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Traffic Report on Legion Bridge

Back in May, I said that the traffic backup on the south side of the American Legion Bridge was the worst construction-related congestion in our region. Today, that burden has shifted over to I-295 traffic around the 11th Street Bridge, because of the summertime shutdown of the Frederick Douglass Bridge. (Why is it always bridges?)

The backup on the Beltway's inner loop and on the northbound George Washington Parkway was bad Monday and today. But that's a significant improvement from May.

A couple of things have changed, of course: It's summer and some commuters are on vacation. The Maryland State Highway Administration, which had created a staging area for the bridge painting project on its southeastern side and shortened up the parkway's merge lane, realigned the work zone to lengthen the merge somewhat.

The most significant development for commuters who use this parkway-Beltway route between Arlington and Bethesda-Rockville-Gaithersburg is that the work is going so well that the staging area is scheduled to disappear in mid-September rather than mid-November, as originally planned.

During this morning's rush, Beltway-bound traffic on the parkway was backed up for about a mile, slowing down before the first green and white sign for I-495. (In the spring, I saw it backed up south of the Route 123 exit.)

I followed the advice of a commuter who likes to stay in the better-flowing left lane, which crosses over the Beltway and points traffic toward the outer loop, in the direction of Richmond. Following the commuter's recommendation, I stayed in the lane that took me up the ramp to to Georgetown Pike eastbound, over the Beltway and onto the inner loop.

I may have saved just a few minutes, but it was less annoying than sitting on the parkway and worrying about that shortened merge ahead.

Back in May, we talked about alternatives along this route, which were very limited. What did you discover? Or do you find yourself still stuck in Beltway and parkway traffic to this day?

We're thinking about focusing on the Legion Bridge project on this Sunday's commuter page (page 2 of The Post's Metro section) and could use your thoughts, questions and advice on what the commute has been like. Post your notes here or send an e-mail to me at drgridlock@washpost.com. If you send an e-mail, let me know your name and home community, because I'm always looking to give credit for a good question or suggestion.

By Robert Thomson  |  July 24, 2007; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Construction  
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Comments

I agree in that the congestion around the ALB has eased somewhat in recent weeks. In fact, there is virtually no delays now in the morning rushhour period on Mondays and Fridays, perhaps because those that work more of a flexible schedule tend to take off one of these days which makes for even lighter volumes of already light summer traffic.

This morning at 9:30am, there was a brief-delay headed north from Georgetown Pike across the bridge, but the delay seemed to be mostly attributed to everyone's "fascination" with the construction equipment set-up in the transition lane on the bridge, and not to the merge/squeeze play with traffic coming from the GW Parkway. In fact, the right most lane of four on the beltway was the one that moved the fastest and there were only a few cars even entering from the GW Parkway (certainly not even a line of cars). Perhaps this was all an anomaly given the very time I was traveling, but the GW Parkway merging traffic was not the culprit for the delay.

Posted by: xyv1027 | July 24, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Hello Dr. Gridlock, this is my first time on your blog and I've found the topics presented to be very fascinating.

I think the construction and resulting delays on the inner loop of I-495 and the GW Parkway approaching the Legion Bridge in the evenings have had a ripple effect on traffic in DC, specifically the Key Bridge. I see alot more MD plates crossing from Rosslyn through Georgetown and then heading out on Canal Road as a way of bypassing the GW Parkway and the bridge construction. The wait time to get from the VA end to the DC end of the Key Bridge exceeds 15 minutes on a regular basis now. I think this may be in part to the summer crowds flocking to alfresco dining spots in Georgetown, but it does seem like there is alot more traffic volume going inbound on the Key Bridge in the evenings and then making the two left turns to head outbound on Canal Road and the Clara Barton Parkway. I've tried using even the Memorial Bridge as an alternate to my usual Key Bridge route on the way home but I don't think it saves me much time.

Posted by: Spring Valley to Rosslyn commuter | July 24, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I wonder, is there any signage on the Inner Loop before the GW Parkway lessened merge indicating that it exists? What about signage that tells motorists to move over as best they can into the two left lanes to allow for the folks experiencing the shortened merge to flow into traffic? It would seem to me that if there was some instruction to do so, that it would significantly (except for the idiots out there who think the world revolves around them) reduce the backups on the GW Parkway to get on to the Inner Loop and also the general backups on the Inner Loop.

