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Improvement at Springfield on Wednesday

Some of our bigger projects are so complex and long lasting that we're stunned when told we can actually drive on them. I feel that way about the plan to open an important new ramp at the Springfield Interchange on Wednesday morning.

While it's a fragment of the total project -- which is one of the largest public works under construction in the nation -- it has my attention because the new ramp is designed to ease what I always saw as one of the interchange's main hazards: the need to merge left across several lanes to head south on I-95.

The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to open Exit 57A from the Capital Beltway's outer loop to I-95 South by 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, weather permitting. The ramp has two lanes, but only one would be opened at that hour, to allow space for the final work on lane markings. That work is likely to slow traffic on the first day. The other lane is scheduled to open by 3:30 p.m.

It's going to take some getting used to. The two ramp lanes from the Beltway will join up with the two southbound lanes of I-395, from Washington. After about a third of a mile, the right lane falls away, leaving three southbound lanes. These three lanes meet up with two lanes on the left carrying traffic from the Beltway's inner loop.

Here's a special caution: With the opening of the new ramp, you will no longer be able to use those local lanes on the right to connect with I-95 S a little south of the big merge.

So enjoy the completed work, but take it slow till you get to know it. To help you plan, you'll find some more details here. You can also see the ramp on a pdf map.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 5, 2006; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Springfield Interchange  
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If this is to be Exit 57A, I wonder what the existing ramp will become.

With that said, as much as I love to bash VDOT, they've generally done a very good job on the Springfield Interchange. I drive through it every day and it's a HUGE improvement over the previous designs. I just hope VDOT has the Inner Loop repaved under I-395 as part of wrapping up the work. That segment is a washboard, perhaps the worst in the DC area. You know how removing lane striping always leaves ruts behind? The Inner Loop is an example of it!

So by my reckoning, we have the following parts of the project remaining: (a) Traffic going to Old Keene Mill Road (644 WEST) will be separated from traffic going to Franconia Road (644 EAST) via some new barriers. (b) New ramp from the Outer Loop to I-395 North to open; the new exit will be on the right side of the Beltway instead of from the left lane (about time). (c) New ramp to open so that traffic coming from Franconia Road can access I-395 North without merging across traffic heading for the Beltway; the new ramp is to enter I-395 roughly where the old exit onto the Beltway left the road, and the current entry point beneath the Commerce Street overpass will be closed.

Now that the weaving and merging back and forth will be gone, will the Post please finally stop using the misappropriated name "Mixing Bowl" for this interchange?

Posted by: Rich | December 5, 2006 9:45 AM | Report abuse

BTW, Scott Kozel has a great picture showing the new ramp that will open tomorrow. It's the unstriped ramp on the left. Note that it is to split when the project is done--the narrow part that splits off partway down is to open later and will carry traffic from the Beltway to Franconia Road (Springfield Mall and the like).

Picture may be found here:

Posted by: Rich | December 5, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Anyone know why they haven't extended HOV regulations on I-395S from 6:00p.m. to later? It seems that would definitely encourage more carpooling and keep the HOV lanes from backing up at 6p.m.

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