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Problems Persist on Rock Creek Parkway

Many commuters have written in to ask what's going on with the National Park Service construction project along busy Rock Creek Parkway between P Street and Virginia Avenue in Washington. The parkway's right lane is blocked off on the southbound side and part of the P Street ramp is closed.

Parkway Sign.jpg Work is scheduled to continue into next spring. (Robert Thomson)

Here's a typical letter.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
As a regular Rock Creek commuter, can you give me an update on when the heck they will finish the side they are working on and begin on the other? They closed the lane in April and I don't see any progress at all. With construction on the only other reasonable alternative (Foxhall Road), we are more or less stranded up here.
Paul Rosenzweig

The park service says the southbound parkway exit to P Street has reopened and that work has switched to the portion that leads from P Street down to the southbound parkway. The scheduled switch over was delayed twice this week.

P Street ramp.jpg Parkway traffic moves slowly past P Street ramp on Thursday morning. (Robert Thomson)

"People want to see progress made, and we understand that," said park service spokesman Bill Line. "There's not been as much progress as we would have liked either."

Line also reemphasized what he said back in March when announcing the project: There's a lot of work involved and it's going to take a long time. The work that began in April is scheduled to include roadway reconstruction, bridge deck resurfacing, stone median replacement, widening of the trail that parallels the parkway, repaving of the parkway, drainage work and curb replacement. It's not scheduled to be done until next spring.

Southbound lane.jpg Single lane of traffic heads south at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday. (Robert Thomson)

Last month, the park service said that the hot weather had delayed the pouring of concrete at the P Street ramp portion of the project. But the date for completing the first part of that effort has been pushed back several times since then.

"The contractor just hasn't performed as well as we would have liked or as quickly as we would have liked on that," Line said. "We're monitoring it closely and putting pressure on the contractor to finish that work."

Talking about the impact of the overall project, Line continues to recommend that drivers find alternative routes to and from work.

Path Closed.jpg Biking and walking trail closed sign at P Street ramp. (Robert Thomson)

I've driven the parkway a few mornings during the past month -- when the volume would have been lighter than normal -- and found traffic flow tolerable during the rush period, with the three lanes open southbound. It slows significantly after the morning rush, when there's only one southbound lane open. You can see what that looks like in the accompanying photos.

Have you found workable alternatives that you can share with those still stuck on the parkway?

By Robert Thomson  |  September 7, 2007; 7:32 AM ET
Categories:  Construction  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: P Street Ramp Opening Delayed
Next: Two Big Transportation Proposals


The bike detour route is awful. Which is why almost every cyclist ignores it and rides in the closed right lane.

Posted by: washcycle | September 7, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Basically, I've found that 99% of the time, even with traffic, the Parkway is still faster than any of the alternatives. Taking Connecticut through DuPont/Downtown is rarely faster. Taking Wisconsin through Georgetown...forget that. Massachusetts Ave and 23rd Street might work, depending on where you are going. On a normal day, the worst traffic only adds 5 minutes than when you have a trip with no congestion. And I should point out that traffic is a little better now that the P Street switch has you have cars leaving instead of being added to the traffic stream there, and if traffic is really bad, you now have P Street as a bail out option again.

Posted by: Woodley Park | September 7, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Oh, yes, a workable alternative. For those heading south in AM rush headed for Independence who don't want to sit in the jam: turn off onto I-66 west, keep left, jump back onto Independence. Same works in PM rush heading north...turn off as if you are going to I-66 towards VA, but keep left and don't take the I-66 west/E Street ramp. Instead go straight and follow the signs to Rock Creek Parkway and re-enter at Virginia Avenue.

Posted by: Woodley Park | September 7, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

The reason there is little progress is that there is generally nobody working on it, or on those occasions when somebody is working is is only a very small crew. Contrast that efffort with the efforts DC has mounted in performing major reconstruction on bridges in the last year (both South Cap and one on Conn Ave)and you can see how truly pathetic the Rock Creek effort is. DC has brought in large crews and gotten the jobs done, the Park Service has not.

Posted by: chevy chase | September 7, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

The "Park" Service has consistently failed all users of Rock Creek. This construction project has been poorly managed and has created dangerous conditions for cyclists who depend on the bike trail as an alternative to automobile commuting. The bike trail has not been repaved or maintained in any significant way since I moved to DC in 1984, despite the fact that the "Park" Service maintains a major highway through the park daily (even with the construction, three lanes remain open to cars). The hiking trails are a mess and the recreational facilities are dismal. If those who are the primary users of the "Park", i.e. drivers, would complain, maybe something would get accomplished? Believe me, they don't listen to those of us who walk or ride bikes through there!

