The Inner Scoop
Find out the story behind the back-up on the WTOP Traffic Blog. The WTOP traffic team will have the lastest on road closures, construction projects and other useful information relating to your commute.
Follow @wtoptraffic for the latest updates.
Posted on: Tuesday 7/23/2013 2:06pm
WASHINGTON - Survival experts say extreme luck allowed a young woman to escape when her car plunged off the Bay Bridge last week.
In an interview with NBC 4, Morgan Lake says she didn't want to drown and was able to swim out the window and then to the surface of the water last Friday night.
So what would you do if your car was suddenly in the water, sinking? Experts say to stay calm and help any children escape the vehicle first.
If the vehicle is still partially above water, open a window to escape. But if the vehicle is completely submerged, experts say the best option is to wait until the vehicle almost completely fills with water.
AAA Mid-Atlantic says the doors and windows won't open until the pressure inside the car matches the pressure outside the car.
AAA also says passengers should move to the rear of the car because the air pocket will be larger there while you wait for the water to rise.
Ken Burton with Stark Survival says drivers should keep a hand planted on the steering wheel and keep their seatbelt on to fight off disorientation in the dim light and murky water.
"Once its filled up, then you're good to go through that window," Burton says. "Wait until the water gets up about your chin. Take several deep breaths and hold it."
Then release the seatbelt, use your arms to pull yourself out of the car. Try not to kick to avoid becoming tangled in seatbelts or other floating objects.
AAA recommends pushing off the car to help speed your route to the surface, as Lake did. In deep water, swim with the current. If you can't swim, try to float.
Other tips from AAA:
- Remove heavy clothing before attempting to swim to safety.
- Keep a tool in the car such as a screwdriver to help break a window.
- Unbuckle children or remove them from their car seats. Free older children first.
- If side windows are blocked, try to break the front or rear windshield.
- Most vehicles will float for several minutes before they start to sink.
- Power windows will continue to work for as long 10 minutes
Fewer than .5 percent of all vehicle crashes involve a car submerged under water. But almost 10 percent of all drowning deaths in the United States can be attributed to being submerged in a car, according to AAA.
- Survivor of Bay Bridge crash out of hospital, tells story
- AAA calls for probe after Bay Bridge crash
Posted on: Tuesday 7/16/2013 3:05pm
WASHINGTON - Beltway commuters are used to traffic snarls in the morning and they hardly put anyone in a good mood. But Tuesday's backups offered a bit of levity even for a woman who was late to her first day at a new job.
A man dressed in a toga or wrapped in some sort of sheet or cloth, was seen walking along Interstate 495 in Prince George's County. His stroll included a police escort and caused traffic backups about eight miles on the Outer Loop, according to commuter Brie Rizzo Hall.
Hall tells WTOP that when she encountered the man, he was walking in the shoulder and was carrying a large stick. Maryland state troopers were following him.
"The traffic made me late for work on my first day at a new job but it made for a funny story," she says.
State police say they received a report of a man walking on the shoulder near Exit 15 about 8:15 a.m. He was claiming to be Jesus and officers planned to give him a ride off the Beltway. State police did not report any notes about traffic delays related to the man.
However WTOP's Traffic Center heard complaints of rubbernecking delays related to drivers spotting "toga man."
"Man in toga" made the traffic report this morning for causing delays. Thanks for the laugh @WTOPtraffic— Allison Wallace (@alliooop) July 16, 2013
Posted on: Saturday 7/13/2013 6:59am
WASHINGTON -- Construction will close Interstate 95 in both Virginia and Maryland over the weekend and motorists are urged to use alternate routes.
Also, Metro work could delay train riders on Red Line.
I-95 Closures, Virginia
Construction work will necessitate a full closure of southbound Interstate 95 in Prince William County overnight Friday and Saturday.
The work is part of the 95 Express Lanes project. Construction has been commonplace on overnight weekend hours, but the work this weekend is resulting in more extensive closures.
Weather permitting, the Virginia Department of Transportation will begin closing lanes at 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights on southbound I-95 near Dumfries at Exit 152.
All southbound lanes will be closed from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Saturday and 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Sunday.
Traffic will be detoured onto U.S. 1 and rerouted onto I-95 at exit 150.
VDOT says motorists can expect up to 20 minute delays.
I-95 Closures, Maryland
Interstate 95 at Van Dusan Road will be closed briefly starting on Saturday, July 13 to allow for the removal of the old bridge over 95. Weather permitting, officials hope the project will be finished by late summer.
Beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday, the two right lanes of northbound 95 will close overnight through Thursday. Crews will reopen lanes no later than 6 a.m. each day. Once work is completed about the two right lanes, the two left lanes will be similarly closed.
Motorists are encouraged to use alternate routes U.S. 1, U.S. 29 or Md 295 to avoid backup.
There is no scheduled work on the on the Green or Yellow lines this weekend. Trains will operate on a regular weekend schedule.
On the Red Line, buses will replace trains between NoMa-Galludet and Silver Spring starting at 10 p.m. on Friday night through closing on Sunday.
Red Line trains will operate as follows:
- Between Shady Grove & NoMa-Gallaudet - Every 10 minutes 9AM-9PM and at regular weekend intervals (15-20 minutes) at other times.
- Between Glenmont & Silver Spring - Every 10 minutes 9AM-9PM and at regular weekend intervals (15-20 minutes) at other times.
Express buses will operate nonstop between Silver Spring and NoMa-Galludent stations. Add up to 30 minutes of travel time.
Local buses will operate between the two stations as well, with stops at Takoma, Fort Totten, Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue stations. Add 10 minutes travel time for one stop. Add 30 minutes travel time if traveling between Fort Totten and NoMa.
Takoma, Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue stations will be closed.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, the last train from Glenmont to Silver Spring will depart 47 minutes earlier than normal to allow for shuttle bus connections. The last train will depart Glenmont at 1:50 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and at 10:50 p.m. on Sunday.
Orange and Blue line
Trains will operate every 16 minutes throughout the weekend beginning at 10 p.m. on Friday through closing Sunday.
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Posted on: Monday 7/8/2013 4:55am
WASHINGTON - Two of the region's biggest road improvement projects also produce some of the region's worst congestion.
The extension and expansion of the Interstate 95 Express Lanes in Virginia and the 11th Street Bridge Project in Southeast Washington are among the area's most expensive construction projects.
With an estimated price tag of $925 million, the construction projects on I-95 and I-395 in Virginia are on track to be completed in 2015. The ongoing rebuilding of the 11th Street Bridge and nearby freeways, with a cost of $390 million, is the District of Columbia's priciest road project to date.
I-95 Express Lanes Extension Project
On I-95 in Virginia, the 95 Express Lanes Extension Project is in full swing. The High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes are being converted into a dynamically tolled highway. The lanes will operate, like the 495 Express Lanes, as an all-electronic toll road with carpools exempted from paying tolls.
Over the past several months, midday drivers on I-95 and I-395 have been subjected to major slow-downs through the work area. VDOT allows for single-lane closures from mid-morning to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday along the 29-mile-long project area. Crews are required to clear all work zones by noon on Fridays.
The lane closures allow for the safe delivery of materials to the work sites and give workers space for the physical construction of the road foundation.
For the next two weekends, crews will be closing I-95 south in both Dumfries and Quantico to begin heavy-duty construction of two new bridges over the interstate. The project strives to improve access to and from Route 610, Joplin Road, the Prince William Parkway and Fairfax County Parkway by adding new ramps and flyover bridges that connect directly to the express lanes.
Weekend work has had less of an impact on traffic, but crews have been closing the Express Lanes on some Saturdays and Sundays over the past few months. These closures have lessened the highway's capacity, adding to delays on the mainline through Fairfax and Prince William counties.
11th Street Bridge Project
In Southeast Washington, the 11th Street Bridge Project marks the latest chapter in the evolution of the city's freeway system. The bridges that span the Anacostia River have been completely rebuilt, and all of the connections to Interstate 295, Kenilworth Avenue (D.C. Route 295) and Martin Luther King Avenue SE have opened. Still, many morning commuters from Maryland and Southeast Washington battle chronic delays on the freeway toward the Navy Yard where the project remains a work in progress.
Posted on: Saturday 7/6/2013 1:52pm
WASHINGTON - The D.C. Side of the Chain Bridge is blocked in all directions by a disabled tractor-trailer.
The truck has been towed away, but according to WTOP Traffic the truck leaked fuel which must be absorbed before the road can reopen. Authorities estimate that that will take several hours.
Posted on: Thursday 7/4/2013 5:01pm
WASHINGTON - Expect the mid-week holiday to alter traffic patterns throughout the region.
