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Park Police Hope to Ease Delays

The U.S. Park Police have a new technique they hope will cut down on the traffic congestion that follows a serious accident on the parkways in the Washington region.

It's a software program that uses a calibrated digital camera and numbered markers to create three-dimensional diagrams of accident scenes. The photogrammetry technique gives police the same scene evidence they get from older methods of accident reconstruction, but it lets them get out of there quicker and reopen closed lanes.

The park police used the technique to reconstruct a Jan. 8 pedestrian accident on the Clara Barton Parkway, said Sgt. Robert Lachance, a police spokesman. The technique will work in many scenarios, but not all, he said. It's most useful when the accident scene is fairly compact.

Lachance said it's difficult to give an average for home much time can be saved, since no two accidents or investigations are alike. He said the park police did a test this week and found their photogrammetry technique took a third less time than an older method would have taken in that particular test. The results are just as valid in court as techniques involving the use of surveying equipment, he said.

The accident reconstruction isn't the only factor involved in reopening lanes, of course. Finding witnesses and waiting for tow trucks to do their job are among the other causes of delays for motorists.

But the park police are glad to have this new method to apply in an urban area that puts special stress on its parkways and the drivers who use them. Is there another region in the national park system where so many parkways must also serve as major commuter routes? Planners of the Baltimore-Washington, Rock Creek, George Washington and Clara Barton parkways couldn't have imagined what those roadways would be asked to do in the 21st Century.

The park police have the right idea in seeking techniques that will help them to better manage the roadways we have, since there are no plans to convert the parkways into interstate-style highways.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 23, 2008; 5:41 AM ET
Categories:  Congestion  
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