- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Question: What agency administers and maintains federal parkways?

Answer: The National Park Service — though it doesn’t always get around to doing its job.

Enter Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is so fed up with the NPS ignoring the dangerous and gridlocked realities of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway that he has urged the state’s congressional delegation into action.

And although the NPS nudged a little on patching potholes on the north-south roadway, it has not offered any long-term details.

During regular weekday commutes, 165,000 cars use the parkway. But that doesn’t include holiday travelers, weekend travelers or gamblers motoring north, say, from the casino at National Harbor at the southern end of the BW Parkway/Interstate Route 295 and heading to the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore at the parkway’s northern end. Or travelers heading to and from Philadelphia, Delaware, New York and places farther north and south.



As a matter of fact, even though it’s called the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, there’s no park there.

In other words, the parkway is a highway — a highway with no traffic lights, no roadside lights and no scenic routes. It’s a highway that prohibits tractor-trailers.

The lack of large industrial vehicles likely avoids serious and sometimes fatal accidents caused by 18-wheelers and the like. But their absence hasn’t made the well-traveled BW Parkway safer.

Averaging six fatalities and 547 crashes a year, the parkway is one of the most dangerous roads in the D.C. area.

And this year, motorists have been hopping mad because of potholes, the bane of drivers everywhere.

Busted tires and broken axles. Crumpled hub caps. The pock-marked parkway is a riddle that the NPS tries to pretend cannot be solved — until Mr. Hogan, the region’s most popular Republican, spoke his peace.

In his letter to Maryland’s congressmen, Mr. Hogan rightly surmised that “NPS has increasingly demonstrated it is simply not up to the task of maintaining MD-295. While I appreciate your efforts to hold NPS accountable, it is clear that the state taking ownership of the parkway is the only viable long-term solution to these problems.”

Mr. Hogan also pointed out that NPS has “a maintenance backlog of nearly $12 billion.” That means the NPS backlog could soon be visiting a “parkway” near you, if it hasn’t already.

Safety and shorter commuting times would be the most obvious benefits of a prioritized and repaved BW Parkway, which also must be widened. As the status quo stands, the BW median merely separates the northbound lanes from the southbound lanes. In the meantime, motorists risk being ticketed by the U.S. Park Police if they have to pull into the median to change a busted tire. How scenic is that?

Look, the best the NPS could do to solve its “parkway” dilemma was post flash signage along the 55-mph roadway warning the raggediest part of the parkway now has a speed limit of 40 mph. So much for transportation experts thinking outside a box, any box.

Leave it to Larry Hogan to push a new deal, a deal that doesn’t appear to be so green.

Give him time, however. A smoother and safer BW Parkway is coming — and a toll road will make it a green deal for certain.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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