The Baltimore-Washington Parkway has deteriorated to the point that it now resembles a road motorists would find in a “poverty-stricken nation,” a transportation expert said after driving on the dilapidated highway.
And the Hogan administration — which called the parkway’s condition “unacceptable — said the federal government’s failure to maintain the road buttresses its claim that the U.S. should transfer control of it to the state.
On March 1, the National Park Service, which maintains the roadway (at least in theory), lowered the speed limit on the southbound section of the parkway below Route 32 to 40 mph.
The decision was a tacit acknowledgment that traveling at posted speeds was both dangerous and impractical due to hundreds of potholes, crevices and craters that had torn at the road’s surface.
“It’s horrendous. It’s the worst roadway in the Washington metro area, with the possible exception of the George Washington Parkway and the Clara Barton Parkway,” said John Townsend II of AAA Mid-Atlantic.
“This is a sin and a shame.”
Amelia Chassé, a spokeswoman for Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), said the road’s demise reinforced the administration’s 2017 proposal to have the state assume control of the 32.5-mile parkway.
“These dangerous conditions on one of Maryland’s most traveled roadways is unacceptable, and the governor is eager to move forward with the transfer of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway from the federal government — who clearly cannot appropriately maintain it — to the state,” she said in a statement to Maryland Matters.
“Our administration signed a General Agreement with the Department of the Interior to study the proposed transfer last year, and the governor urges Maryland’s congressional delegation to get on board and help finalize the process so the state can create a safer, less congested Parkway as part of the governor’s transformative traffic relief plan.”
Local news reports illustrate the problem, but they don’t get at the cause, Townsend said. He placed blame for the agency’s $12 billion road maintenance backlog squarely on Congress.
The Baltimore-Washington Parkway “looks like a highway in a poverty-stricken country, a country that doesn’t have enough resources to take care of itself,” he said. “It is a national disgrace.”
Townsend said the recent federal government shutdown prevented the agency from being able to prepare for the “pothole season” that annually occurs when winter’s thaw dissipates.
Because the parkway has no shoulders, Townsend said motorists face a difficult choice — swerve to avoid hundreds of deep, jagged potholes and risk hitting another vehicle, or strike them and encounter almost certain wheel damage.
“It’s a very dangerous and precarious road for even the most skilled drivers.”
State transportation officials are also caught in a squeeze, Chassé said, because they hear the complaints from motorists, who assume Maryland is falling down the job, when the reality is it’s a failure of the federal government.
“A lot of people don’t know that the state can’t do anything about it,” she said.