Area roads will be busy this week with a mix of vacationers traveling through town, event-goers traveling around town and locals going about their day-to-day business as usual. On Independence Day, a large influx of traffic into the city can be expected with numerous street closures on tap for the annual celebration on the National Mall.
For many in Washington, weekend plans are already afoot. AAA estimates that 46 percent of would-be travelers intend to begin their vacations prior to the Fourth of July holiday. The organization estimates that the bulk of the 34.4 million people who hit the roads for the holiday will depart on Wednesday.
Lighter than normal morning and afternoon rush hours are likely to continue through the end of the week. In place of two traditional rush hour periods, expect a gradual peak in traffic volumes around mid-afternoon. Friday and Saturday will likely be the easiest days to get around.
Motorists will see a reprieve from the routine road work through next week, including on Interstate 95 in Virginia.
Most vacationers will be heading home on Sunday. Volume delays are likely to form on Interstate 95 in Virginia and I-70 East and I-270 South in Maryland by late morning. In addition, westbound U.S. 50 on the Eastern Shore will likely be congested throughout the day as beach vacations draw to a close.
A Capitol Fourth
Expect one large rush hour late Thursday as thousands migrate into downtown Washington for the city's Independence Day celebration.
Numerous streets will be closed near the National Mall for the day's events. Some city streets will be blocked as early as 5 a.m. and many of the closures will last through 11 p.m. The Arlington Memorial Bridge will be closed from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Closures beginning at 6 a.m.
- 4th Street from Independence Avenue SW to Constitution Avenue
- 7th Street from Independence Avenue SW to Constitution Avenue
- 15th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Maine Avenue
- 17th Street from Independence Avenue to E Street NW
- 19th Street NW from C Street to Constitution Avenue
- 20th Street NW from C Street to Constitution Avenue
- 21st Street NW from C Street to Constitution Avenue
- 22nd Street NW from C Street to Constitution Avenue
- 23rd Street from Independence Avenue SW to C Street NW
- Virginia Avenue NW from 18th Street to 20th Street
- Constitution Avenue from 14th Street to 23rd Street
- Independence Avenue from 14th Street to 23rd Street
Closures beginning at 11:30 a.m.
- 14th Street from Independence Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue
- 3rd Street from Maryland Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue
- 9th Street Tunnel from Pennsylvania Avenue to the SE/SW Freeway
- 12th Street Tunnel from the SE/SW Freeway to Pennsylvania Avenue (scheduled to reopen at 3 p.m.)
Closures beginning at 3 p.m. in Arlington
- N. Meade Street from Marshall Drive to U.S. 50
- Marshall Drive from Route 110 to N. Meade Street
- Eastbound N. Fairfax Drive from N. Pierce Street to N. Fort Myer Drive
- Exit ramp from westbound U.S. 50 to N. Lynn Street (Rosslyn exit)
- Exit ramp from eastbound U.S. 50 to N. Meade Street (Rosslyn exit)
- Long Bridge Drive from Boundary Channel Drive to S. 10th Street
Closures beginning at 8:30 p.m. in Arlington
- Eastbound U.S. 50 at N. Pershing Drive
- Columbia Pike between S. Orme Street and S. Joyce Street
- S. Joyce Street from Army Navy Dr to Columbia Pike
The parade will run along Constitution Avenue from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Capitol Fourth Concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol begins at 8 p.m. The celebration concludes with the fireworks display near dusk.
Driving into and parking near the city will become increasingly difficult through the day. As dusk nears, a surge of inbound traffic normally swells toward the Potomac River bridges.
The George Washington Parkway, Interstate 395, Interstate 66 and Route 110 in Arlington normally slow to a crawl as the fireworks display begins. The Metropolitan Police Department says that any vehicles that stop on the bridges will be immediately ticketed and towed. In years past, police have stopped all traffic on I-395 at the 14th Street Bridge during the fireworks show.
Authorities strongly urge those who plan on attending to take public transportation. Metro expects more than 500,000 riders on July 4 and will provide extra rail service to downtown Washington. More on rail service can be found here.
A bike corral will be set up by Capital Bikeshare at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue in Northwest for riders using Bikeshare to get to the National Mall. The corral will be available from 12 p.m. until an hour after the fireworks on the Mall are over.
