Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) called yesterday for "a compromise" over long-debated plans to reduce traffic tie-ups on a heavily congested section of the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway between Spout Run and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
Under Wolf's proposal, the 1.6-mile stretch of the federally owned parkway would be widened to provide three inbound lanes for morning rush-hour traffic. But, Wolf said, no new outbound lanes should be built. The parkway, which overlooks the Potomac River, now is two lanes each way in that area.
Wolf's revised proposal appeared to conflict sharply with a $16.5 million plan drawn up last year by the National Park Service, which oversees the parkway. The Park Service's plan included modifications at key entrances and exits to ease bottlenecks, but did not provide for additional lanes.
In a letter released yesterday, Wolf repeatedly criticized the Park Service's plan, saying it "falls short in several very critical ways." He contended that his proposal would lead to a more significant reduction in congestion and would cause less environmental disruption than the federal agency's plan.
John F. Byrne, the parkway's superintendant, said that the Park Service is conducting a study of Wolf's proposal, but he expressed what he termed "continuing concerns" about it. He warned that Wolf's recommendations may result in further congestion, environmental damage and recreational problems.
The controversial stretch of the parkway, which is used by thousands of Virginia and Maryland commuters, has triggered repeated debate and several studies since the 1950s. The congestion stems mainly from converging arteries, including Spout Run Parkway along with the Key and Roosevelt bridges.
Wolf, a frequent advocate of highway improvements to benefit commuters, has been an outspoken proponent of widening this section of the parkway. In hearings and other proceedings last fall, the Park Service's plan was endorsed by several key federal and local agencies and by many residents.
The proposal for a third inbound lane was initially raised in November by the National Capital Planning Commission after discussions with Wolf. The planning agency did not, however, endorse the proposal.
In his letter, Wolf argued that a third inbound lane is "critically needed" to lessen congestion and reduce traffic hazards, and he said that losses of trees and other environmental harm may be avoided by constructing the proposed lane primarily in the parkway's median.
He rejected earlier proposals for a third outbound lane. "Since outbound traffic is much more scattered and evenly spaced, there doesn't appear to be as great a need for an additional lane," he said.
Wolf also proposed a special "stacking" lane leading from the inbound parkway to the Roosevelt Bridge and to Rte. 50 to provide improved access to Rosslyn.
Byrne warned that traffic currently using other routes might be drawn to the parkway if another lane is built. "That's a time bomb," he said, arguing that the move might lead to more severe congestion in the long run. Byrne also said some old trees might have to be cut to allow space for another lane.
During the recent proceedings, the principal features of the Park Service's plan were supported by the Arlington County Board, Virginia Council on the Environment, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the Transportation Planning Board, which is affiliated with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.