As a symbol, the Jones Point Lighthouse represents Alexandria’s legacy as a port city. But as a building, it’s in rough shape.
The wooden lighthouse is described by the National Park Service website as “one of the last riverine lighthouses in the country,” as well as a “focal point of Jones Point Park and a clue to the area’s history as a busy commercial center and naval base.” But the building itself is in rough shape. Grime coats the outside of the structure and there’s visible damage to parts of the building. The interior is unfinished, so visitors aren’t allowed inside due to safety concerns.
In a meeting of the Historic Alexandria Resources Commission Advocacy Committee last month, committee members said that they’ve been pushing for the city and the National Park Service (NPS), on whose and the lighthouse sits, to do something to fix up the building.
“The advocacy committee prepared a decisively coherent letter on Jones Point,” said Chair Danny Smith. “We did send that it to the City Council and to the Mayor at the beginning of December. Within a day we had responses from the Mayor and City Manager.”
Smith said Mayor Justin Wilson told him that he’d get back in touch with the National Park Service to ask about near-term restoration or at least better maintenance, and City Manager Mark Jinks said staff would visit the site and do a visual assessment of its condition.
“I think we got their attention on that and have made some headway,” Smith said.
NPS spokesman Aaron LaRocca said has invested in the lighthouse before and has proposed additional work, but has had issues with funding.
“Approximately 10 years ago the NPS invested over $600,000 in the lighthouse including work on the stairs, porch and roof,” LaRocca said. “We currently have a proposed project for additional work, including exterior maintenance and interior restoration. However, it has not yet been funded. We recognize the need for ongoing maintenance of the facility, some of which is routine maintenance and some of which is more significant.”
LaRocca said the NPS is starting to work on interim maintenance measures until funding for more comprehensive repairs can be secured.
“Park staff are taking steps to develop interim maintenance measures for the site and building with a newly established park strike team,” Larocca said. “This team, made up of subject matter experts, will identify and execute routine maintenance activities at the Jones Point Lighthouse.”
Some changes are coming to the George Washington Memorial Parkway to make it safer for travelers between Alexandria and the eponymous President’s home at Mount Vernon.
“The NPS will restripe the road to implement a road diet while maintaining driving capacity,” NPS said in a press release. “On the parkway between Tulane Drive and Stratford Lane, the NPS will change markings so that there will be three travel lanes (2 northbound, 1 southbound) and one turn lane.”
All changes on the parkway are taking place in Fairfax — not Alexandria — but will affect travel to and from the city.
NPS also announced that it will be making some changes to improve visibility on the Parkway.
“[NPS will] increase visibility of lane markings and Mount Vernon Trail crosswalks,” NPS said, “[and] remove vegetation at intersections to improve visibility.”
NPS said in the press release that the changes came after public outreach and traffic modeling, which NPS claimed indicated the changes would not diminish the GW Parkway’s ability to accommodate current traffic. Once the changes are put into place, NPS said it will continue to monitor traffic for changes.
“We are being responsive to comments from the public and the expert advice of transportation professionals,” Superintendent Charles Cuvelier said in the press release. “Whether you are a park visitor or commuter, these changes will make driving, walking and bicycling between Alexandria and Mount Vernon safer and more enjoyable for everyone.”
The dieting is scheduled to start going into effect later this year.
Several Alexandria Fire Department units responded as mutual aid to a crash on the GW Parkway in Fairfax County this afternoon.
The crash happened just before 1:30 p.m. at the GW Parkway intersection with Belle View Blvd. At least one of the victims was initially reported to trapped in their vehicle, potentially requiring extrication.
An ALXnow photographer arrived as one of the vehicles involved, a red sedan with heavy passenger side damage, was loaded onto a flatbed tow truck.
The intersection is likely familiar to many who commute to and from Alexandria and points south. It, along with the nearby intersection of the GW Parkway and Belle Haven Road, are among the most dangerous and crash-prone in the area — prompting the National Park Service to hold recent public meetings and consider new safety improvements.
Particularly for those turning left at both intersections, to head north on the Parkway, the maneuver requires dodging fast-moving southbound traffic and then waiting in a barely-wide-enough median for fast-moving northbound traffic to clear. Turning left from the northbound lanes of the Parkway onto either road is similarly death-defying.
More from a December article on Covering the Corridor on potential safety improvements:
Recent Park Police efforts to improve speed enforcement along the entire Parkway between I-495 and Mount Vernon have led to a 35 percent reduction in motor vehicle accidents between 2018 and 2019, Cuvelier said. The superintendent added that public opinion about installing speed cameras was about evenly divided, but that the cameras raised a larger issue involving data requirements.
More than half the comments submitted so far have been related to the Belle View Boulevard and Belle Haven Road intersections, where nearly 125 crashes occurred over a five-year period.
To help improve intersections that are currently difficult to navigate — especially when making left turns — the Park Service proposed solutions like road diets and roundabouts, including ones at Morningside Lane. Some of these proposals will require more investigation, Cuvelier acknowledged, due to potential downsides like queuing.
Thus far, no serious injuries have been reported following this afternoon’s crash.
Street view photos via Google Maps
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