Posted by: hiker-biker | September 7, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Not sure if this has been addressed yet, but the ramp from the parkway onto P Street was open as of 8:20-ish this morning.

Posted by: iammrben | September 7, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I agree that there's really no faster route and that the Parkway backup in the morning is really minor, even in the heaviest time.

Posted by: Anne | September 7, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Yes, P Street Ramp is open from Southbound Lane up to P Street. I actually find the backup very tolerable and would rather be in stop and go traffic looking at trees than looking at office buildings.

Posted by: cb | September 7, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Fascinating that this thing has "not moved as quickly as they wanted." It sure seems like it hasn't moved at all.

Agreed, it seems like the entire road is blocked off, and there will be maybe 3 people working on a tiny stretch. There does not appear to have been any work completed other than some curbs. I hope NPS has some stiff penalties built into the contract, so that this ridiculously slow work is not rewarded.

Posted by: DC Mike | September 7, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

From what I've seen, if they just gave traffic a bit more room in the right lane before the VA Ave light, it would be much better. The bigger backups I've encountered are becuase people making a left onto Va block in all the traffic trying to get around to go straight.

Overall though, it does seem to not add more than 5-10 minutes to a drive, and it seems pretty predictiable at that.

Posted by: Bethesda | September 7, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Not a comment on the post itself, but...

I've noticed this problem repeatedly when viewing this blog in Firefox. When the picture is on the left and the text wraps around it (such as the picture of the Rock Creek Parkway sign in today's posting), the text overlaps the picture, instead of wrapping cleanly around it, making it very difficult to read.

Could the gurus look into this? Thanks!

Posted by: firefox user | September 7, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Some of us have raised the Firefox issue in the past and got nowhere. Try highlighting the text. It makes it legible. Shouldn't be necessary to do this, but I guess the Post IT people must be IE fans (odd, given that their columnist Pegoraro advocates other browsers).

Posted by: Rich | September 9, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

The Rock Creek Parkway project is an embarrassment, why don't people get fired for such incompetence? This ain't the Wilson Bridge; just get it done, stop leaning on your shovels.

Posted by: Jeff Bobeck | September 10, 2007 3:38 AM | Report abuse

As a construction management professional, I encourage all my fellow commuters to voice their complaints directly to the Mr. Joseph Lawler,
Regional Director National Capital Region. It's the only way this mis-managed project will improve.

Mr. Lawler's contact info is at the following website:

Posted by: JB | September 12, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I agree with all of you plus what does commercial vehicles excluded mean. I see commercial vehicles on Rock Creek Park every day. The Park Services does nothing and some of us wait our turn to get on to Beach Drive others run up on the left and cut over the double white line. They will hit me before I let them in.

Posted by: Amazed | October 22, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

The current construction with the two middle lanes blocked has created a nightmare for anyone entering the parkway from Virginia Ave.

For those of us coming from 66 it is very dangerous to attempt to get on the parkway via Virginia Ave. You must fight your way onto 27th Street (with the construction there is never really an opening to make the left) and then you have to force your way into the one open lane on Virginia Ave.

At Virginia Ave there are essentially three lanes all trying to squeeze into the one open lane. Those on Virginia Ave have the right-of-way no matter what color the traffic light is so, again, those coming from 27th have to take their lives in their own hands to get anywhere.

I don't mind the delays but the park service and DC police have created an extremely dangerous situation. Can they not put a traffic cop on the 27th and Virginia Ave intersection so that we're not all forced to be aggressive and rude? (You really have no choice.)

If I simply yielded to the right-of-way in this area I would be stuck at those intersections for hours as there is never a true opening. We are taught the rules of the road and to be courteous yet DC puts us in situations that force us to act exactly opposite.

Posted by: JJ | October 30, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I enter at Cathedrale and Connecticut and the nightmare has gotten worse in the last few weeks. It seems that even during rush hour the lanes are blocked off. Even to get to P Street takes far too long. And I raely see workers on the job. The NPS has done an awful job and needs to be reminded of this. They just don't seem to give a damn.

Posted by: hp bethesda | November 1, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

it will be done soon

Posted by: yomama | January 5, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

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