WASHINGTON — WTOP counts back through the year’s worst rush hours from December to January. Were you caught in one of them? D.C. is known for its daily traffic snarls, but each of these days in 2015 were much worse than others.
15. Thursday, Dec. 3:
This year’s lighting of the National Christmas Tree was not “the most wonderful time of the year” for thousands of downtown commuters. Unlike previous years, Constitution Avenue remained closed through the entire ceremony. Along with blockades along 15th and 17th streets on each side of the Ellipse, the enhanced security caused severe gridlock.
National Christmas Tree Lighting on Ellipse
14. Monday, Nov. 16:
A 10-hour standoff between an armed woman and police shut down several downtown D.C. streets and created big headaches for morning commuters in mid-November. The woman allegedly threatened to harm herself and others. The closures of K, L and M streets near Farragut Square lasted through late Monday morning. D.C. police later said that they tried to keep the secure perimeter “as small as possible.” The woman was taken into custody later that morning, but some streets didn’t reopen until mid-afternoon.
D.C. police standoff
13. Saturday, Nov. 14: National Harbor tree traffic
Huge backups developed late on Saturday, Nov. 14, as thousands of drivers surged toward National Harbor’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Drivers reported being stuck in eight-mile traffic jams that formed on both loops of the Capital Beltway. On Interstate 295, Saturday afternoon traffic was bumper-to-bumper for nearly six miles from the Suitland Parkway toward National Harbor. There were long volume delays on many other roads on this day as well.
12. Wednesday, Nov. 4: Day of traffic closures, chaos
Terrible traffic plagued drivers in Maryland, Virginia and the District on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Early that morning, police closed Route 355 near the National Institutes of Health after a motorcyclist was struck and killed by a Ride On bus. Later that day, several downtown streets were blocked after a pedestrian was struck by a Greyhound bus near busy Mount Vernon Square. The commuter coup de grâce came during the height of the afternoon rush hour, when a presidential motorcade was escorted around the Beltway toward Washington; the traffic holds stalled thousands of drivers on Interstate 495 and routes nearby.
(Courtesy Tom Sherwood/NBC Washington)
Courtesy Tom Sherwood/NBC Washington
11. Friday, Oct. 23:
A seafood truck overturned on the east span of the Bay Bridge on Oct. 23. A portion of the truck was left dangling over the railing. The bridge span was closed for several hours on that Friday morning. There were no injuries.
(Courtesy NBC Washington)
Seafood truck overturns on Bay Bridge
Courtesy NBC Washington
10. Friday, Oct. 16:
Prince George’s County Fire Department’s bomb squad was called to investigate a suspicious package on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge around noon. The contents were determined to be nonexplosive, but the closure of the local lanes of the Beltway’s Inner Loop led to intense delays from Landover to Oxon Hill.
(Courtesy Prince George’s County Fire and EMS)
Woodrow Wilson Bridge bomb scare
Courtesy Prince George's County
9. Wednesday, Sept. 23:
Pope Francis’ visit to Washington in late September was preceded by dire warnings from highway officials: The security closures and crowds, they said, would cause long traffic jams. The “ Pope blesses D.C. traffic worst traffic ever” scenario never unfolded as many commuters stayed home or changed their normal routines. But several smaller traffic snarls did form near motorcade routes as the pope traveled through the city.
8. Monday, Sept. 21 —
Metro riders remain scarred by the after-effects of a fire at power substation near the Stadium-Armory Station. Blue, Orange and Silver line rail service was suspended for several hours when smoke was reported in the rail tunnel.
The damage forced the agency to impose speed restrictions for weeks after the incident. Trains through the area continue to run at a Fire near Stadium-Armory Station reduced frequency due to ongoing power issues.
(Courtesy Adam Tuss/NBC Washington)
Courtesy Adam Tuss/NBC Washington
7. Thursday, Aug. 6:
A track defect outside of Metro’s Smithsonian Station caused a train to derail. Service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines was suspended between McPherson Square and Federal Center Southwest through the morning while crews worked to set the derailed cars back on the tracks.
