WASHINGTON — The ever-vexing route through Washington known as the Southeast-Southwest Freeway has become even more confusing for downtown drivers. Along with the resurrection of Interstate 695, a previously hidden designation for the eastern half of the freeway, new signs for eastbound exits now appear to contradict one another.
The guide signs above the freeway now show the exit for C Street SW/U.S. Capitol as both Exit 2B and Exit 6. This portion of the freeway is officially Interstate 395 North. However, the exit for Potomac Park beyond the 14th Street Bridge is also signed as Exit 2. The new signs were installed about two months ago.
The District Department of Transportation has not commented on the signs. A spokesman for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials based in Washington, D.C. was unaware of the error, but acknowledged that the signs on the freeway have long been confusing. The Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering at ASSHTO oversees the continuity of highway designations across the country.
While commuters and regular drivers have learned to ignore the signs on the freeway, truck drivers are routinely confounded by the over-height signs before the 3rd Street Tunnel. Trucks will often grind to a halt in the travel lanes, backing up traffic on the inbound 14th Street Bridge.
The freeway’s complex and counterintuitive interstate designations have been known to lead to delays in the District’s fire department and rescue response times to accidents on the freeway near the junction of I-695, I-395 and the 3rd Street Tunnel.