The National Park Service has set up entry points to gain access to the National Mall:
National Mall and Memorial Parks Event Entrances:
- West entrance, or George Washington Memorial Parkway side of Arlington Memorial Bridge;
- Constitution Avenue and Henry Bacon Drive, NW
- Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, NW
- Constitution Avenue and 15th Streets, NW
- West side of 14th Street, at Madison Drive NW
- West side of 14th Street, at Jefferson Drive, SW
- Maine Avenue and Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW (i.e. formerly 15th Street)
- East Basin Drive, SW, at Inlet Bridge
- East Basin Drive, SW, just south of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (Access to Jefferson Memorial ONLY)
George Washington Memorial Parkway Event Entrances:
- U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and Netherlands Carillon (no access to National Mall)
- Memorial Circle (access to National Mall via Arlington Memorial Bridge limited to pedestrians only)
- Columbia Island/Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove (no access to Potomac Riverfront or National Mall)
- Gravelly Point, north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (no access to National Mall)
- Washington Sailing Marina at Daingerfield Island (no access to National Mall)
View a map of the event access points here.
Other Fireworks Displays on July 4th
Fireworks will draw crowds and light up the suburban skies near the following towns during the evening: Alexandria, Annapolis, Bowie, Germantown, College Park, Columbia, Fairfax, Falls Church, Frederick, Gaithersburg, Greenbelt, Kensington, Laurel, Leesburg, Manassas, McLean, Poolesville, Reston, Rockville, Takoma Park, Vienna, and Waldorf.
Expect congestion and stay alert for pedestrians near these fireworks displays. Follow the direction of local police when available.
Finally, travelers on Thursday evening who are within sight of a large fireworks show should stay extra alert for drivers who may be pulled over on the shoulders or roadside. Often, drivers will slow down to watch the displays in open areas and near clearings.
The Washington Nationals are home for the holiday weekend. The Nats will play the Milwaukee Brewers in a three-game series lasting until Thursday and will host the San Diego Padres on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Expect crowds on the Southeast/Southwest Freeway and South Capitol Street before and after the games.
- Wednesday, July 5 vs. Brewers 6:05 p.m.
- Thursday, July 4 vs. Brewers 11:05 a.m.
- Friday, July 5 vs. Padres 7:05 p.m.
- Saturday, July 6 vs. Padres 4:05 p.m.
- Sunday, July 7 vs. Padres 1:35 p.m.
On Saturday, the Nats' Post-Game Concert Series kicks off with the husband-and- wife duo Thompson Square.
Other Holiday Road Changes
On Independence Day, the Rock Creek Parkway and Canal Road will run two-way all day long. The reversible lanes on Connecticut Avenue and 16th Street will remain in a non-rush hour orientation.
Rush hour parking restrictions will be lifted in the city. Parking at metered spots will be free on Thursday, except for in the area around Nationals Park.
Emergency No Parking signs will be in place on many streets downtown. Parking restrictions will be in effect from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the following routes:
- 3rd Street from Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue
- 4th Street from Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue
- 7th Street from Independence Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue
- 14th Street from Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue
- 15th Street from Constitution Avenue to E Street NW
- 17th Street from Constitution Avenue to E Street NW
- Constitution Avenue NW from Pennsylvania Avenue to 23rd Street NW
- 10th Street NW between Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue
- 14th Street NW between Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue
- C Street NW from 17th Street to 18th Street
- Virginia Avenue NW from Constitution Avenue to 21st Street
Metro Track Work
Following the festivities on Independence Day, Metro gets down to business with weekend track work on the Blue and Orange lines. There is no work scheduled on the Red, Green and Yellow lines this weekend. The work begins at 10 p.m. Friday and lasts through late Sunday.
- Buses replace trains from Stadium-Armory to Cheverly
- Deanwood and Minnesota Avenue stations are closed
- Trains outside the work zone will run every 15 minutes
- Buses replace trains from Stadium-Armory to Benning Road
- All stations will remain open
- Trains outside the work zone will run every 15 minutes
Metro: "10 things to know about taking Metro July 4"
- Metrorail will open at 7 a.m. and close at midnight.
- Trains will operate on a Saturday schedule for most of the day, ramping up to
rush-hour service levels before and after the fireworks display. There is no
scheduled track work on July 4.
- Parking is free at all Metro-operated lots and garages.
- Off-peak rail fares will be in effect all day. To avoid lines, load enough
value on your SmarTrip or paper farecard for your entire round trip.
- Each trip taken with a paper farecard costs $1 more than those taken with a
SmarTrip card. SmarTrip cards are available at all Metrorail stations, as well as
local CVS, Giant and Safeway stores and Metro sales offices.
