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Driver Questions GW Parkway Ramp Design

This driver descibes a problem I haven't experienced, though I use the ramp from the George Washington Parkway onto the Beltway's inner loop fairly often. That's why I'd like to know what other commuters think.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I've only been doing this commute for one year but the northbound GW Parkway on-ramp to 495 towards Maryland is a sorry piece of engineering.

Every time it rains or ices or snows at least one or more cars slide off that ramp. If you have ever travelled that area the ramp slopes your vehicle away from the turn, literally forcing you to turn right as your body and the vehicle fight the forces pushing you left. And it does not matter how slow you go. The National Park Service or Virginia state surely can obtain the funds to fix this problem.
Dan Dluzneski

This ramp is a bit of a fish hook, with a long, straight section coming off the northbound lanes of the parkway, heading into a sharp curve before reaching the inner loop lanes heading across the American Legion Bridge. But I can't recommend spending the millions of dollars it would take the rebuilt that ramp, based on my own experience. If northbound drivers come off the parkway at the speed limit, they should be fine coming around the curve. Then they have the length of the Legion Bridge to accelerate and merge into the Beltway's through lanes.

Do other drivers find this to be a problem area? We talked about it a lot when Maryland was painting the bridge and blocked off that shoulder lane for use by construction equipment. That was a nightmare, creating extensive backups on the parkway and the Beltway. But under normal circumstances, I don't see this as a problem.

By Robert Thomson  |  March 5, 2009; 8:52 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting , Driving , Safety  
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It is dangerous, especially for motorcycle riders.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | March 5, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

There are rumble strips to encourage drivers to slow down. I agree with Dr. Gridlock - if you are at the posted speed, there is no problem. If you think you can take your Benz or SUV through the turn at 50 MPH and then get surprised with slow cars in front of you because the sight lines are mediocre (but fine at the posted 25 MPH speed), you deserve to run off into the Potomac for endangering other people's lives.

The ramp was probably originally designed to meet the old Cabin John bridge, which was narrower than the newer, Legion bridge, which required engineers to make the ramp turn sharper. I'm just speculating though - that's before my time in DC.

And thanks to Dr. Gridlock for reminding us how miserable it was when the exit lane was closed for those few months. It's one thing when capacity is reduced by a through lane, but the exit lane? That just shows how overused this bridge is and how overdue we are for an increase in capacity and ability to cross the Potomac anywhere west of Key Bridge. Shameful, really.

Posted by: ssolomo | March 5, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Centrifugal force will always push you away from the turn you're making.

The issue may be more of the changing radius of the curve. I've never had a problem with it, either. Sounds more like a problem with drivers not paying attention to what they're doing.

Posted by: kolbkl | March 5, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

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