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Whitehurst Ramp Closed

The ramp from Interstate 66 and the Potomac River Freeway to the Whitehurst Freeway is shut until Aug. 24 for maintenance and emergency repairs, the District Department of Transportation says.

DDOT plans to close the ramp again during a second phase of the project during September and October. On two Fridays, Sept. 7 and Sept. 21, the ramp will be closed from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then it will be shut down again from Monday, Oct. 1, through Friday, Oct. 5.

Here's the detour plan from I-66/Potomac Freeway (watch for signs):
-- Make a left to exit onto Rock Creek Parkway,
-- Bear right at the yield sign on 27th Street NW,
-- Turn left onto Whitehurst Freeway.

Thanks to blogger "Woodley Park" for pointing out that I had omitted this project from my list of traffic advisories in a previous entry.

Woodley also said that the ramp closure would primarily affect those coming from E Street and Independence Avenue heading to the Whitehurst and Canal Road. "Northbound traffic on the segment of I-66 that runs through the tunnel near Kennedy Center was horribly backed up after well after 9 a.m. [Monday]. Evening rush won't be pretty with all of those cars either using K Street or the Rock Creek Parkway exit from I-66 ... both of which are bad enough as it is."

Woodley partly endorsed the DDOT detour but added a recommendation: "Before 6:15 p.m., try the Rock Creek Parkway exit from I-66, stay in the right lane, turn right onto 27th Street and left onto the Whitehurst. After 6:15, that exit becomes very badly backed up when Park Police switch the parkway back to 2-way (since the construction on the parkway started, they have had to completely stop traffic for well over 5 minutes to let the parkway northbound lanes clear to make the switchover). So after 6:15, use K Street, which should be better than before 6:15."

Another reader asked if this affects the exit to Pennsylvania Avenue. It does not. Also, it's just the ramp from I-66/Potomac River Freeway to the Whitehurst; not the one in the opposite direction.

By Robert Thomson  |  August 14, 2007; 5:01 AM ET
Categories:  Construction  
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I use this route to get to my office on K & Wisconsin, and just a reminder - you can turn left from both the left and right lanes of 27th, and to get onto Whitehurst you should be in the right lane (because cars from the left and right lanes will be turning left onto K street-westbound; cars trying to get from the left lane to the Whitehurst will have to cut over traffic that's trying to get from the right lane onto K street)

Posted by: Arlington | August 14, 2007 8:14 AM | Report abuse

"Another reader asked if this affects the exit to Pennsylvania Avenue. It does not."

Except that you might have to sit in fairly heavy traffic to get to it.

I-66 east (north) past Kennedy Center was worse than normal this morning, but not nearly as bad as yesterday.

Posted by: Woodley Park | August 14, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

This caused a horrible backup at around 6:15 last night on Pennsylvania Avenue eastbound at 24th Street (an intersection that already got backed up because the light there is horribly mis-timed). Too many drivers trying to turn right onto 24th, then make a quick right onto K. Compounding matters is the bus stop at Penn. and 24th and the aforementioned traffic light, which doesn't give Pennsylvania Avenue traffic enough time to get through. The buses block the right lane when dropping off/loading, so no one can get past to turn right onto 24th.

It took about 15 minutes to get through that intersection last night.

Posted by: Bob | August 14, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Bob, that turn is always horrible (especially after 6:30 when people park on westbound K). A much better alternative for those coming from Independence is to exit at E Street, then left onto 20th, then left on K Street. Or this is probably slightly better...take E Street exit to the Virginia Avenue ramp, take the right fork towards Virginia, left on Virginia, right on Rock Creek Parkway, then take the first exit to the Whitehurst. From E Street, just take K or Virginia.

Posted by: Woodley Park | August 14, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Will they be changing the timing of the light at 27th and K to allow more people to turn left onto K from 27th? I came across this problem by surprise yesterday evening.

Posted by: Dsmac | August 14, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps I'm the only one, but the spaghetti network of ramps in this area has always fascinated me, probably my fascination with road layouts, design, etc.

I am able to navigate through to get where I'm going but I have no idea what the road names are and when each road is labeled what. (I can't even begin to visualize what specific ramp is closed in all this spaghetti.)

So my question, what exactly is the Potomac Freeway? Come to think of it, I think I've heard it referenced on WTOP traffic reports but I've never known what it refers to.

Posted by: xyv1027 | August 14, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The original Potomac River Freeway, which was never built, was to be I-266, which was to split from I-66 roughly where Spout Run Parkway passes under the highway today. It was then to run down to the river and over the Three Sisters Bridge (unbuilt), then down along the route of the Whitehurst Freeway to meet I-66 where that road presently ends between K Street and Virginia Avenue. (I-66 would have continued east in a tunnel under K Street to meet I-95 at the point where I-395 currently ends at New York Avenue.)

I've also heard "Potomac River Freeway" used to refer to the unbuilt portion of I-695 in DC that was to run from the Roosevelt Bridge in a tunnel below the Lincoln Memorial area to join I-95 roughly where the Maine Avenue interchange is today. (I-695 in DC is now the portion of the Southeast-Southwest Freeway that runs from the point where I-395 branches off to go under the Mall in the Third Street Tunnel down to the RFK Stadium Access Road; no I-695 signs appear anywhere, but the designation is the official route number.)

Since none of that stuff was ever built, the term "Potomac River Freeway" has sometimes been used to refer to the road that includes part of I-66 in DC but extends south of I-66 by a bit--the road that begins, if you're going southbound, where the ramps from the Whitehurst Freeway touch down to go into the tunnel near the Watergate Hotel and that ends, again going southbound, at Ohio Drive just south of the Roosevelt Bridge. (The signs on the Roosevelt Bridge refer to Independence Avenue here, but Independence Avenue technically begins at the light at 23d Street to the south of the Lincoln Memorial.)

