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Posted at 8:45 AM ET, 01/14/2011

Canal Road closed in NW DC

By Mark Berman
Mark Berman

A fatal accident earlier this morning at Canal Road and Clark Place in Northwest Washington has closed Canal Road in both directions. The road is closed between Arizona Avenue and Foxhall Road. Two people were killed in the accident, and investigators are on the scene right now, said Sgt. Grisel Reid of the D.C. police. The accident took place at around 5 a.m. and there is no timetable yet on when the road might reopen.

The road is expected to remain closed through the morning rush hour and beyond. Eastbound traffic is being diverted onto Reservoir Road and westbound traffic is being diverted to Foxhall Road.

The accident involved two vehicles, but both of the people killed were in one vehicle, said an official with the D.C. police. Another official with the D.C. police said they believe this is due to ice on the roadway, but could not confirm that until the investigation was complete.

Some alternate routes suggested by the District Department of transportation: Connecticut Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue and 16th Street in the District; G.W. Parkway and the Key Bridge to get to M Street or the Whitehurst Freeway in Virginia; and the Whitehurst Freeway if you need to get to K Street. MacArthur Boulevard is open and an option, but they warn that there will be heavy traffic there.

By 7:30 a.m., traffic on Chain Bridge was incredibly backed up, with delays stretching back onto Glebe Road. Expect big, big delays heading towards this spot. Traffic on westbound Foxhall Road was slowing to a crawl at Canal Road by 8 a.m., but by 8:45 a.m. had largely cleared up and looked smooth. By 9:50 a.m., Foxhall Road looked completely clear. Chain Bridge remains very backed up as of 9:50 a.m., although at less of a complete standstill than an hour earlier.

Traffic cameras showed cars smoothly flowing from Foxhall Road onto eastbound Canal Road just east of where police are blocking off Canal Road at around 6:45 a.m. Traffic started to get a little heavier after 7 a.m., but there still aren't any major backups on Foxhall Road at this point.

This is expected to impact traffic up on the Chain Bridge, which means this could have a significant impact on commuters in Virginia as well. Expect delays if you're taking Glebe Road towards Chain Bridge. There may also be backups stretching to the east on Canal Road that could slow traffic heading through Georgetown and even cause problems on the Key Bridge.

[This post has been updated. Most recent update at 9:55 a.m.]

By Mark Berman  | January 14, 2011; 8:45 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Congestion  
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Comments

The ice on Canal Road has been an ongoing issue throughout these winter months (never mind the water that accumulates during the spring).This road is frequently closed due to rain, so I can’t imagine that city officials are unaware of the problem. According to an eye witness report, the passengers of the vehicle hit the ice and skidded into the inbound traffic lane. Assuming this is true, I'm just curious as to how many MORE people have to DIE before officials decide to fix the drainage issue on Canal Road.

Posted by: skichic1012 | January 14, 2011 7:13 AM | Report abuse

The drainage on Canal Road is horrible. It is absolutely appalling that two people had to loose their lives for someone to finally take notice that this is a problem. This issue needs to be addressed immediately to prevent more families from loosing their loved ones due to outright negligance.

Posted by: Flyline98 | January 14, 2011 8:11 AM | Report abuse

As a frequent user of Chain Bridge and Canal Road, I agree with the posters noting the constant -- and unaddressed -- problem with ice accumulations. There is also a problem on the Virginia side of the bridge, on Glebe Road. No matter what the weather, there always seems to be water on Glebe Road right past the bridge and into the first turn. It seems to be coming down the hillside. And it ices up during freezing weather.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 14, 2011 8:37 AM | Report abuse

True about the water problem on that Road. I would ride my motorcycle to Chain Bridge and often encounter huge puddles days after rains. Another thing about that road is speeders early in the morning. Quite often I was tailgated in the wee hours when no other vehicles besides myself and another driver behind were on that road. And I admit wasn't going slow! Install cameras!

Posted by: johng1 | January 14, 2011 8:42 AM | Report abuse

My condolences to the family of those who lost their lives in today's Canal Road accident. This fact that this accident happened is not surprising for many of us. Those of us who drive on Canal Road daily are keenly aware that, in addition to some other ice patches, there are two particularly horrific ice patches -- one just before (going inbound) the intersection with Reservoir Road and another just before the intersection with Clark Place, both in the left lane. On a daily basis in the colder months, I and many others slow down just before those two ice patches and either crawl over them or move into the right lane. For those less familiar with Canal Road these are clearly hazardous conditions on that road, as evidenced by today's tragedy and the many other accidents I have seen over the years resulting from those two ice patches. The cost of fixing the drainage issues at those two spots (and numerous other spots) pales in comparison to the costs that some families paid today. I cannot imagine that the District will not make all necessary repairs to Canal Road to make sure that this type of clearly preventable tragedy does not occur again.

