Early morning crashes kill one, clog Capital Beltway and I-270 for 8 hours

truck crashed on beltway
A truck carrying magazines crashed early Tuesday on the Capital Beltway’s Inner Loop near the Mormon Temple. (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue/Pete Piringer)

The wet weather that came with the overnight cold front produced more than just downed trees and utility poles, it also created slippery roads that some drivers had trouble with early Tuesday morning. One crash alone was responsible for a delay on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 in Maryland that took over eight hours to resolve.

How come? The tractor-trailer that lost control on the Beltway’s Inner Loop near Connecticut Avenue at 2:30 a.m. was carrying mail. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue public information officer Pete Piringer tweeted that the truck held copies of New York Magazine, among other items.

One truck carrying a load of New Yorker magazines and mail crashed, closing the Beltway’s Inner Loop near the Mormon Temple around 2:30 a.m.

Maryland State Police confirmed with WTOP that since the truck carried U.S. mail, a postal inspector needed to come to the scene of the crash to monitor the painstaking clean-up.

The mail truck crash wasn’t Tuesday’s only accident with a difficult conclusion. The state police said a crash on the westbound side of the Beltway, a single-vehicle crash near New Hampshire Avenue, killed one person and injured three others.

Those were just two of four serious crashes in Montgomery County between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Three of the incidents were close to being cleared by 7 a.m., and the slowdowns resolved themselves shortly thereafter, but the mail truck crash shut down all but one lane until about 10:30 a.m. The constriction caused a massive delay stretching from Tysons Corner in Virginia all the way past Connecticut Avenue, a distance of about 12 miles. While the lanes opened just after 10:30 a.m., the delay continued.

A Google Maps view of the Capital Beltway at about 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, shows the traffic delays stretching into Virginia and north to Rockville, Maryland.

Jack Taylor of WTOP’s traffic center said he was surprised by the spate of accidents.

“In relatively dry conditions, it’s an interesting way to start the morning,” Taylor said. “Also, watching the extensive clean-up in real time of a trailer full of mail made this more unique than your typical tractor-trailer accident. Normally when there’s debris on the road it just gets pushed off to the side [but they can’t do that here].”

Beyond the Inner Loop, the mail truck crash affected southbound traffic on I-270 all the way to its intersection with Route 28 in Rockville, Maryland.

Multiple serious incidents paralyze commuter routes

The early morning accidents continued in rapid fashion after the mail truck lost its load.

At about 2:45 a.m., a truck carrying a load of potatoes heading north on I-270 near Clarksburg crashed, spilling fuel.

At about 3:30 a.m., a tractor-trailer crashed on southbound I-270 near Maryland Route 27, causing a fuel spill and some delays for drivers.

A single-vehicle crash on the Outer Loop of Capital Beltway near New Hampshire Ave. just after 3 a.m. killed one person and injured three others. The Maryland State Highway Administration reported the crash closed all lanes of the roadway, and others on the scene noted another crash among cars already stuck in the back-up.

Maryland State Police said the crash was the result of a single vehicle with four occupants losing control and hitting a wall.

Drivers were at one point diverted from the Outer Loop at New Hampshire Avenue and re-joined the Capital Beltway at University Boulevard. By 6:30 a.m. all lanes were again open on the Outer Loop.

The wet weather is expected to continue through Tuesday afternoon.

Current conditions

Throughout the region there were reports of downed trees blocking several roads in Loudoun County, Virginia, D.C., and in Montgomery and Howard counties in Maryland.


Tuesday: Cloudy and much cooler. Rainy in the morning. Showers ending late. Chance of rain: 80%. Wind: Northwest 5-15 mph. Highs: 74-79.

Tuesday night: Showers end before midnight. Mostly cloudy. Comfortable by morning. Chance Of rain: 20%. Wind: Northwest 5-10 mph. Lows: 60- 68.

Wednesday: Sun and clouds. Much less humid. Nice breeze. Chance Of rain: <20%. Wind: North 5-15 mph. Highs: 78- 84.

Thursday: Sunny and beautiful. Low humidity. Light breeze. Chance Of rain: 0%. Wind: Northeast 5-10 mph. Highs: 80-86.

Friday: Sunny and warmer. Low humidity. Chance Of rain: 0%. Wind: East 5-10 mph. Highs: 83-88.

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for USATODAY.com, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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