Permanent lane adjustments coming to I-395, GW Parkway

The notoriously abrupt left merge from the 9th Street Tunnel onto the eastbound I-395 Southwest Freeway was eliminated in late December 2020. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

This story was updated Jan. 9, 2021
Years of side-swiping, rear-ending and near misses have prompted traffic pattern changes to crash-prone sections of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Interstate 395.

Northbound traffic on the George Washington Parkway is permanently narrowed into a single lane at the crosswalk near Memorial Bridge.

The change is a part of the National Park Service’s ongoing work aimed at improving safety near the bridge, through Memorial Circle and east of Boundary Channel.

Pedestrians and cyclists crossing the parkway now only bring one lane of high-speed northbound traffic to a stop instead of two.

With only one lane available, northbound traffic between I-395 and Memorial Bridge will likely be congested during the busiest times of the week. The Park Service said it will closely monitor the effectiveness of the changes, which include higher visibility crosswalks, new signs and clearer lane markings through Memorial Circle.

The Park Service hopes the newly bifurcated traffic flow through the eastern side of Memorial Circle will improve safety while facilitating the movement of traffic on and off the bridge.

It now functions more like a traditional traffic circle, with drivers inside the circle given more right of way with separated lanes that streamline throughput on and off the newly rehabilitated bridge.

Additional traffic-calming measures at other crosswalks near the circle, including the narrowing of ramp lanes and installation of traffic bollards, have been in place since fall.

The bypass lane under Memorial Bridge that connects Washington Boulevard to Route 50 remains closed as Park Service crews work to repair a clogged storm drain.

The District Department of Transportation recently unveiled a new traffic pattern on I-395, the Southwest Freeway, near the notorious left merge from the 9th Street Tunnel. Drivers on the freeway between the Southwest Waterfront and 3rd Street Tunnel will notice new striping along the left lanes near the on-ramps from Maine Avenue and the 9th Street Tunnel.

The double lane ramp from Maine Avenue toward I-395 and I-695 is permanently reduced to a single lane that tapers into the left lane of the freeway.

The space created by the shorted merge was used to create a dedicated acceleration lane for eastbound drivers emerging from the nearby 9th Street Tunnel onto the freeway.

The antiquated and abrupt left merge had been the scene of countless crashes since the freeway’s inception decades ago. DDOT officials hope the new configuration will reduce the frequency of collisions at the old ramp terminal.

More than 120 crashes were reported on the freeway between the Waterfront and the 3rd Street Tunnel just this year, according to WTOP Traffic Center records.

Over the summer, DDOT installed a new concrete island on the Georgetown side of Key Bridge. The island serves as refuge for pedestrians attempting to cross M Street and divides the flow of inbound traffic onto Canal Road and M Street.

Canal Road between Georgetown University and Foxhall Road has reopened as of Jan. 9, 2021, after boulders from a landslide blocked both the sidewalk and right lane.

Falling rocks have been an occasional problem along Canal Road between Key Bridge and Chain Bridge in recent years. No injuries have been reported.

Dave Dildine

A native to the Washington area, Dave Dildine is no stranger to the region's complex traffic and weather patterns. Dave joined WTOP in 2010 when the station launched its very own in-house traffic service. You can hear him "on the 8s and when it breaks" from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

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