I travel this way quite often as my significant other lives in Bethesda and I am in Alexandria. Mostly, I avoid rush hour, but there have been a few times that I've been stuck in this nightmare. It's not fun. But if I knew that there was a relatively open lane to merge into, it would ease some of the anxiety and confusion.

Also, the the workers' credit, I saw them out there recently on a Sunday afternoon working on the project. They do seem committed to getting it done as quickly as they can.

Posted by: LV | July 24, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Thought your readers might want to know about the Baltimore Metropolitan Council's release of their 30 year transit plan.

The plan, available on their website, is pretty pathetic. A twelve page hand-waving at major traffic problems. No explanation of methodology other than "staff analysis." Disparate rating systems for mass v. highway/roadway transit projects.

The council is taking public comment at the number of upcoming sessions:

Tuesday, July 24 , 2007
5 to 8 p.m. - Presentation at 7 p.m.
George Howard Building, Tyson Rooms
3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City, MD
Transit: Howard Transit - Yellow route (Last bus at 8:42 p.m)
Parking: Metered and free parking available on site

Wednesday, July 25 , 2007
4 to 8 p.m. - Presentations at 5 and 7 p.m.
Heritage Office Complex, 2nd Floor
2664 Riva Road, Annapolis, MD
Transit: Annapolis Transit - Green Route (through 7 p.m.) and Brown Route (through 10 p.m.)
Parking: Free parking available on site

Tuesday, July 31, 2007
3 to 8 p.m. - Presentations at 4 and 6 p.m.
Harford County Administration Building
220 South Main St., 2nd fl., Bel Air, MD
Transit: Harford Transit - #3 line (Last bus at 4:11 p.m.)
Parking: Free parking available on site

Wednesday, August 1, 2007
4 to 8 p.m. Presentations at 5 and 7 p.m.
County Office Building, 225 N. Center Street, Room 003/004, Westminster, MD
Transit: Carroll Area Transit Service - Call 410-857-0884 for details (through 5 p.m.)
Parking: Free parking available on site

Monday, August 6, 2007
3 to 8 p.m. - Presentation at 7 p.m.
Baltimore County Public Library
320 York Road, Towson, MD
Transit: MTA - Bus routes 8, 55, and 3.
Parking: Parking garage on site and metered street parking available

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
5 to 8:30 p.m. - Presentations at 6 and 8 p.m.
Charles L. Benton Bldg., Room 346
417 E. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD
Transit: MTA - Bus routes 1, 5, 10, 20, 23, 36, 40, 91.
Parking: Parking garages and metered street parking available nearby

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
3 to 7 p.m. - Presentations at 4 and 6 p.m.
Baltimore Metropolitan Council
2700 Lighthouse Point East, #310, Baltimore, MD
Transit: MTA - Bus routes 7 and 13.
Parking: 2 hours free with validation; Free street parking

The public is also encouraged to share their thoughts about the draft plan with area elected officials at the August BRTB meeting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
5 p.m. - BRTB meeting with elected officials
Baltimore Metropolitan Council
2700 Lighthouse Point East, #310, Baltimore, MD
Transit: MTA - Bus routes 7 and 13.
Parking: 2 hours free with validation; Free street parking

Posted by: Melissa | July 24, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Thought your readers might want to know about the Baltimore Metropolitan Council's release of their 30 year transit plan.

The plan, available on their website, is pretty pathetic. A twelve page hand-waving at major traffic problems. No explanation of methodology other than "staff analysis." Disparate rating systems for mass v. highway/roadway transit projects.

The council is taking public comment at the number of upcoming sessions:

Tuesday, July 24 , 2007
5 to 8 p.m. - Presentation at 7 p.m.
George Howard Building, Tyson Rooms
3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City, MD
Transit: Howard Transit - Yellow route (Last bus at 8:42 p.m)
Parking: Metered and free parking available on site

Wednesday, July 25 , 2007
4 to 8 p.m. - Presentations at 5 and 7 p.m.
Heritage Office Complex, 2nd Floor
2664 Riva Road, Annapolis, MD
Transit: Annapolis Transit - Green Route (through 7 p.m.) and Brown Route (through 10 p.m.)
Parking: Free parking available on site

Tuesday, July 31, 2007
3 to 8 p.m. - Presentations at 4 and 6 p.m.
Harford County Administration Building
220 South Main St., 2nd fl., Bel Air, MD
Transit: Harford Transit - #3 line (Last bus at 4:11 p.m.)
Parking: Free parking available on site