Posted by: Driver4 | January 14, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

My condolences to the family of those who lost their lives in today's Canal Road accident. This fact that this accident happened is not surprising for many of us. Those of us who drive on Canal Road daily are keenly aware that, in addition to some other ice patches, there are two particularly horrific ice patches -- one just before (going inbound) the intersection with Reservoir Road and another just before the intersection with Clark Place, both in the left lane. On a daily basis in the colder months, I and many others slow down just before those two ice patches and either crawl over them or move into the right lane. For those less familiar with Canal Road these are clearly hazardous conditions on that road, as evidenced by today's tragedy and the many other accidents I have seen over the years resulting from those two ice patches. The cost of fixing the drainage issues at those two spots (and numerous other spots) pales in comparison to the costs that some families paid today. I cannot imagine that the District will not make all necessary repairs to Canal Road to make sure that this type of clearly preventable tragedy does not occur again.

Posted by: Driver4 | January 14, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I too agree that Canal Road is well-known for poor drainage, standing water and accumulated ice, not to mention frequent fallen branches and other detritus that somehow manages to accumulate on the roadway and not get picked up for weeks on end. I skidded there myself just yesterday morning. I was lucky.

Posted by: mrerisa | January 14, 2011 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I agree with everyone about the ice. The ice/water on Canal Road has been a problem for years, but it seems to have worsened in the last two years. The ice or water accumulates on the east/hill side of the road as groundwater seeps out of the hillside rocks and makes permanent puddles or ice slicks on the road even during droughts. It is so bad that I will only use the lane on the west/river side of the road during winter months, even if that means leaving work earlier than I would like to in order to get through Canal before two-way traffic resumes after 7:15 pm. I will pick an alternate route rather than use Canal Road outbound during two-way traffic periods when temperatures are near or below freezing. Of course, as this morning's accident demonstrates, you aren't even safe in the east/river lane, if someone in the other lane loses control on the ice and crashes into you.

Posted by: tdorsey | January 14, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

My condolences to the families of those killed this morning in the tragic accident.

For those calling for repairs by DC, are you willing to support a commuter tax to pay for the maintenance of this (and other) commuter routes, or should that cost be paid only by DC taxpayers?

Posted by: jarvis20009 | January 14, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

My condolences to the family as well,but I am sure that speed played a roll in the crash. This section of road is posted at 35 MPH, and most people obey the posted limit. Folks need to slow down...

Posted by: drewbird911 | January 14, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post!

Posted by: drewbird911 | January 14, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

This is so sad. Many of the puddles and patches of ice are caused by simple failure to clean the leafs and mud that naturally accumulate in the gutters. These conditions were allowed to persist for months at a time.

Posted by: Commuter2 | January 14, 2011 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I've reported the issue of standing water to Dr. Gridlock way back in September 2009. The Dr. didn't see it fit for publication or anything. I guess it would have taken precious print space reserved for Metro bashing.

Posted by: Ofnoan | January 14, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

excellent point, jarvis20009! who are the main users of this road? It only seems reasonable that they help with some of the costs of needed repairs. My condolences to the families as well.

Posted by: plantlady1 | January 14, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Yes jarvis20009, I agree with that tax issue too. Most of the people who use this road do not live or pay taxes here, but they are so quick to complain about its upkeep.

Posted by: johng1 | January 14, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Jarvis that this road is in a part of town that most DC taxpayers never use. However, it is still the responsibility of the city to maintain all of the roads under their jurisdiction. I pay taxes on food, and other goods and services that I purchase while visiting the district nearly every day. I would hope that the local transportation officials could use that revenue to ensure my safety as well as the safety of others just as Maryland and Virginia does with DC visitors in our states.

Posted by: Flyline98 | January 14, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Canal Rd is maintained by the NPS.

Posted by: seraphina21 | January 14, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Canal Rd is maintained by the NPS.

Posted by: seraphina21 | January 14, 2011 12:11 PM
___________________________________________

Now that we know Canal Road is under the jurisdiction of the NPS as federal taxpayers we should all request the NPS take corrective action ASAP...

Posted by: PoloGuy1031 | January 14, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Canal Rd is maintained by the NPS.

Posted by: seraphina21 | January 14, 2011 12:11 PM
___________________________________________

Now that we know Canal Road is under the jurisdiction of the NPS as federal taxpayers we should all request the NPS take corrective action ASAP...

Posted by: PoloGuy1031 | January 14, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

was excessive speed a factor in this crash? an suv driver perhaps?

Posted by: slick3 | January 14, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

My sincerest condolences to the affected families.

Although I'm uncomfortable talking about shared reponsibility and taxes in a post that concerns recent traffic deaths, I must.

