“It’s like driving a lunar rover on the dark side of the moon — that’s how bumpy the ride is,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend said. “It’s shocking to see a road in the United States, especially in the national capital area, in that state of repair.”
The work, scheduled to begin Friday night, will be done with emergency federal funds, said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who wrote to the Park Service on March 15, urging the agency to speed up repairs after hearing from irate constituents.
“This is way ahead of their original schedule,” Van Hollen said, “so I’m glad they agreed with us that this is an emergency situation.”
The announcement of expedited pothole patching — and the Park Service’s pledge to move up repaving from this fall to mid-April — came as Maryland officials have called for the federal government to cede ownership of its 19-mile section to the state.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has touted a state plan to build express toll lanes on the 29-mile parkway, in addition to on the state’s portion of the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270, but the state cannot do so without control of the federal portion of the parkway. The National Park Service owns the 19 miles between Route 50 near the D.C. line and Route 175 in Anne Arundel County, and the state owns most of the rest into Baltimore.
Hogan recently cited the road’s “unacceptable” condition this winter in calling again for a state takeover, saying the number of potholes and crashes had “reached a breaking point” and demonstrated that the Park Service “is simply not up to the task of maintaining MD-295.”
On Wednesday, Hogan said the parkway’s “horrific conditions” had caused him to “redouble” those takeover efforts.
“It should not have taken this long,” Hogan said of the patches, “but what is most important is that we fix the road now.”
As part of the pothole work beginning Friday, sections of the road will be closed in both directions overnight throughout the weekend. Southbound lanes between Routes 198 and 197 will be closed from 7:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday. Northbound lanes in the same section will be closed from 7:30 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday. That schedule could change, depending on the weather, the agency said.
“We take our responsibility for the parkway very seriously and are making good on our promise to drivers to do everything in our power to improve the road,” B-W Parkway Superintendent Matt Carroll said in a statement.
Carroll said crews have been “working tirelessly” to patch the craters and have placed more than 130 tons worth of asphalt patches on the parkway since late January.
Townsend said he doesn’t blame the Park Service as much as Congress for the more than $11 billion backlog in the agency’s infrastructure needs, including for roads and bridges. He cited delays in the agency being able to overhaul historic Memorial Bridge across the Potomac River as another example of the shortage of infrastructure investments.
The problem is acute in the Washington region, where parkways whose names evoke country roads serve as major commuter thoroughfares and have nearly 40 percent of all crashes on National Park Service roads across the country, Townsend said.
The B-W Parkway carries 125,000 vehicles daily. In addition to connecting D.C. and Baltimore, it serves Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport and job centers such as NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.
“They’re not bucolic country roads anymore,” Townsend said. “They are major corridors for traffic.”
Under the expedited repaving plan, the road will be repaved in two phases, beginning next month between Routes 198 and 197. In midsummer, repaving will continue between Routes 198 and 175 and include access ramps in the entire stretch, the Park Service said.
All of the repaving will be finished this year, the agency said.
Luz Lazo contributed to this report.