Metro was later criticized for allowing trains to run despite knowing about the defect for weeks before the derailment. No was hurt.
6. Monday, July 20:
Afternoon MARC rail service was halted after a passenger train struck a CSX maintenance vehicle on the tracks in Silver Spring. The collision occurred around 4:45 p.m. near the intersection of Seminary Road and Forest Glen Road. Delayed MARC riders called their commutes a “disaster” and “a complete nightmare.” Service was restored by the following morning.
MARC train strikes dump truck
5. Thursday, May 7:
A slew of traffic-choking incidents occurred on the first Thursday in May. The southbound lanes of Interstate 95 near Garrisonville were closed after a Greyhound bus caught fire. A medevac helicopter was summoned to the scene after a badly-burned stowaway was found in the luggage compartment. Customers in the 95 Express Lanes were jammed for nearly 10 miles. The main lanes were bumper-to-bumper from Dale City, where a water main break snarled bailout traffic on Dale Boulevard west of the interstate.
Meanwhile, on the Beltway near St. Barnabas Road, the response to a large brush fire caused outrageous backups. Delays on the Inner Loop began in Springfield.
A multistate backup also formed on D.C. Route 295 behind a lane-blocking incident near Burroughs Avenue. The backup rippled across the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and into Virginia before the culprit was finally towed.
Stowaway on bus on I-95
4. Tuesday, March 10:
The tanker truck that overturned on Interstate 95 spilled nearly a thousand gallons of biodiesel fuel in the southbound lanes. The hours-long closures caused long delays on the interstate and the routes nearby. The crash left the tanker on its side, stretching across all lanes of the highway. Three other vehicles were involved in the wreck and one person was taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries. The incident occurred around 10 a.m. and didn’t clear until later that afternoon.
(Courtesy Bill Vaughan)
Overturned tanker on I-95 near Laurel
Courtesy Bill Vaughan
3. Saturday, February 21: In snow, stranded on Beltway for 6 hours
Many drivers hit the roads despite forecasts that called for several inches of heavy, accumulating snow. The snow indeed accumulated quickly — by late morning, most roads were completely snow-covered. The rate of the snowfall overwhelmed drivers and plow operators alike. Some drivers said they were stuck on the Capital Beltway between Interstate 270 and Tysons Corner for more than six hours.
(Maryland State Highway Administration)
Maryland State Highway Administration
2. Monday, Jan. 12:
The 12th day of the year was one of Metro’s worst ever when a tunnel outside the L’Enfant Plaza Station began filling with smoke. The noxious fumes, later found to be caused by an arcing insulator, led to one death and sickened dozens of other passengers. The station, one of the system’s busiest, was evacuated and closed. Rail service to L’Enfant Plaza was suspended for hours, leaving droves of commuters stranded.
After the smoke dissipated, Silver, Orange, and Blue line trains began stopping at the station’s lower platform shortly after 8 p.m. but Yellow Line service remained suspended and service disruptions continued into the next day.
In later hearings conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board, a breakdown in emergency response communications and problems with Metro’s infrastructure, including its ventilation systems, were cited as contributing causes. A Federal Transit Administration report issued in June cited overworked, undertrained and distracted rail controllers as another chronic safety issue that Metro has failed to address.
Metro smoke incident
1. Tuesday, Jan. 6:
A nightmarish commute transpired as a period of heavy snow swept over the region. The Snowbound commute from hell unexpected burst of snow coincided with the height of morning rush hour. Several school systems made a late call to close after thousands of parents and students had already hit the roads. Tremendous traffic delays formed throughout the region. The heavy traffic inhibited road crews from plowing the snow.
Many locals learned the hard way that it doesn’t take a big storm to cause a big disruption; just heavy fall rates and bad timing. In all, two to five inches fell in a six-hour window.
WASHINGTON — WTOP counts back through the year’s worst rush hours from December to January. Were you caught in one of them? D.C. is known for its daily traffic snarls, but each of these days in 2015 was much worse than others.