NPS details proposed changes to southern GW Memorial Parkway and Mount Vernon Trail
Update: The deadline for submitting comments on NPS' proposed plan has been extended to Jan. 18, 2023.
The southern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) between Old Town Alexandria and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and portions of the Mount Vernon Trail could look a lot different in the future under an improvement plan proposed by the National Park Service (NPS).
At a virtual public meeting held Dec. 6, NPS officials briefed community members on the proposed plan and environmental assessment for the project, which is designed to address both the Parkway’s and trail’s safety and maintenance needs.
The southern section of the Parkway is "beyond its design life and in need of complete replacement,” NPS spokesperson Mark Maloy told On the MoVe after the event. The Mount Vernon Trail is also in need of rehabilitation, he added.
Under its proposed improvement plan, the Park Service would rebuild the roadway with concrete pavement and decrease the number of lanes from two to one — in both northbound and southbound directions — along most sections of the Parkway between Old Town and Mount Vernon Estate. This road diet would be intended to “reduce incidents of speeding and increase safety” in the area,” according to Maloy.
The reduction in lanes would also provide enough space to create shoulders on each side of the Parkway and a center turn lane or striped median. Currently, the sections of the southbound Parkway that were reduced to one lane in early 2022 do not have a shoulder, despite there being extra road space.
The NPS also proposed additional safety measures, including the use of low noise-producing “mumble strips” and the restriping of several key intersections known for higher cross-traffic and a history of bad accidents, including Belle Haven Road, Belle View Boulevard, Tulane Drive and Morningside Drive. These changes would come on top of the shorter-term safety improvements that NPS already implemented or still is considering for Belle Haven Road and Belle View Boulevard.
Proposed pedestrian and cyclist improvements include the creation of Americans with Disabilities-compliant crosswalks and rectangular rapid-flashing beacons at the intersections of the Parkway with Belle Haven Road, Belle View Boulevard, Tulane Drive, Vernon View Drive and Stratford Lane.
Along the Mount Vernon Trail, proposed safety improvements include widening the southern section of the trail to 10 feet where feasible, widening trail bridges that are slated for replacement and providing new signage or pavement markings at trail intersections. Additionally, the porta-john facility at Riverside Park would be removed, and a comfort station at Belle Haven picnic area would be rehabilitated.
NPS officials said they are looking at improving the overall travel experience along the Parkway by considering changes to vegetation, views and amenities like benches and lighting. The Park Service presently is conducting a vegetation study and could consider how more pollinators can be incorporated along the roadway, such as by reducing the mowing of medians, an official said.
According to GWMP Superintendent Charles Cuvelier, the many trees and branches strewn along the Parkway after a storm last winter continue to be cleaned up by a contractor.
The Park Service’s improvement plan for the southern George Washington Memorial Parkway is still in its early stages and will entail more community meetings. Following a detailed analysis this winter of potential environmentally adverse effects and mitigation measures, NPS will prepare its formal environmental assessment by spring 2023 and make it available for public review and comment.
The timeline for project design and construction along the Parkway’s southern section remains uncertain until funding is secured. Currently, only NPS’ rehabilitation project for the northern section of the Parkway between Spout Run Parkway and I-495 is funded, and that work may begin in 2024-2025, said Maloy.
The upcoming environmental assessment of the Parkway's southern section is a prerequisite for securing funding, according to Cuvelier. “I think this is a great way for the community to be involved … that positions the Park to be competitive,” he said.
Community members are encouraged to submit comments about NPS’ proposed plan by Jan. 4, 2023. Comments may be submitted online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/GWMP_South
or via postal mail to Superintendent, Attn: GWMP South and MVT Plan/EA, 700 George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean VA 22101.