Jere L. Krakow
Suitland Parkway, Suitland, Prince Georges County
Suitland Parkway, which links Andrews Air Force Base with Washington, D.C., is one of the parkways that make up the network of entryways into the capital. It has hosted both triumphal and mournful processions of public officials: from presidents returning from diplomatic achievements to the funeral procession of President John F. Kennedy. Presently its use is by commuters and local traffic. The parkway consists of 9.18 miles of roadway, 2.8 of which are in Washington, D.C., and 6.38 of which are in Maryland. The road travels through a park corridor comprised of 418.9 acres managed by the National Park Service and the balance managed by the District of Columbia. The roadway extends from the Anacostia River to Marlboro Pike at the North Gate of Andrews Air Force Base. The parkway corridor is extensively landscaped, with larger trees left standing in the medians, grassy areas, and developments screened where necessary to present a rural-like setting. Topsoil specifications included 4 inches to be placed on the cut and fill slopes outside the paved lanes and in the median. An Italian rye was seeded on the bed; however, steeper slopes had sod applied to them. Guardrails were to be of a wood post-and-rail type, and concrete was to be colored with lamp-black. The Public Roads Administration contracted for and had seven bridges constructed on the alignment of the Suitland Parkway during 1944. Nineteen years later a set of bridges carrying Interstate 95 over the parkway brought the total number of bridges on the parkway to nine. Concrete arch bridges with stone facing and generous parapets closely followed designs initially used on the Westchester parkways and subsequently on Mount Vernon Memorial Highway and on the Blue Ridge Parkway. All but the Interstate bridges consist of "double reinforced concrete rigid frame arches" that have stone-faced wing wall and spandrels, trimmed with "granite dimensioned masonry." Stone for facing the concrete came from quarries in Maryland; it was chosen because of its similarity to that used on the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway near the Pentagon. Granite used in the dimensional masonry came from a quarry at Mt. Airy, North Carolina, where it was cut to specifications; it was placed by numbers, with concrete poured behind them and held by steel anchor bars between the joints extending back into the concrete. Some 38 culverts are located along the parkway and include a variety of small tubes, multiple tubes, and box culverts. Most have stone-faced headwalls, some of which have been restored and tuck pointed on the newly rehabilitated portions of the parkway. Several headwalls have fallen off and are covered with silt from erosion problems which have arisen in the years since construction. There are 39 drop inlets along the parkway, 0.14 miles of stone-lined ditches, and 2.89 miles of curbing.
The various parkways of the national capital reflect the culmination of several national trends after the turn of the 20th century: the City Beautiful movements' emphasis on integrated urban green space; automobiles and the rapid development of road systems; and the decline in the quality of city living and resulting popularity of outdoor recreation. In Washington, D.C., the McMillan Commission's recommendation for a series of parks and parkways was coupled with the American Institute of Architects's assessment of a cityscape badly in need of formal planning and direction--in keeping with the original 18th century urban scheme of Pierre L'Enfant. Parkways and strip parks in the Washington, D.C. area are the culmination of efforts of Maryland, Virginia, and District interests. After the precedent-setting network of suburban New York parkways, after which it was idealized, Washington's system is the most comprehensive and monumental extant in the nation. Aesthetically unaltered, the parkways remain vital components of the regional transportation arteries and they continue to contribute to the historic symbolism and design of the nation's capital. Conceived in 1937, the parkway was constructed in 1944 as an appropriate entryway to the federal city. Suitland Parkway is principally a route of travel between the federal installations of Bolling Air Force Base in the District of Columbia, and Andrews Air Force Base. Not originally designed as a recreational drive, Suitland Parkway represents a utilitarian roadway with design features intended to move traffic expeditiously, but with elements of design intended to convey a scenic driving experience characteristic of earlier parkways.