WASHINGTON — It’s the District’s busiest road, yet most drivers don’t even seem to know its name.
The Southeast-Southwest Freeway is technically two separate interstates, Interstate 395 and Interstate 695, which join together near South Capitol Street. WTOP conducted an unofficial survey at an I-695 off-ramp along 6th Street SE to find out what drivers on the busy freeway call it.
WTOP questioned 53 people between noon and 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10.
When asked how they refer to the road that they just exited from, more than half of the drivers, 56 percent, misidentified it as I-395 or didn’t know. About 24 percent correctly identified it as I-695. Roughly one in six drivers referred to it by its colloquial name, the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.
The District Department of Transportation began installing signage that displayed the I-695 shield a couple of years ago as the 11th Street Bridge Project was wrapping up. The Southeast Freeway is shorter than two miles in length, a figment of what city planners envisioned it would look like half a century ago.
DDOT estimates roughly 70,000 drivers travel I-695 every day. Traffic counts show that significantly more people travel I-395 daily, between 156,000 and 170,000, which could also help to explain why most drivers consider it I-395.
One driver was sure the road she exited from was I-295, which runs between I-695 and the Capital Beltway near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Another man offered a guess that the road was called “West Side Highway,” or something to that effect.
Adding to the confusion is the proximity of low exit numbers on I-395, I-695, I-295 and Route 295. In three miles, a driver could potentially pass three unrelated exit 1s, four exit 2s and two exit 3s.