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Officials Promise Change at Lincoln Memorial

The District Department of Transportation and the National Park Service told me Thursday that they were working on improving the traffic flow through the Lincoln Memorial circle. The morning traffic backups across the Memorial Bridge into Virginia have generated many complaints from motorists.

Lincoln Lights.jpg On Monday: Two new sets of lights back up traffic at circle. (Robert Thomson)

Both agencies said they understand the concerns expressed by commuters over the new traffic lights. DDOT spokesman Erik Linden said the lights were modified today with the intent of getting more cars through the circle while still protecting pedestrians. Both he and Bill Line, spokesman for the National Park Service, said their agencies would continue to monitor the traffic situation and would make further adjustments if warranted.

Line said the park service would work with the park police to enforce the time limits on tour buses that discharge and pickup passengers in the right hand, outbound lane of Bacon Drive.

So tell me what your experience is on Friday. Notice a change in the lights and the traffic flow?

By Robert Thomson  |  September 21, 2006; 5:44 PM ET
Categories:  Congestion  
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Sometimes I come in from Falls Church and other days from South Arlington. I think this idiotic new traffic pattern has screwed up more than the Washington Blvd ramp from 395. The GW Parkway from McLean has been tremendously backed up the past two days (and maybe longer) My guess is that the new impediment at Lincoln Circle is having a dramatic area-wide impact on traffic. The best solution would be to go back to what worked for years -- no lights at all, at least during rush hour. The few tourists in the area can cross at the light at Constitution Avenue as they did in the past.

Posted by: FallsChurch | September 21, 2006 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the situation was a bit improved this morning. I came on on 110, and there didn't seem to be much delay going over the Bridge. I usually come up Rt 27 though, and that has been what is backing up big time onto 395. There was an accident on 395 or some other police situation, and that's what made me take 110 instead. Looked like 27 was moving OK though otherwise.

Posted by: West End Worker | September 22, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Before the lights, I had a roughly 20-minute commute when I left home at 7:45 (give or take 5 minutes). With the lights, the commute almost doubled.

However, this morning the lights worked great. Traffic flowed smoothly (at least at about 7:55-8:00) and my commute was back down to its regular 20 minutes.

I hope it stays this way...

Posted by: Greg | September 22, 2006 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Whatever changes they make, I hope they keep pedestrians in mind -- make traffic come to a complete stop and give people ample time to cross. When I walk home from work in DC to Arlington, the fastest, most direct route for me is to cross the Memorial Bridge (actually, the most direct would be to cross the Route 50 bridge, but I have never been able to figure out how to do it on foot). But crossing streets around the Lincoln Memorial is taking your life into your hands. Drivers are going way too fast, or they're frustrated from sitting in traffic, and they are not looking for pedestrians. I don't know what FallsChurch is referring to with the "the few tourists in the area" comment -- plenty of people walk in that area who are not tourists, who need to cross the Memorial Bridge (not Constitution), and who simply want to be able to cross the road without being intimidated by some jerk in a car who thinks it's worth injuring or even killing another human being if it means getting to his destination 2 seconds faster.

Posted by: Arlington | September 22, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't think today is the fairest test. It was Friday, a very nice day weather-wise, and I thought traffic seemed lighter overall. I don't doubt that a lot of people took off--I think tomorrow may be one of those major Jewish holy days too, so maybe that contributed if people went out of town? Anyway, Monday and Tuesday will be more realistic tests.

Posted by: Rich | September 22, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Arlington, I hear you. I'm a big walker and getting from Memorial Bridge over to the Lincoln Memorial is ridiculous. Also walking in Georgetown in interesting. The drivers around there are jerks. I don't have a car. I walk, ride my bike or use Metro. I realized shortly after moving here that I wanted to avoid driving as much as possible. I gave my car to my son and don't miss it at all. My advice to all you drivers who live and work in the DC area. Reevaluate what you really need and simplify your lives.

Posted by: Alexandria | September 22, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I had to leave early Fri to get someone to a Dr. appt. by 3:30. I left at 2:45, hit the red light at Constitution and Henry Bacon, hit the first red light at the Memorial and hit the 2d red light at the Memorial. The lights allowed two cars going out of town. They stayed much longer for incoming. This morning (Mon) there was someone waving vehicles thru the red light at Henry Bacon coming into town. That went much smoother. Is that considered a right hand turn? Can we legally go thru that light? (with no pedistrians there of course)

Posted by: Sherry | September 25, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

When are evening rush-hour outbound commuters going to get back the third (far right-hand) lane on 23rd Street coming up to the circle? It's been blocked off for months for no good reason. Having a third lane back would also help ease congestion. One used to be able to easily make a right turn directly onto the circle from that lane, as there are only two traffic lanes already in the circle, approaching from Henry Bacon Drive.

Posted by: Karen | September 25, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

The commute was improved today, but it is still significantly worse than before the lights. I appreciate the Parks service willingness to make changes..hope it continues.

Posted by: CJax | September 25, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I've noticed park police chasing off buses and directing traffic on Friday and Monday (which greatly improved traffic flow). Couple of problems, though. For one, those are hardly good days to survey and determine if the problem has been corrected. Traffic is always lighter on both of those days. And two, this morning the police were directly traffic through the red lights. They definitely improved the problem, but the lights still aren't set right (thus the need for police to direct traffic). Surely they won't become a permanant establishment, so as soon as they're gone, we'll have the same problems with the halted traffic in the mornings and the buses parking illegally in the evenings.

Posted by: Sarah | September 25, 2006 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Also, when is the city going to re-paint the lines to retain 3 lanes on 23rd Street starting up at GW Hospital all the way down to Const. Ave? There use to be three traffic lanes southbound, but the lines have not been re-done to reinstitute those three lanes north of around New Hampshire Avenue. Traffic moved more quickly with three lanes than with the current two...

Posted by: Karen | September 26, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

It's better than it was, but there's still room for improvement. Yesterday and today I found it very slow--it took me longer to get from Shirlington to the exit for 50 (just before Memorial Bridge) than it did to get from Springfield to Shirlington! This was after 9:15.

Posted by: Springfield to Georgetown | September 27, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I guess the DDOT and Park Service authorities responsible for the Lincoln Memorial mess are trying to improve the situation. However, my question is how did they allowed it to come to this? Did they not anticipate that the original traffic signal timing would create havoc with communters from VA and DC? Did they ever model or simulate the timing of the lights and their effects on traffic flow? Did they not understand that having tourists cross these heavily traveled commuter routes to grab a hot dog at the new snack stand would be unsafe and cause additional traffic delays? Did they not anticipate that buses would block traffic while they load and unload tourists near this new snack stand? What were they thinking -- or was it that they weren't thinking?

Posted by: Joe | September 28, 2006 8:22 AM | Report abuse

The traffic is awful and getting worse by the day. In the mornings and evenings, the traffic is backed up across the memorial bridge going into DC. Constitution Ave is a mess in the evening rush as the turning lanes (which before were the fastest moving lanes) are now the slowest.

Turn off the lights during morning and evening rush and have a crossing guard(s) help the tourists cross the street.

Posted by: Bryan | September 28, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Great - On Friday evening we had a Pepsi truck blocking the right outbound lane of Henry Beacon Drive to unload drinks for the new snack stand. What next?

Posted by: Coke Drinker | September 30, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

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