Drivers in Northwest Washington apparently like the feel of the new asphalt on Beach Drive so much that they’re hitting the gas a little too hard. So, the National Park Service, which owns the road, is taking steps to slow them down.
Work crews this week will begin installing speed tables, markings and signs in an attempt to get motorists to obey the 25 mph speed limit and slow down as they approach busy crosswalks near the National Zoo and popular trails.
“We want to make sure that folks who are using the crosswalk can do it safely,” Park Service spokesman Jonathan Shafer said. “We are hoping that drivers will lower the speeds and be conscious of where they are.”
Beach Drive, a 6½-mile thoroughfare that runs through Rock Creek Park, is undergoing a three-year, $32.9 million reconstruction. Nearly four miles of the route have been rebuilt and reopened to traffic. The remaining 2.7 miles from the Maryland line to Joyce Road, just south of Military Road, is under construction and expected to reopen this fall.
Park Service officials said they have been monitoring road conditions in the newly opened stretch and have found speeding to be a problem. They expect the new measures will help slow traffic and improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists getting across Beach Drive at Harvard Street (near the Zoo) and at Blagden Avenue (near various trails and picnic areas).
Crews will be installing speed tables — like speed humps, but flat-topped and much longer — on both sides of the crosswalk at the two locations starting Monday. The work will require some lane closures this month, between 9:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. on weekdays. A flagman will direct traffic.
The new safety measures should be in place by the end of the month, Shafer said.
Meanwhile, he said, work is progressing on the north side of the corridor, where crews are expected to complete the final phase of the project this fall. As the work finishes, the Park Service is again urging visitors to stay away from the active work zone.
“A lot of folks are not abiding by the closure,” Shafer said, noting that earlier this month, as crews began to pour asphalt, a cyclist rode on the road and the work had to be redone.
“They are entering the closed area. It is dangerous for them and it’s dangerous for workers, and it slows down production on the project,” he said. “It is important that visitors who go to Rock Creek Park abide by the closure so we can continue this work safely and on schedule.”
The road has been completely rebuilt. New trees were planted, and the storm drainage system was improved. In this final phase, the work includes the repair of several bridges, the installation of 11,000 tons of asphalt and more than 10,000 linear feet of culvert, and the replacement of more than 29,000 linear feet of curbs and road gutters.
When completed, Beach Drive will be like new from end to end. This is the first complete reconstruction of the road in more than a quarter of a century.