It didn't sound like a major project when the National Park Service last October began a $1.6 million repaving of a heavily traveled section of the George Washington Parkway near National Airport.

But cold weather, rain and a new European paving process have combined to frustrate work crews.

Federal officials said last week that an end is in sight. Restoration of the three-mile section between the airport and the Alexandria City limits should be completed next month, according to Steve Boch, construction operations engineer for the Federal Highway Administration.

John Byrne, superintendent of the George Washington Parkway, said the nine months of waiting will be worth the finished product. "We've been criticized because it took too long," said Byrne. "But if those people knew all the things that had been done, they would marvel."

He said that this section of the 27.5-mile parkway is the busiest and was in the worst condition. Because there is so much traffic there, the roadway had to remain open and most of the repair work had to be done at night, he said.

Renovating the roadway with the European process requires grinding off six inches of asphalt, breaking the concrete base material, resetting the base, paving the road, and then putting on a "popcorn" paving that is supposed to keep rainwater on the road and away from windshields.

"It took a long time because we were required to remove all the asphalt," said Byrne. "But because the asphalt was too thick, it had to be removed in stages. We can't grind it and have a six-inch drop between lanes; that would be unsafe."

The European process, Byrne said, was the "best solution to the problem. We determined that the roughness of the ride was caused by uneven settlement of the base material. So, to fix it, we have to break up the base material."

Gus Anderson, project engineer for the widely respected Iowa Department of Transportation, said he couldn't fault the taking of a lot of time on the roadway. "That's an extremely difficult logistical problem," he said.

Separate renovations are being done to the parkway south of Alexandria. Modern techniques cannot be used in all locations because the color and texture of the old pavement must be matched, said Byrne.