Wednesday, August 1, 2007
4 to 8 p.m. Presentations at 5 and 7 p.m.
County Office Building, 225 N. Center Street, Room 003/004, Westminster, MD
Transit: Carroll Area Transit Service - Call 410-857-0884 for details (through 5 p.m.)
Parking: Free parking available on site

Monday, August 6, 2007
3 to 8 p.m. - Presentation at 7 p.m.
Baltimore County Public Library
320 York Road, Towson, MD
Transit: MTA - Bus routes 8, 55, and 3.
Parking: Parking garage on site and metered street parking available

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
5 to 8:30 p.m. - Presentations at 6 and 8 p.m.
Charles L. Benton Bldg., Room 346
417 E. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD
Transit: MTA - Bus routes 1, 5, 10, 20, 23, 36, 40, 91.
Parking: Parking garages and metered street parking available nearby

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
3 to 7 p.m. - Presentations at 4 and 6 p.m.
Baltimore Metropolitan Council
2700 Lighthouse Point East, #310, Baltimore, MD
Transit: MTA - Bus routes 7 and 13.
Parking: 2 hours free with validation; Free street parking

The public is also encouraged to share their thoughts about the draft plan with area elected officials at the August BRTB meeting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
5 p.m. - BRTB meeting with elected officials
Baltimore Metropolitan Council
2700 Lighthouse Point East, #310, Baltimore, MD
Transit: MTA - Bus routes 7 and 13.
Parking: 2 hours free with validation; Free street parking

Posted by: Melissa | July 24, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Thanks for these helpful comments. "xyv1027," that's very interesting about your 9:30 a.m. experience. That seems like good information for commuters who can vary their schedules.
And hello, Spring Valley. Thanks for the information about a possible ripple effect on the Key Bridge.
Yes, LV, if I read your question right, there's at least one electronic message board on the inner loop advising drivers to move left before the shortened merge at the parkway. Thing is, every time I try this route, I'm caught in the traffic by the time I reach the sign, and it's a bit difficult to move left. Also, there are many cars entering the Beltway from Route 193, not far south of the parkway entrance. And thirdly, some of the inner loop drivers are going to want to take the right-hand exit for the Clara Barton Parkway on the north side of the bridge, so they're reluctant to move left shortly before they'll have to move right again.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | July 24, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

YAY FOR FINISHING THE BRIDGE PAINTING EARLY!!!

I drive this way almost every day between Arlington & Rockville (except Fridays when I take Metro to avoid the horrid Summer Friday Beltway Traffic Mess). I go from Arl. to Rockville in the morning so I'm reverse commuting (sort of).

I have tried every conceivable route I can think of between to avoid the NB GW, ever since I got stuck in the monster backup on the first day they took that shoulder away. I have gone I-66 to the Beltway via the Dulles Connector (BAD IDEA); Old Dominion Drive to Georgetown Pike to 495; Key Bridge through Georgetown via Wisconsin Ave. (also bad); Key Bridge to Canal/MacArthur to Clara Barton/Cabin John to I-495; and Key Bridge to Canal to Foxhall to Loughboro Rd. to Dalecarlia Pkwy. to Mass Ave. to Little Falls Pkwy. to River Rd. to 495. And, of course, Metro (I work right by the Rockville metro station). The only thing I haven't tried is doing the loop-around to Georgetown Pike and back to the IL that Dr. Gridlock suggested - mostly because the NB GW has a large number of folks who cut over from the left lane at the last minute to avoid the backup at the IL and they slow that lane way down. Obviously they are far too important to wait like the rest of us.

The bottom line is I have found no good substitute that shaves any time off the trip so I usually just stick it out on the GW. I just try to leave my house by 7:15 to 7:30 at which time the backup on the GW isn't too bad. I have found all these alternates have their pitfalls. They started diverting traffic on Old Dominion Dr. to do culvert work. I-66 of course just generally sucks. Foxhall Road is supposed to be down to 1 lane (though I drove that way last Thursday and - guess what - no sign of road work anywhere!) During the school year MacArthur jams between Canal and Reservoir because of a school and a traffic cop that I swear makes traffic worse. The traffic gods have conspired against me. Plus now that summer's here, and people have gotten used to the AL Bridge work, the backup isn't usually all that horrendous (at least in the morning).