- We recommend planning your trip to a station on the same line as your starting
point to avoid congestion at transfer stations. All Metrorail lines have stations
within a short walk of the National Mall. Walk back to the same station at the
end of the event.
- Use stations other than Smithsonian or Federal Triangle. These two stations
often see the heaviest ridership (and largest crowds) for National Mall events.
Also note that Smithsonian Station will be "entry-only" at the conclusion of the
- See something? Say something! While there are no specific or credible threats
against Metro at this time, Metro Transit Police reminds riders to report any
unattended items or suspicious activity to the nearest uniformed employee, or call
Metro Transit Police at (202) 962-2121.
- Metrobus service will operate on a Sunday schedule. Buses that travel near the
National Mall may be subject to detours. Check wmata.com/alerts/bus for details.
- No bicycles or large coolers on Metrorail. For safety reasons--and to make room for everyone--we restrict these large items on July 4. Collapsable bicycles are permitted.
- Fourth of July entertainment guide: Music, fireworks and more
- Metro to run extra extra trains for fireworks in D.C.
Posted on: Friday 6/28/2013 1:51pm
WASHINGTON - The usual summer traffic patterns will slow weekend drivers down for the next several months. Steady increases in highway volume have led to delays on Interstate 95 in Virginia and Route 50 toward the Bay Bridge as vacationers and weekenders take to the roads. Typical summer travel weather, including the occasional downpour, can also be expected this weekend.
In addition to possible volume and weather delays, there are a few events and work zones to be aware of around town.
The DC Metro HBCU Alumni Alliance 5k Run/2k Walk will be held on Saturday at 8 a.m. on the Howard University campus, in front of the School of Medicine. The course will close parts of W Street, 5th and 6th streets and Gresham Street, but is not expected to have a major impact on travel.
Runners in the Pacers Mini Relay will dart between Pacers Running Store locations in Alexandria, Arlington and Washington on Saturday afternoon.
The relay begins around 4 p.m. near King Street and Payne Street, in Old Town. Runners will make their way north to Pentagon City, then into Washington toward a handoff location near Logan Circle, then back to Arlington. There are no road closures scheduled for the relay, but drivers should remain alert near crosswalks.
The Run for Independence 8k course will be held at 7 a.m. on Saturday in historic Leesburg. The eight- mile race will affect travel through Leesburg on routes including Catoctin Circle, North King Street (Route 15) and Battlefield Parkway, where runners will be relegated to the curb lanes. Be careful winding your way around the traffic cones and follow police direction where available.
Weekend sports delays
DC United plays against the Vancouver Whitecaps at RFK Stadium at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Fans driving to the match from Virginia should by now be used to the new traffic pattern on the eastbound Southeast/Southwest Freeway (I-395/I-695). Since there is no longer direct access to Parking Lot 8 from the freeway fans should take the outbound 11th Street Bridge to D.C. Route 295 North toward Benning Road to arrive at the stadium lots.
Normal traffic control during DC United home matches includes a lane closure on Route 295 south before the on-ramp from East Capitol Street. Although this lane reduction creates a safer merge for post-game traffic, it also tends to delay inbound traffic from Maryland and Northeast Washington on Kenilworth Avenue. Since this weekend's match is later than last weekend, delays should be relatively brief.
I-95 express lanes construction
Construction of the new I-95 express lanes is in full swing. Crews will close the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on Friday night as the process of transforming the express lanes into dynamically tolled lanes continues.
On Saturday, the express lanes will serve southbound traffic through early afternoon, but a short segment will remain closed for work from south of Duke Street on I-395 to the Franconia-Springfield Parkway on I-95. When the work zone clears by mid-afternoon, the lanes are expected to open to northbound traffic.
The lanes will again be closed late Saturday night through early Sunday morning.
Delays are likely for southbound traffic on I-95 on Saturday morning. Although the express lanes will be accessible south of Newington, many motorists are likely to remain in the mainline, which will likely be heavy early toward Woodbridge.
11th Street Bridge construction
In Southeast Washington, the major overhaul of the 11th Street Bridge and its connections to and from the Southeast Freeway continue on Sunday. A section of 8th Street SE between Virginia Avenue and I Street will be closed between noon and 6 p.m. to begin construction of a new on-ramp to the eastbound freeway.
Motorists may have noticed that construction of the new outbound freeway bridge has commenced. The demolition of the old outbound bridge was largely completed as of last week as the last bridge pier was dismantled near 8th Street.
