For about two weeks, a convoy of trucks, RVs and other vehicles, has slowly roved around the Beltway and on the interstate freeways in the District during the late morning and afternoon hours most days, and that’s led to a variety of impacts for D.C.-area drivers.
Usually the trucks, often paced by police, remain in one or two highway lanes. It is in this time frame that drivers with business in D.C. should remain flexible and allow for extra time.
Minor to moderate impacts
The demonstration remained on Interstate 270 and Interstate 495 from Sunday, March 6, through the following weekend. There was some slowing on the Beltway and I-270 behind the trucks, but delays were manageable. After the trucks and cars of the convoy passed, congestion generally dissipated or transitioned into normal rush hour slowing.
Somewhat longer northbound travel times were observed during the midafternoon hours on I-270 between Germantown and Frederick on some weekdays, as the final platoons returned to the Hagerstown Speedway during rush hour. The organizers canceled the daily drive one day last week because of rainy weather.
Monday, March 14
Major to extreme impacts
The convoy moved southbound from I-270 around the Outer Loop and northbound on Interstate 395 into the District, and major delays developed as the traffic flow broke down at the 14th Street Bridge.
The traffic control, implemented by the D.C. police, closed all eastbound exits on the Southeast/Southwest Freeway and most southbound exits on I-295 for roughly two hours.
The closures included the exits for 14th Street Southwest, East Potomac Park, the 12th Street Expressway, Maine Avenue Southwest, the 3rd Street Tunnel, South Capitol Street, 6th Street Southeast, Southeast Boulevard, and D.C. Route 295.
The ramp closures, aimed at moving the trucks through D.C. and keeping them on interstates, held the freeway at capacity. Some inbound drivers from Virginia who were swept into the convoy suffered extreme delays; unable to exit, these drivers were detoured in bumper-to-bumper traffic with the trucks southbound across the 11th Street Bridge and toward Blue Plains in the direction of National Harbor. Some drivers were seen turned around on the I-295 median strip, and a few became stuck in the mud.
Police allowed limited local traffic through the checkpoints. The queues in the right lanes of the freeways led to more friction and further slowed traffic. Southbound traffic on Route 295 beyond Pennsylvania Avenue was diverted onto the 11th Street Bridge toward the downtown exits. Most ramp closures were lifted by 4 p.m., but delays remained on the freeways.
Tuesday, March 15
The convoy split into a couple groups. One roved northbound on I-395 in Virginia, while another took I-295 into D.C.
The I-395 group was smaller compared to Monday; the most significant impacts were dealt to drivers on I-295 and D.C. Route 295. The police response on I-295 closed most northbound ramps near Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and the Department of Homeland Security, along with the left exit to the 11th Street Bridge and Southeast/Southwest Freeway.
Farther north on Route 295, northbound traffic was stop-and-go toward Maryland, with many ramps in Northeast D.C. and at the Kenilworth Avenue interchange for Route 50 blocked. Some participants went northbound on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, where commercial truck traffic is prohibited, while most were sent eastbound on Route 50 back to the Beltway. Most closures were lifted by 3 p.m.
Wednesday, March 16
Major to extreme impacts
The convoys split into several groups. Some attempted to access I-66 late in the morning, without much success. Several smaller groups in pickup trucks roamed through downtown streets, with rolling road closures.
The longest delays resulted, once again, from an inbound group on the 14th Street Bridge and the associated police traffic control in Southwest D.C.
Northbound traffic on I-395 backed up to Washington Boulevard by 1 p.m. as the first group approached the 14th Street Bridge. An hour later, a second wave with a few dozen participants began moving northbound on I-395 through Virginia. Shortly before 3:30 p.m. the group came to a stop on the main span of the bridge in a center lane for about 20 minutes, leading to longer delays.
The reason for the stoppage is unclear, but eyewitness accounts described an obstruction that impeded the convoy’s progress across the bridge. Live streams and traffic cameras showed several participants getting out of their trucks and walking on the interstate highway across travel lanes during this time.
The convoy began moving but around 4 p.m. quickly lurched to a stop near the Francis Case Bridge as a large D.C. police response surrounded the group. A D.C. police spokesperson said that the heavy police response, comprising dozens of officers, was for a “minor traffic accident.”
The incident was resolved and traffic slowly began moving eastbound, with exit ramps closed on I-395, I-695 and I-295 south. Most ramp closures were lifted by 4:30 p.m. but delays persisted into the evening on the Southeast/Southwest Freeway and in downtown areas as rush hour drivers re-routed through Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle. Heavier than usual inbound traffic was noted at all of D.C.’s Potomac River bridges, including the Chain and Key bridges, through early evening.
Thursday, March 17
Small groups of trucks were spotted in various locations in the District but no significant delays and only brief closures have been reported.