The National Park Service is starting to work on plans to improve safety along the portion of the Mount Vernon Trail that winds through Arlington County.
South of the City of Alexandria, in Fairfax County, it will make similar improvements to the trail and reconstruct that portion of the GW Parkway.
The 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail runs from Mount Vernon in Fairfax County to Roosevelt Island near Rosslyn, passing by Crystal City as it parallels the GW Parkway. NPS says it is time to address deferred maintenance needs and safety along the entirety of the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail and the southern portion of the 15.2-mile GW Parkway.
“The road and trail improvements being considered would enhance the visitor experience for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists,” the NPS project webpage says. “Potential improvements to the road include the implementation of a road, crosswalks and intersection changes. Potential safety enhancements for the trail would include potential trail widening and intersection improvements.”
Plans to widen the trail come two years after a report was released recommending this change due to heavy use and crash risks.
“The MVT is beginning to show its age, from deteriorating pavement and bridges, to limited accessibility features, and outdated signage and striping,” the report says. “These attributes, combined with increasing usage and user behavior, contribute to risk exposure and considerable crash history.”
For instance, from 2006-10, there were 225 reported bike and pedestrian crashes on the trail.
The report also found the trail has “meandering curves, timber bridges, and in some areas, dense vegetation.”
While controlled by the National Park Service, over time local volunteers have stepped up in an attempt to keep it clean and safe for users amid sparse maintenance from the park service.
NPS says it aims to provide solutions that maintain the parkway’s “scenic and historic character,” and an assessment will determine the potential environmental impact of the changes.
“The Plan is needed to help preserve the historic parkway for future generations, improve the visitor experience, reduce annual park operations and maintenance costs, and improve visitor safety,” writes GW Parkway Superintendent Charles Cuvelier in a public notice of an upcoming meeting about the project.
A virtual public meeting presenting initial plan alternatives will be held on Dec. 6 from 7-8:30 pm. There is no need to pre-register.
“Engaging with you is a critical part of our preliminary engineering and planning process,” the press release said. “Your feedback will be used to refine project designs and to support the analysis of any environmental impacts.”
The website has more information on how to join the meeting:
At the time of the meeting, click the link to join on your computer or mobile device and enter the Webinar ID (Webinar ID: 314-024-315) and your email. If you do not have Go-To-Webinar, you will be prompted to install a small file to your computer or download the app on your mobile device.
You can call into the meeting (no video) using the toll-free phone number and conference ID:
Call in number: (877) 309-2074
Phone Conference ID: 278-447-448
After the meeting, comments will be accepted from Dec. 6 through Jan. 4, 2023.
NPS last made changes to this stretch of the parkway and trail in 2012 to improve safety near the Memorial Circle and at several crossings. Changes included replacing signs, installing rumble strips, painting directional symbols and moving a crosswalk.
Although the plan’s scope only addresses the stretch of the Mount Vernon Trail through Arlington, the GW Parkway through Arlington sees its fair share of crashes.
Less than a week ago, a car drove off the GW Parkway and into the Potomac River near Columbia Island Marina and the Humpback Bridge. One occupant died and the other occupant was hospitalized.
One hotspot on the GW Parkway, near Key Bridge, frequently sees overturned vehicles during rainy weather.
The park service is currently in the midst of a major rehabilitation of the northern section of the GW Parkway that passes through Arlington and Fairfax County.
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