This new bridge will connect the eastbound freeway to the outbound 11th Street Bridge. Currently outbound traffic, in a temporary configuration, is traveling in what will eventually be the inbound lanes.
Metrorail track work
All Metro stations will remain open this weekend, but routine track work will lead to delays on all five rail lines. The work begins at 10 p.m. on Friday and lasts through the weekend.
Red Line trains will operate every 20 minutes. Orange and Blue line trains will run at 24-minute intervals. Yellow Line trains will operate every 24 minutes between Huntington & Mt. Vernon Square.
On the Green Line, trains will single-track through a work zone between Branch Avenue and College Park. Trains will otherwise run at normal intervals.
You can find more on this weekend's track work here.
Posted on: Thursday 6/27/2013 4:21pm
WASHINGTON - Metro will halt track work and add extra trains to handle the crowds this Fourth of July.
Metrorail will operate from 7 a.m. to midnight on the nation's birthday and will offer service levels similar to the rush hour from 6 p.m. to midnight to accommodate the heavy traffic.
In addition to the 9:10 p.m. fireworks display on the National Mall, the Washington Nationals play at home during the day. And more than 500,000 people are expected to travel on Metro to holiday events throughout the region.
No track work will delay riders or trains and all stations will be open. However Smithsonian Station will be entry-only after the fireworks end.
Riders are encouraged to avoid transferring once inside the system to avoid crowded transfer stations. And riders will not be allowed to bring bicycles or large coolers on Metro trains.
"We start out running a Saturday service. But as you get closer to late afternoon, early evening, we get to almost full rush hour service. But only so many can fit through the station at once," says Metro General Manager Richard Sarles.
Sarles encourages riders to purchase their fare card in advance to avoid long lines at the fare machines. And choose a station a little further from the National Mall to avoid crowded platforms and escalators.
"Walk down from Gallery Place or L'Enfante Plaza or even frankly Metro Center. It's not that long of a walk," he says.
Alternate stations include:
- Foggy Bottom for Orange or Blue line riders
- Metro Center for Red, Orange or Blue line riders
- Archives for Yellow or Green line riders
- Gallery Place for Red, Yellow or Green line riders
- Union Station for Red Line riders
- L'Enfant Plaza for Orange, Blue, Yellow or Green line riders
- Capitol South for Orange or Blue line riders
Metro has posted more details and fare information for the holiday on its website.
WTOP's Ari Ashe contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.
Posted on: Saturday 6/22/2013 2:39am
WASHINGTON - Summer weekend traffic patterns will be in place for the next several months as most schools have let out for vacation.
On Sundays the usual sore spots where traffic tends to slow include northbound Interstate 95 through Fredericksburg, Va. and Stafford County, Va. and Route 50 through Queenstown, Md. It is not uncommon for Interstate 66 to bog down during the daytime hours.
Events around the area
Many motorists will be heading downtown for Safeway's National Capital Barbecue Battle. The event will block Pennsylvania Avenue downtown between 9th and 14th streets NW. It will run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Expect delays on the routes around Federal Triangle and inside the 12th Street Tunnel.
In Clarendon, the Arlington Festival of the Arts will block Highland Street through the weekend.
From 4 a.m. on June 22 to 10 p.m. on June 23, 2013:
- N. Highland St. from Washington Blvd. to 1210 N. Highland St. -- Vehicles will be permitted to enter and exit the parking garage for 3100 Clarendon Blvd. via N. 11th St.
- N. Hartford St. from N. Highland St. to 1228 N. Hartford St.
The festival will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and may affect traffic on Wilson and Clarendon boulevards. The event is accessible by Metro.
In Leesburg the popular Northern Virginia Brewfest will take place at Morven Park. In the past, this event has caused significant delays on Route 15 between the Route 7 Bypass and Lucketts, Va. Police will be on scene directing traffic after 10 a.m. near the park entrances.
Loudoun County authorities warn that attendees will encounter a new traffic pattern on Route 15. Earlier this month the traffic signals on Route 15 at Sycolin Road were removed as the construction of a new overpass ensues.
Track work on Metro will prompt delays on the Red Line. Shuttle buses will replace trains between Rhode Island Avenue and Forest Glen.
The Brookland, Takoma and Silver Spring stations will be closed. Two types of buses will be available outside these stations. Limited-stop buses will run between Forest Glen and Rhode Island Avenue and will make one stop at Silver Spring. Local buses will make stops at all closed stations.
