Shortened Merge Jams GW Parkway
The worst traffic backup I've seen lately occurs on the northbound George Washington Parkway on the approach to the Beltway's inner loop. That's where the merge lane recently shrank to create a staging area for the Legion Bridge painting project.
My little traffic patrol started Tuesday morning after I got a letter from an Arlington commuter who was startled and confused by how bad the parkway traffic had become on her morning trip toward the Beltway and Maryland. The Maryland State Highway Administration is painting the bridge, and the staging area has been created on the southeast side. The ramp from the parkway has been shortened and the inner loop's shoulder across the bridge is blocked off.
I wanted to see for myself what effect that was having, but any trip of more than a couple of miles around here passes through several issue zones, and so the drive over to Virginia allowed me to see that the District's redesign of Military Road is moving commuter traffic along well between Oregon and Nebraska avenues. Likewise, the reopened Reno Road looks good.
My thought was to get to Virginia via Wisconsin Avenue and 34th Street NW, driving through Glover Park and Georgetown to the Key Bridge. What a nightmare. I suspect it had to do with the aftermath of Monday's fire in the Georgetown library, at Wisconsin and R Street. Turning down 35th Street as a bailout from Wisconsin, I remembered what so many of you have said about the problem with shortcuts: Everybody knows them.
But it also illustrated what's good about a grid street pattern: You can almost always try something else. So I wound up heading west on Reservoir Road and eventually got onto the outer loop from the Clara Barton Parkway without any further difficulty.
After the jam-up in the District, it was going to take a lot of traffic to impress me, but the GW Parkway did just that. I was very fortunate my original route didn't work, because by driving south on the parkway, I got to see the northbound line of cars without participating in it. I got off at the southbound exit for Route 123, just after the northbound line of cars started to form into a solid mass.
Route 123 led back to the Beltway, where I discovered that the shortened parkway merge wasn't doing much for Beltway traffic either. I saw no warnings for drivers in the right hand lane that they were about to encounter slow moving traffic entering from the parkway.
This is bad. The plan is to keep the shortened merge in effect till November. I thought I'd suggest to my letter writers that they bail out of the northbound parkway onto Route 123 as a faster way to link up with the Beltway. Maybe cut from 123 onto Georgetown Pike to lessen the distance to the Beltway? One correspondent who works in Alexandria and takes the parkway home to Maryland in the afternoon thought she might try heading south on I-395 to pick up the Beltway.
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