Canal Road is in DC, but the bulk of users are from MD and VA, and those jurisdictions vigorously fight any suggestion of a commuter tax. If we were a state, there would be no issue. Out of state drivers would pay for the use of our roads and services -- as occurs elsewhere. Moreover, I live in Palisades and I cannot even USE Canal road in the morning, as the left turn off Arizona is prohibited. Accordingly, the road is reserved for the exclusive use drivers from outside the jurisdiction. Frankly, that sucks.

In addition, the number of drivers that ignore the lane control rules in the evening and thus drive in the left lane between 7 and 7:15 is astounding. Doing so is very dangerous. Even though it is unlikely that there will be an oncoming car during that time period, it is possible. I assume the same thing occurs in the morning. I do not understand how any driver can be so callous and self-centered. Also, we all know that speeding is commonplace.

I believe Canal road is maintained by DC and not NPS. I agree that it needs more maintenance. As DC resident, however, I am much more concerned with spending limited resources on roads and services used by DC residents, versus roads used primarily, if not exclusively, by drivers from other jurisdictions.

Given the speeding and maintenance issues, and the obvious unfairness in our paying for a road used by others, I too support installation of speed cameras.

Posted by: jbd4 | January 14, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

My sincerest condolences to the affected families.

Although I'm uncomfortable talking about shared reponsibility and taxes in a post that concerns recent traffic deaths, I must.

Canal Road is in DC, but the bulk of users are from MD and VA, and those jurisdictions vigorously fight any suggestion of a commuter tax. If we were a state, there would be no issue. Out of state drivers would pay for the use of our roads and services -- as occurs elsewhere. Moreover, I live in Palisades and I cannot even USE Canal road in the morning, as the left turn off Arizona is prohibited. Accordingly, the road is reserved for the exclusive use drivers from outside the jurisdiction. Frankly, that sucks.

In addition, the number of drivers that ignore the lane control rules in the evening and thus drive in the left lane between 7 and 7:15 is astounding. Doing so is very dangerous. Even though it is unlikely that there will be an oncoming car during that time period, it is possible. I assume the same thing occurs in the morning. I do not understand how any driver can be so callous and self-centered. Also, we all know that speeding is commonplace.

I believe Canal road is maintained by DC and not NPS. I agree that it needs more maintenance. As DC resident, however, I am much more concerned with spending limited resources on roads and services used by DC residents, versus roads used primarily, if not exclusively, by drivers from other jurisdictions.

Given the speeding and maintenance issues, and the obvious unfairness in our paying for a road used by others, I too support installation of speed cameras.

Posted by: jbd4 | January 14, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

While fixing the drainage issue, can DC DOT please trim the extensive overgrowth on Canal. Branches and invasive weeds and vines have grown all the way into the northern-most lanes. The entire road needs maintenance.

To the topic previous writers mentioned that only VA and MD residents use Canal, that would imply that no DC residents East of Georgetown have need to travel west on Canal, be it to get to Sibly Hospital or I-495. Wrong. I can understand the frustration of Palisades residents not being able to travel east on Canal in the a.m. (intended to keep traffic from getting backed up at the Arizona traffic light) but I am sure they travel west on the road during the afternoon rush, while also using it to travel east throughout the non-rush hour portion of the day.

Regarding the commuter tax, I am sure DC residents who expect VA and MD residents to share the maintenance and improvement costs on DC roads will be more than willing to reciprocate and fund improvements on VA and MD roads that they use in surrounding counties, as well as those states’ contributions on interstates such as I-66, I-395, I-495 and I-270. Thanks, but I am already paying my taxes to maintain and improve the roads that all in-state and out-of-state drivers use in my jurisdiction…how about DC start taking care of their road responsibilities!

Posted by: 4jhawks | January 14, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Canal Road should not be used as a major commuter route. It is a beautiful road in wooded hilly terrain. The water seeps out of those hills; fixing that would mean leveling the area. Shut it down during commuting hours. It is narrow and winding yet it's packed bumper to bumper with cars driving as fast as they physically can.

Posted by: asmith609irving | January 14, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Canal Road should not be used as a major commuter route. It is a beautiful road in wooded hilly terrain. The water seeps out of those hills; fixing that would mean leveling the area. Shut it down during commuting hours. It is narrow and winding yet it's packed bumper to bumper with cars driving as fast as they physically can.

Posted by: asmith609irving | January 14, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I too had a terrifying moment on Canal Road on Sunday morning when the standing water had frozen. At least the sun was up, and the car in front of me had time to stop and then move to the next lane. Several more patches were ahead of us. What gives? Why can't this be fixed?

Posted by: ArthurRoach | January 14, 2011 11:13 PM | Report abuse

RIP Milos and Radivan

Posted by: DCTT | January 16, 2011 2:28 AM | Report abuse

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