I've heard Lisa Baden refer to the part of Independence Avenue to the west of the Tidal Basin as the Potomac River Freeway, but only very rarely. Technically that usage is incorrect.

If you look at Google Maps ( you'll find the Potomac River Freeway label used on the road I've just described. For some reason, however, they don't show DC's portion of I-66 as an Interstate.

Posted by: Rich | August 14, 2007 7:16 PM | Report abuse

The ramp which is closed is the actual entrance ramp to the Whitehurst Freeway...the one which yields onto the freeway west of this interchange complex. Using Rich's definition of the Potomac River Freeway, it is the ramp connecting the northbound Potomac River Freeway to the westbound Whitehurst Freeway.

I too have been fascinated by this spaghetti of ramps, but I have always been baffled by the fact that it is nearly impossible to get from southbound Rock Creek Parkway to the westbound Whitehurst (wheras the reverse is very easy..right on 27th, right on Virginia, right onto Parkway). The only ways I've come up with all involve glorified U-turns and long loops which bring you right back to where you started. This is why I'll choose wisely between the Key and Roosevelt Bridges when heading home, but only use the Roosevelt when heading to VA.

Posted by: Woodley Park | August 15, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

For the record, there are two HUGE holes on the southbound little strip of 27th St at this intersection. It's a huge mess, one of them has been refilled but has fallen in again, the other one is probably 4 feet wide and maybe 8 inches deep. It looks as if something underneath the road collapsed, they are all sort of in a line. Any way to get this word to DC govt?

Posted by: DC Mike | August 15, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

In addition to the freeway that was to be built between the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge and Maine Avenue, there was also a proposed freeway north and/or east of the end of the current freeway, towards the present Center Leg Freeway. Two alternatives were proposed:

1) Along the east bank of Rock Creek Park, then Florida Avenue, then U Street, then Florida Avenue. Farewell, P Street Beach, Dupont/Kalorama, Adams Morgan, U Street as we now know them.

2) A tunnel under K Street and New York Avenue.

Posted by: Frank IBC | August 15, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Woodley Park, You make a good point about the absence of a connection to go from southbound Rock Creek to the outbound Whitehurst Freeway. Come to think of it, this is exactly why I tend to take completely different routes when coming into vs. leaving the district from North Arlington.

I don't commute into DC daily, but when I do head into the city for leisure, I end up using the GW Parkway to the Key Bridge to the Whitehurst Freeway to K Street on my way in. Then the trip home always ends up on the Roosevelt Bridge to the GW Parkway north (typically coming south on Rock Creek Parkway to make the left turns to get on what I now understand is a leg of the Potomac Freeway).

Posted by: xyv1027 | August 15, 2007 5:45 PM | Report abuse

One more question/observation: Other than the span of I-66 over the Potomac River, is it fair to say that I-66 does not go into DC? At what point does I-66 end (and become Independence Ave/E Street)? It certainly seems that the E Street Expressway is far from interstate standards.

Posted by: xyv1027 | August 15, 2007 5:48 PM | Report abuse

xyv1027: Legally, according to Federal Highway Administration interstate route logs, I-66 enters the District on the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, then "turns left" onto the Potomac River Freeway. If you were coming in via the TR Bridge, you would need to follow signs for the Whitehurst Freeway. Then I-66 kind of fizzles out at the Whitehurst/Pennsylvania/Rock Creek Parkway splits. Since the Whitehurst Freeway and Pennsylvania Avenue exits are bona-fide exit ramps (in fact it starts out as a one lane ramp with two lanes shoe-horned into it...), the "mainline" would be considered the Rock Creek Parkway split, which abruptly ends at 27th between I and K. I'm virtually certain that is the legal end of I-66. Likewise, westbound I-66 begins at 27th and I Streets. The only other way to get onto it is from the Whitehurst, which is an entrance ramp and not the mainline. Then I-66 exits to the right for the Roosevelt Bridge, while straight ahead is an "exit" for Independence Avenue. But the Potomac River Freeway is definitely part of I-66.

Posted by: Woodley Park | August 15, 2007 10:13 PM | Report abuse

"Woodley Park" is right as far as I'm aware as to the end of I-66. You can probably find the Federal Highway Administration logs somewhere on the Internet to confirm this, but Wikipedia would probably do just as well because these kinds of articles are generally maintained by so-called "roadgeeks." Or you could try Scott Kozel's site at anyone knows DC and Virginia roads, he does.

But anyway, you can kind of tell where I-66 was intended to continue past the current endpoint because you have that wide four-lane-to-a-side highway through the tunnel near the Watergate and it suddenly vanishes at the interchange "Woodley Park" describes.

Regarding Rock Creek Parkway...if I come south on that road to get to Virginia, I usually use Memorial Bridge, which is probably the easiest of all of them to reach from that road. You continue south under the Kennedy Center terrace and then go straight ahead as you pass under the Roosevelt Bridge; this takes you up to the Lincoln Memorial and you access the bridge there. Only real problem with this route is that when you get across the bridge onto the island where that big circle is, you have to be careful of out-of-towners who don't know their way around. You're still in DC at this point, but I think the signs are maintained by the National Park Service. Getting to US-50 or the GW Parkway is pretty easy, but for I-395 it helps to know the road because the tourists will CRAWL through this area....and of course I-395 is where I usually head!

Posted by: Rich | August 16, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

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