YES, THOSE MORNING commutes can be hellishly long on the George Washington Memorial Parkway between Spout Run and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. But no, not even the latest "compromise" proposal by Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia to widen this riverside strip should be inflicted on the last spectacular gateway to the capital.
Mr. Wolf's concern for his motoring constitutents is understandable, and he has lobbied energetically on their behalf over the years. This time, however, his push for a widening of this famous scenic parkway should be resisted. The National Park Service has some good, reasonable proposals of its own to assist motorists while preserving the distinctive character of the road.
Under Mr. Wolf's latest proposal, a 1.6-mile stretch of the parkway between Spout Run and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge would be widened to provide three inbound lanes for morning rush-hour traffic. No new outbound lanes would be built on the strip, which now has two lanes going each way. Still, this plan surely would invite still more traffic and congestion, not to mention the environmental effects it would have.
The Park Service has other ideas, including modifications at key entrances and exits to ease bottlenecks. Ramps and lanes would be lengthened near Spout Run Parkway, Key Bridge, Roosevelt Bridge and the Roosevelt Island parking lot. Roads would be repaved with a special asphalt designed to reduce skidding in wet weather. Principal features of this plan already enjoy support from the Arlington County Board, the Virginia Council on the Environment, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the Transportation Planning Board, which is affliated with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
It makes sense to try the Park Service plan first -- particularly in a period when regional commuter patterns and modes of transportation are changing. Above all, there is something special about the George Washington Parkway. It is not a beltway or a turnpike -- and it never should be.