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What's Your Most Congested Intersection?

This is a hard one to do comprehensively, because drivers tend to stick with a couple of routes within a portion of the Washington region. It's one area where on the pavement experience has its limits. Many people who write to me at drgridlock declare their route to work -- whether by car, bus or train -- to be the worst in the region, and I'm thinking, they can't possibly know that.

Montgomery Traffic Map.jpg Click for larger map of intersections.

So in this case, I'm asking you to simply declare what's the worst intersection that you experience and name its characteristics. Staff writer Katherine Shaver started us off by writing in today's Post about Montgomery County's Top Ten. You also can read the full highway mobility report here.

Also this spring, the regional Council of Governments released a study showing trends in highway congestion.

Then there was that sick pride we seemed to take in our high ranking for congestion in the Texas Transportation Institute's national urban mobility report.

These studies usually leave out roads affected by construction projects, because that's not a long-term thing. So some of our recent issues, like the congestion at North Glebe Road and Route 123 generated by the Chain Bridge lane closing, aren't ever taken into account in studies. You don't have the same restriction here that the researchers do. So complain away.

Road Essentials:  Incident Map  |  Traffic Cams   |   Key Routes

By Robert Thomson  |  June 4, 2009; 9:46 AM ET
Categories:  Congestion , Driving  | Tags: intersections, top ten, worst congestion  
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Dr G,

Here are my Top 10 around the area that I avoid when at all possible:

Chain Bridge Rd at International Dr, Tysons Corner
Reston Pkwy at Sunset Hills Drive, Reston Town Center
VA 28 at Westfields Dr, Chantilly
Georgia Ave at Randolph Rd, Wheaton
University Bl at New Hampshire Ave, Langley Park
Connecticut Ave at E-W Hwy, Bethesda
23rd St and Constitution Ave, NW DC
Blair Rd/Cedar St/4th St, NW DC
New York Ave at Florida Ave, NE DC
Baltimore Ave at Cherry Hill Rd, College Park

Posted by: vtavgjoe | June 4, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock: vtavgjoe, thanks very much for such a comprehensive list. As I said in my posting, it's rare to hear from people who travel the entire region.

I spot a few on your list that are instantly recognizable from my own travels:
-- Chain Bridge Rd at International Dr
-- Georgia Ave at Randolph Rd
-- University Blvd at New Hampshire Ave
-- Connecticut Ave at E-W Hwy
-- 23rd St and Constitution Ave NW

As Dr. Gridlock, I drive around a lot, so I do get to see the region. But I don't have the depth of experience with individual routes that my readers do. They're so sensitive they can spot a change in traffic volume from one day to the next that wouldn't be obvious to me. So they help me out a lot when they write in.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | June 4, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the above but I also think that for an exit on 495, Route 50 and 495 in Maryland gets way too backed up. It has only gotten worse since they opened up the new Wilson Bridge and relieved that bottle neck. On that note what is up with the merge lanes coming off route 1 in Alexandria and getting on to the outer loop? Are they trying to kill someone? I've seen four accidents here in the last three weeks. Taking away a merge lane when trying to get on an interstate where people are always speeding isn't very smart.

Sorry about the rant I feel better now!

Posted by: us11231 | June 4, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

The worst intersection I encounter on a regular basis is the intersection of Van Dorn Street and Franconia Road. At the moment I don't have to commute, so I haven't had to deal with it during rush hour, but that intersection is a total crapshoot from day to day as to how it will function. It's also never nearly as bad once Fairfax schools let out for the summer.

The problem in the morning is that northbound Van Dorn backs up from the lights at Pickett Street and Eisenhower Avenue (both in Alexandria) all the way to Franconia Road; it's not unusual for it to take 20 minutes to drive this one mile. Van Dorn is three lanes between Franconia and the Beltway, but at the Beltway the left lane becomes left-turn-only. That doesn't stop a lot of people from racing down into the left turn lane and then stopping to try to shove over to the right into the thru lanes on Van Dorn (some cowards let them in, others won't). So in the mornings it's not unusual for Van Dorn to back up far enough that there is no room for traffic to enter the intersection with Franconia without blocking the box.

Meanwhile, traffic going southbound on Van Dorn also routinely blocks the box because Edison High School is just east of this intersection and I guess the crossing guards there must stop traffic without regard to the light cycles.

(to be continued)

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 4, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

In the afternoons, it's not as bad, but southbound Van Dorn experiences perpetual problems because the left lane becomes left-turn-only at Franconia and there's no advance warning that it will do so, meaning that you inevitably have confused people either trying to get over or going straight out of the left turn lane. (That's also a problem because the two thru lanes cut to the left as they cross Franconia.) Then you have people who drive in the center or left lanes who want to go right at Franconia. They seem to be afraid of getting stuck behind a bus if they drive in the right lane, so they use the other two and then assume that anyone in the right lane will be going right at Franconia. I've had a few near-misses when people didn't check their mirrors before changing lanes.

(This doesn't include idiots who don't notice that the green left-turn arrow comes on in advance of the light for the straight-thru lanes, such as the idiot this morning who drove through the red light in front of people turning left from the other direction....I guess he just assumed when the people to his left moved that he should move too. Amazing how often this happens.)

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 4, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Another terrible intersection I should add is 15th & Constitution NW. On 15th Street coming south there are multiple signs and pavement markings stating that only the right lane goes right. The other two lanes are straight-only. But 99% of the drivers in the center lane are illegally turning right, probably because the pedestrian crossing makes the right-turn lane back up all the way to E Street. Meanwhile, 15th Street northbound has a super-short green left-turn arrow at the END of the light cycle, so inevitably you get five or six red-light runners who gun it through at high speed. Then you have the left-turn light (two left-turn lanes) from eastbound Constitution onto northbound 15th; it's also a very short light cycle, and people who know it's a short light want to gun it off the line right as the light turns, but if you do that you'll get broadsided by the red-light runners making the left from 15th to westbound Constitution. Did I mention that there is no advance warning that the left lane on eastbound Constitution becomes left-turn only, so you always get tourists who got stuck in the wrong lane? Or that the left lane on westbound Constitution becomes left-turn only but is separated from the straight-ahead lanes by a striped area, so the cabbies and the "I'm more important than you losers" crowd routinely drive across the striped area to cut off people who waited their turn in the straight-thru lanes?

If Obama would realize that he, not the Secret Service, is in charge of things, he could reopen E Street across the Ellipse and a lot of the mess on Constitution would go away....all the security "experts" said that E Street poses no risk to the White House if trucks are banned, but I guess the Secret Service really wants that area for parking....

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 4, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

@1995hoo - Actually, there was a signal problem at the eastbound Constitution and northbound 15th street signal (the left arrow was short-timing, exactly as you mentioned) - I reported it through the DC service-request form on Monday to the signals people, and it appears as of yesterday that it's been repaired.

Posted by: nocando | June 4, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to hear that, although I've found that that light has been on a short left-turn signal for a long time now. Guess it won't much affect me for a while, though, as I go through that light on the way to the Verizon Center and the Caps are off until preseason starts in September :-(

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 5, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

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