WASHINGTON — Highway signs are supposed to help, but in the District, some signs are having the opposite effect.
The District Department of Transportation plans to improve the signage along some of the downtown freeways in the coming months, but until then, drivers will be doing a double-take.
With only a few precious seconds to absorb the information presented on a sign, every word counts. See the signs around the District that may have drivers — and even pedestrians — scratching their heads.
Conveniently located off the Southwest Freeway is Exit 6 toward “USB Capitol BJ6SCT LIVIN LA VIDA LOCA.” The old, graffiti-covered sign has been defaced over many years. It’s one of the few remaining button-copy signs in the region — in other words, it’s been around for a long time.
The left exit beyond the sign suffered a yearlong identity crisis back in 2015 when
DDOT mislabeled the exit along the freeway as Exit 2B instead of Exit 6. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The eastern end of Interstate 66 is named the Potomac Freeway but
no one really knows what to call it. There are two boarded up signs above the freeway’s outbound lanes. Perhaps the rotting plywood conceals a sign for the never-built South Leg Freeway. The rickety structure that supports the signage looks like it’s as old as the Eisenhower Interstate System itself. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
To use the crosswalk or not to use the crosswalk.
The combination of these two signs near this Chevy Chase intersection makes no sense. Why not use this crosswalk? It’s at a signalized intersection and it’s fairly well-striped and well-lit, too. Most walkers hustle by this confusing “no pedestrians” sign and step onto Connecticut Avenue without batting an eye. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
At first glance, this stop sign on the ramp from Porter Street to Beach Drive seems harmless, but is it for drivers or cyclists?
About one in three drivers hits the brakes abruptly when approaching this poorly placed sign. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The white plaque below the sign seems to indicate that it may only pertain to bicycle traffic, but its orientation toward the roadway vexes motorists over and over again. Every few minutes or so, a succession of unnecessary stops will lead to a short backup and a burst of rapid-fire honking. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The Interstate 295 and Suitland Parkway junction is a partial cloverleaf interchange, consisting of three ramp loops in its four quadrants. The northbound exit to Suitland Parkway is numbered Exit 3A. OK, so the font isn’t up to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices’ guide sign standards — we’ll let that slide. Otherwise, the sign seems pretty straightforward, except … (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
… the southbound exit for the same road and same destination within the same interchange is labeled 4B. After the 11th Street Bridge Project wrapped up, the District Department of Transportation renumbered the northern section of the freeway, but they may have miscounted backward from five. That, or perhaps they’re just trying to keep drivers on their toes.
DDOT did not respond to several requests for an explanation of the numbering scheme. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
Often confused for its interstate counterpart, D.C. Route 295 (not built to interstate standards) also boasts some odd signage and it’s enough to make any graphic artist shudder. South of Benning Road, an overhead sign gantry sports an awkwardly placed I-395 shield, as if someone slathered some glue onto it and tossed it into the air like a Frisbee until it stuck. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
There are two instances of this signage afterthought south of Benning Road. This section of D.C. 295 is receiving guardrail, curb, gutter and road surface rehabilitation through the end of this year. DDOT says it is preparing to update the guide signs above the freeways in the city and these signs will be included in that endeavor. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The District is chock-full of vexing parking restrictions — even commuter savants are befuddled from time to time. Most drivers know to study the signage carefully before committing to a parking space, but between the rules for rush hour, residential zones, loading zones, snow emergencies and street sweeping,
it’s never easy. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
Canal Road is a scenic byway, but it’s also a busy commuting route. For first-time or out-of-town drivers, there’s a lot of fine print to take in at 35 mph. Canal Road is one of the District’s reversible roads and although the section between Arizona Avenue and the Chain Bridge remains two-way even through the rush hours, the center lane and turn lanes change direction at very specific times.
Pro tip: If you see headlights coming toward you, stay right. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
Have you seen any odd or confusing signs in the District, Maryland or Virginia? Let us know! (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
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