 100 attendees.

According to Simon, after brief opening remarks by Beyer, Parkway Superintendent Charles Cuvelier presented four options the NPS had come up with to make the Parkway’s intersection with Belle Haven Road safer. The Park Service’s recommendations came in response to an in-person NPS meeting in September where over 70 community members provided comments on safety problems at both Belle View Boulevard and Belle Haven Road — particularly at the latter intersection.

The Park Service’s first two recommendations, which involved making signage and road striping changes at the Belle Haven intersection, “didn’t fully address residents’ concerns,” said Simon. Specifically, NPS’ first option was to have northbound Parkway traffic yield, instead of stop, when turning left onto Belle Haven Road. The second option was to have a traditional divided median intersection.

The second set of recommendations, which only varied from each other in terms of length, involved a road diet for northbound drivers starting at Belle View Boulevard. Essentially, the right lane would become a pyloned-off through lane toward Old Town Alexandria, while the left lane would become a left-turn-only lane onto Belle Haven and subsequently serve as a dedicated acceleration lane for drivers turning left (northbound) from Belle Haven onto the Parkway.

“It’s a solution the community asked for at the forum and in several communications to both Rep. Beyer’s office and to the Park Service directly,” said Simon of the road diet option, noting that the narrowing of lanes would only take place in the northbound direction.

Visual concepts for the Parkway’s recommendations are still under development, according to NPS spokesperson Mark Maloy, who said they will be tested for feasibility before NPS makes a final decision. The Park Service also will ensure there are no impacts to natural or cultural resources, he said.

The project shouldn’t require a lot of funding, said Simon, and Cuvelier is hopeful that the work can be incorporated into an existing contract.

While the timeline is still uncertain, Simon said his best guess would be that the project is carried out before summer 2023. Traffic disruptions are expected to be minimal, he added.

Now that Beyer has been reelected to Congress for a fifth term, he likely will make the use of speed cameras along the Parkway a priority, according to Simon. The Congressman’s staff is exploring ways to enable funds generated from the cameras to flow back to the NPS for maintenance purposes.

“He’s pretty dedicated to speed cameras,” said Simon. “I’m pretty sure he’ll push that hard this year based on constituent feedback.”

Other longer-term road and trail improvements for the southern end of the George Washington Memorial Parkway will be folded into a new plan the NPS is developing. The Park Service will gather public input on that plan and a related environmental assessment at a Dec. 6 virtual meeting.

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