The Fort Totten station will be open for Green and Yellow line service only.
Trains will single track on the Orange Line between Cheverly and New Carrollton. Delays are not expected between Vienna and Cheverly.
There is no scheduled work on the Blue, Yellow and Green lines.
Posted on: Tuesday 6/18/2013 3:06am
WASHINGTON - On your commute there's probably one traffic light that just drives you crazy. You're not alone, but there's a reason traffic signals work they way they do.
Traffic lights facilitate the flow of traffic, and an array of traffic signals working harmoniously regulates the flow of traffic across a broader region.
In densely populated areas, however, a network of signals can quickly become overloaded during peak travel times. That's when frustration sets in.
An unofficial WTOP poll conducted in late May asked local motorists to identify the intersections that cost them the most time. The map below illustrates the widespread nature of the grievances aired by these commuters.
View Traffic Lights Poll in a larger map
The process of coordinating a network of traffic lights can be complex and exhaustive. Detailed studies and weekly surveys account for drivers traveling roads of varying capacity across a broad area to various points at different times of the day. The balance between optimal and gridlock is often tenuous.
Wayne Wentz, chief of transportation, engineering and operations for Arlington County's Department of Environmental Services, says highway engineers often work on razor-thin margins when timing a series of traffic signals.
"You have to essentially time a whole corridor for the worst intersection in that corridor, two major arterials (that) both need a certain amount of time to serve them. All the other streets on each corridor then need to match that same cycle length if we're going to synchronize," Wentz says.
It's not just vehicles - planners also have to factor in pedestrian traffic patterns at nearby crosswalks.
Wentz says that long cycle lengths are pedestrian-unfriendly and can lead to jaywalking and other unsafe behaviors, which can result in bigger problems for road users.
Highway engineers classify the batch of vehicles that accelerate away from a green light as a "platoon."
"We try to do a time-space analysis," Wentz says. "If any particular signal lets a platoon of cars go and that platoon is going to travel at a certain speed our goal is to progress every platoon all the way through the length of roadway.
"We know the length of the average platoon of 15, 20, 30 cars and we know how far apart the signals are. If you take the distance divided by the speed, you know how long it should take that platoon to get from signal to signal to signal."
This simplified approach to traffic management relies on an idealized traffic flow. Wentz says it gets more complicated with added volume.
"The greens are supposed to be long enough for every platoon, but because we load some blocks up with (traffic from) side streets and driveways and because speeds aren't perfectly regulated, platoons start to break up. We can't perfectly predict the volumes."
Throughout the region, various jurisdictions are charged with the responsibility of traffic signal coordination and control. Although a series of lights may be coordinated along a stretch of roadway, they may not be synchronized across jurisdictional lines. Backups can therefore result in corridors that span county and city lines.
WTOP contacted a few of these local governments and inquired about the most troublesome intersections identified in the poll.
Most of the representatives insist that a mistimed signal is a rare occurrence.
In many cases, what seems like a poorly-timed intersection from one vantage point is functioning properly in a larger system. In other cases there is simply too much input.
The road network is then said to be over capacity, and the traffic signals are overwhelmed.
"Every intersection has a capacity. There are times when the demand volumes can exceed that capacity and that's when the level of service falls," Wentz says.
When traffic volumes increase, synchronization of signals on one road gives way to the optimization of the regional traffic flow on all of the roads. This, Wentz says, comes at a cost.
"If you have two main streets that are crossing each other, you've got to (regulate) both of those corridors."
In other words, what is good for the individual is not necessarily best for the whole.
Still, there will always be a running list of traffic signals that seem to defy the greater good.
"Sometimes there are faults in the system. Sometimes it's worth calling your jurisdiction and saying, 'Have you noticed there's a change?' But it can also be that there are just situations that people aren't aware of. It may be that the particular signal they're going to is optimized for the intersecting street," Wentz says.
The agencies that oversee traffic lights on major arteries do their best to flush out weaknesses that may arise from irregularities in the traffic pattern. Accommodating everyone's needs can often be challenging, if not impossible.
"Like anything you can think of, sometimes stuff breaks — no conspiracy, just the way it is," WTOP Traffic Reporter Bob Marbourg says.
"Even when the engineers try to optimize and maximize the flow of traffic, the solution will almost always be a compromise but hopefully without compromising safety."