If, however, you absolutely need an alternative between Arlington and 495 in the morning, the Key Bridge to Canal/MacArthur to Clara Barton/Cabin John to 495 route works pretty well for now, until school starts back up. After that - God or Metro save you until they finish the bridge work.

Posted by: Courthouse guy | July 25, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

It would be helpful to know what the purpose of the "staging area" is. Driving by, it looks like it's just parking for various pickup trucks. Would it be possible to park these vehicles someplace less disruptive, and then shuttle back and forth with whatever workers or tools these vehicles supply?

Posted by: Tom T. | July 25, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

They have said that the "staging" area contains heavy machinery that is not easy moved from day to day.

Posted by: Laura | July 25, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

They have said that the "staging" area contains heavy machinery that is not easy moved from day to day.

Posted by: Laura | July 25, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

For Tom T, there is an earlier blog from last week that includes some insight from the MD SHA explaining the need for the staging area. It is more than just a bunch of trucks parked on the side of the road, including in this area is heavy equipment that is not easily moved.

For courthouse guy, your alternate route in the morning does not work in the middle of morning rushhour though because Canal Road is two lanes inbound during the AM rush from something like 6:30am to 10am? Do you use MacArthur all the way north to the Glen Echo turnaround instead? Everytime I've ever been out on MacArthur it seems like its taking forever to get where I am going, the traffic lights, the never-followed 25mph speed limit and then the winding curves through the stretch in MD eat up time like crazy.

Courthouse guy, for your morning drive, I'd suggest doing the loop around via the Route 193 ramps. Its a little faster but its a lot less stressful since you're not worrying about the me-first drivers who will cut you off at the last minute when merging to the right lane on the GW AND the merge itself from the GW to the inner loop.

Posted by: North Arlington resident | July 25, 2007 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Courthouse guy, Other than the roadwork on Old Dominion, what is so bad about the Old Dominion Dr to Georgetown Pike to 495 option? It seems like this route would be a keeper. You could even try Old Dominion Dr to Kirby Rd (northbound) to a left on 123 to an immediate right on 193; this would save you from alot of the cross traffic on Old Dominion through the middle of McLean.

Posted by: North Arlington resident | July 25, 2007 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Another thing to add for the Arlington to Rockville commuter: Why not exit the GW Parkway at Route 123 (well before the waiting line begins on the GW) in the morning, then take 123 South to a right on Georgetown Pike to 495 North. It seems that this may be a big timesaver and you'll be going against the rushhour flow on 123 and 193.


I am a VA to MD commuter myself (Reston to Bethesda, Montgomery Mall vicinity) and use the Georgetown Pike to 495 most days. There is a fifth lane on the inner loop that enters from Route 193 and then becomes the exit-only lane for the GW southbound that keeps traffic flowing pretty well especially those cars entering 495 from Georgetown Pike. And really, its only about a mile from Georgetown Pike to the ALB. I'm rarely if ever stopped, usually traffic glides along at about 30mph in the right lanes. And best of all, you can take your time moving left when you enter 495.

Posted by: xyv1027 | July 25, 2007 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Dr. G,

I wanted to respond to your comment "Why is it always bridges?". The main reason is that this area has not and continues to not build enough crossings to efficiently carry the load necessary. All the so-called environmentalists who think another bridge north of AL would destroy the environment fail to notice that it would save millions of gallons of fuel (shorter distances to drive and less start and stop and idling), not to mention time and safety.

If Dan Snyder and Aris Mardirossian wanted to contribute a lasting legacy to this region that has so generously enabled them to live the life they do today, they would band together and build a bridge across the Potomac right where they live. Or a tunnel underneath their land. And charge $10 to cross it and make even more insane amounts of money. Fat chance though.

Posted by: ssolomo | July 27, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Folks, this project is going to be really bad after labor day. We have been lucky the last couple of weeks with summer vacations going on, but people better have some alternative plans when school and workers come back.

The people who planned this traffic disaster should be held accountable. The statement in your article that this project caught them offguard just goes to show how clueless these people are. There were two possible alternatives to this project. First was, lowering equipment below the bridge so it would not take up space. This would allow temporary lane closures which would not have had as large an effect. The second was a more drastic solution which would have required moving the on ramp from the GW parkway further back. Either way, there should have been more thought put into this.

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