‘A real zoo’: Drivers greeted by gridlock on US 1 in Va. after being diverted off I-95

It was out of the frying pan and into the fire for drivers in Virginia who were dislodged from Interstate 95’s daylong gridlock Tuesday, only to find themselves in the same situation on the adjacent U.S. 1.

WTOP Traffic Reporter Mary DePompa said that road crews were redirecting people off I-95 beginning midmorning Tuesday onto U.S. 1. That’s when DePompa said “our phones started lighting up like Christmas trees again.”

“It was shut down, jammed with people who were getting off 95,” she said.

Traffic was stopped in both directions due multiple incidents, with icy conditions along U.S. 1 near Telegraph Road and Boswell’s Corner being a particular problem. WTOP Traffic Reporter Reada Kessler said that it was due to some tractor-trailer issues.

It left frustrated WTOP listeners stranded for hours on the road.

“Seems like a tractor-trailer is blocking off everything off Route 1 and we’re stuck in the car with no food no nothing, it’s miserable,” said Michael Henderson, who was in the car for more than four hours with his wife and two kids. “I’m telling you we should’ve got a better warning about this snow.”

Johnny from New York City called in to say: “This is a nightmare. There are people here that need gas, there are people here that need water. Somebody wake up the governor and send some [help], this is turning into a real zoo.”

Claire Hughes, a Bethesda, Maryland, resident, was returning home from a trip to Charleston with her family when she first got stuck in the traffic on I-95 and then wound up on the the mess on U.S. 1 about noon Tuesday.

At that time she first spoke with WTOP, she had been at a dead-stop a few miles north of Kings Dominion on U.S. 1 for over five hours.

“We haven’t seen any accidents or anything. The three lanes are clear, the three lanes that are going across 95 right now are opened, so I don’t understand why we’re just stopped here like this,” Hughes said.

Later that night, going on 24 hours stuck on the roads, she said she felt “abandoned.”

“We need to get back on the highways, they had all day to clean them,” she told WTOP Tuesday night. “And now we need to get back on them so we can go home and we’re not sleeping in our car for day two of this nightmare.”

Another listener named Maureen said she had been stuck in the Stafford County portion of the U.S. 1 for 11 hours — since noon on Tuesday — and said, “I’m about at my wit’s end now.”

The road wouldn’t officially be reopened until 4 a.m. Wednesday.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported from U. S. 1 down in Stafford on Wednesday morning and noted that, while the road was open, traffic lights were still dark from the storm-induced power outage.

He said that unplowed side streets that fed into the road were complicating travel, such as the intersection at Bells Hill Road.

“Drivers inching down the hill toward Route 1 hope they stop before entering the dark intersection,” Augenstein reported. “That will be a challenge even where power is back on. The transition between plowed and icy, or vice versa, can be dangerous.”

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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