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Three of nation’s worst bottlenecks are in Northern Virginia, study finds

FILE -- Three of the nation's worst bottlenecks are located in Northern Virginia, according to a report recently unveiled by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON — Northern Virginia is home to some of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country, according to a recent report.

On Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the 50 worst traffic bottlenecks in the nation, based on the Unclogging America’s Arteries 2015 report by the American Highway Users Alliance.

“The D.C. region, from a user’s perspective, is probably the worst in the entire country. We don’t have the sheer number of people that you do in L.A. or Chicago or New York, but it’s pretty miserable out there,” says Greg Cohen, president and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance. “We have more crashes than we should. We are wasting fuel. We’re wasting time. There’s a lot to be done here, and I think the people in the D.C. area deserve some relief.”

The report finds that Arlington has the worst bottleneck in Virginia: The mile-long stretch on Interstate 395, between Washington Boulevard and the George Washington Memorial Parkway, ranked 26th in the nation. Every year, it causes more than a million hours of delays — a loss of $27 million — and wastes more than 322,000 gallons of fuel. Cohen says he used to travel this route frequently.

“It’s the classic case of traffic funneling down with multiple lane drops heading right into the 14th Street Bridge,” he says.

Coming in at No. 41 is the half-mile bottleneck between Interstate 495 and the Dulles Toll Road in Fairfax County, where 500,000 hours and $12 million are lost each year.

“You have a crush of traffic that’s going between Maryland and Virginia,” says Cohen. “Compounding the problem is the fact that Virginia built some very nice express toll lanes and Maryland didn’t. So we’re waiting for Maryland to finish the work.”

In Alexandria, the bottleneck on I-395, from Duke Street to halfway between Duke Street and Edsall Road, ranks 44th. It causes 300,000 hours of delays every year.

The report also says choke points can be addressed and fixed, as with the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement on I-495.

The nation’s worst bottleneck is in Chicago, on the Kennedy Expressway (Interstate 90) between Roosevelt Road and North Nagle Avenue. It’s 12 miles long and causes nearly 17 million hours of delays every year at a cost of more than $400 million.

The worst metropolitan region is Los Angeles, home to six of the 10 worst bottlenecks.

On the local roads, Cohen says there’s good news with innovative technologies.

“Virginia is actually quite a leader,” he says. “[The state has] taken the time to build these toll lanes, which provides travelers an option. Even more vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle technology will get more capacity out of the road. Not only will we save ourselves in time, we’re going to save an enormous amount of fuel and reduce emissions from our vehicles.”

Results from the study

26.  Arlington, Virginia: I-395, between Washington Boulevard and George Washington Memorial Parkway

Queue length: 1.1 miles
Annual total delay: 1,100,000 hours
Annual lost value of time: $27 million
Annual fuel wasted/potential savings: 322,600 gallons

41. Fairfax County, Virginia: I-495 at the Dulles Toll Road

Queue length: 0.5 miles
Annual total delay: 500,000 hours
Annual lost value of time: $12 million
Annual fuel wasted/potential savings: 146,900 gallons

44. Alexandria, Virginia: I-395, from Duke Street to halfway between Duke Street and Edsall Road

Queue length: 0.3 miles
Annual total delay: 300,000 hours
Annual lost value of time: $8,000,000
Annual fuel wasted/potential savings:  83,720 gallons

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