Rock Creek Ramp Open
The ramp that leads traffic from P Street NW down to the southbound Rock Creek Parkway was open yesterday. I may be the first one telling you that. I haven't seen any advisory on it from the National Park Service, which is in charge of the parkway reconstruction project, along with the Federal Highway Administration.
On Monday, I was walking along the parkway to see what's going on, since this lengthy reconstruction project between P Street and Virginia Avenue in Northwest Washington remains the primary generator of letters among my readers.
I spotted two work zones: One at the P Street ramp, but the work was confined to the grassy little island where the ramp's on-lane and -off lane split. That wasn't interfering with traffic. The other work zone was the big deal. That takes up the center of the parkway between Virginia Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue.
When I arrived at 2:30 p.m., two lanes of traffic from the north were squeezing into one right lane and two lanes from the south were squeezing into one right lane. At 4 p.m., the rush hour alignment takes over. The southbound flow through the work zone stops, and three lanes flow northbound.
Two lanes of traffic coming north past the Kennedy Center move to the left side of the work zone, while a third lane moves in from the east side of the parkway, bringing traffic from 27th Street and the Potomac River Freeway.
Those cars stay to the right of the construction island.
It's an unpleasant looking scene, and I felt lucky to be on foot. The trail beside the parkway is chewed up pretty badly -- one of the things that remains to be fixed during the project -- but Rock Creek, with its changing leaves is beautiful and so is the Potomac, visible south of Virginia Avenue. (But how would you know? In all that traffic, you're stuck admiring the license plate holder of the car in front.)
Here's a link to a Federal Highway Administration traffic advisory page that I stumbled upon when I was looking to see if there was any announcement about the P Street ramp reopening. The page describes work going on this month. It's generally useful in listing the types of work you see as you drive through the construction zone, though it was a bit out of date when I checked Monday night.
The park service still says the project is scheduled to be done in the spring, about a year after it started. It certainly doesn't appear to be a rush job.
One thing I don't understand from the drivers' side, and maybe you can explain it to me: That area is just awful. The impact of construction in the middle of the road is even greater than it was in the last phase, when the work was confined to the southbound right lane. And that fishhook maneuver that connects the parkway, Virginia Avenue and the Potomac Freeway entrance can't be pleasant under any circumstances.
You must have tried some creative alternatives by now, yet there's still that dead slow line of traffic. Is there really nothing that beats the parkway, even when it's under construction?
Maybe because it's not a transportation agency with a local constituency of commuters, the park service hasn't been much help directing drivers around the parkway project. What I'm thinking of are the traffic mitigation efforts put on by Maryland, Virginia and the District transportation departments when they begin a project that clearly will disrupt thousands of trips a day.
Compare the parkway project to the major efforts made to divert drivers from the Wilson Bridge, Springfield Interchange and Douglass Bridge during their reconstructions. Think about the millions of dollars that Virginia is preparing to invest in helping drivers deal with the Dulles rail and HOT lanes construction projects.
The parkway project highlights the park service's distance from Washington commuters.
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