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'Hellish' commute to D.C. earns nation's top honors

Monday - 5/7/2012, 9:15am  ET

DullesRail.jpg
Transportation developments like the Dulles Rail Project might help area commutes in the future, but they're jamming up rights right now. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

John Townsend

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman

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WASHINGTON - The D.C. area has the worst commute in the country, which at least one expert has dubbed "hellish."

Transportation Planning Board and Census Bureau statistics rank the drives to and from work in the overall Washington region as the worst in the country. Four of the specific commutes from cities in the area fall within the top 12 for the worst in the entire nation, a AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman tells WTOP.

Transportation development, such as the Dulles Rail and HOT lanes projects, aimed at reducing the congestion are only making matters worse in the short term.

"You have so much construction going on -- about 90 projects in the Washington Metropolitan area -- and so all of us adjust by adding 5 to 15 minutes to our commute, depending on traffic," says John Townsend with AAA.

"They will (help congestion) eventually," he says. "The fact of the matter is there are so many projects going on at the same time, and there are projects going on at night.

"So this hellish commute is morning, noon and night."

The worst of it takes place between Fredericksburg, Va. and Frederick, Md. Getting into the nation's capital from either of those cities during rush hour takes 80 minutes or more.

The worst one-way commutes for four area cities make the nation's top 12:

  • #12 -- Dale City, Va. (41.3 minutes)
  • #11 -- Clinton, Md. (41.7 minutes)
  • #8 -- Fort Washington, Md. (42.5 minutes)
  • #1 -- Bristow, Va. (46.3 minutes)
A third rush hour compounds traffic in the area, Townsend says. Most drivers don't consciously acknowledge how many others get into their cars during lunch time to find a bite.

"That adds to the congestion," he says.

Townsend adds some words of comfort for commuters: "The road to hell is paved with a long commute."

Learn more about the area commute by listening to the full audio from Townsend at right.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)