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Traffic Alert: Major Delays For Chain Bridge Project

Chain Bridge Day One.jpg
Workers have blocked off the right-most of two inbound lanes at Chain Bridge. (Thomson)

The closing this morning of an inbound lane on Chain Bridge created more of a slowdown in traffic than we've seen so far at the 14th Street Bridge project.

It just took me 25 minutes to get from the George Washington Parkway ramps on Route 123 to the far side of the Chain Bridge. Many drivers saw what was ahead and bailed for the George Washington Parkway southbound.

I think they would have been better off sticking with the Chain Bridge. The southbound parkway was backed up solidly from Rosslyn to Route 123. So if their target was the Key Bridge, or the Roosevelt or the 14th Street to reach DC, I think I beat them.

The closing of the lane on Chain Bridge, which occurred a day before I thought it would, will continue for eight months, the duration of the bridge rehab project. While the traffic on Chain Bridge is much lighter than on a really major artery like the 14th Street Bridge, at least at 14th Street all the lanes are open during peak periods. The Chain Bridge lane closing is all the time.

Route 123.jpg Signs on 123 near Chain Bridge. (Thomson)

Karyn LeBlanc, spokeswoman for the District Department of Transportation, said this:
"Due to the nature of the work on the bridge, DDOT engineers determined a permanent lane closure would be necessary. We recognize the delay this lane closure is causing and apologize for the impacts to traffic

"We are reviewing the current plan to see where we can hopefully alleviate congestion including looking at possible alternatives such as one-way directions on the bridge during rush hours. We would appreciate any feedback on this idea."

She suggested this e-mail contact. Use the subject line, "Chain Bridge."

The first day of any project is often the worst. Many drivers aren't prepared for it. Others need to get a feel for how bad it's going to be before considering alternatives. This one is very bad. It would be bad enough to send me up to the Beltway, for example, just to avoid getting stuck on Route 123 or the parkway.

Please share your own experiences and suggest alternatives.

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By Robert Thomson  |  June 2, 2009; 10:46 AM ET
Categories:  Congestion , Construction , Driving  | Tags: Chain Bridge, George Washington Parkway  
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Next: Traffic Alert: Chain Bridge Construction Delays Possible


Has anyone heard of night-time construction? Why isn't that be done here to mitigate traffic delays?

Posted by: MikeL4 | June 2, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The traffic jam last evening was not good. Virginia traffic in the two lanes heading west had to merge into the one available lane on Chain Bridge. Not only did this jam up Virginia bound traffic, but the Maryland-bound cars were stuck in the jam too.

It took me over 30 minutes from the Reservoir Rd ramp to the bridge.

Were there any roadside signs warning motorists of this 8 month project on either the DC or Arlington sides?

Posted by: kiwifrog | June 2, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse


I drove from Arizona Avenue to the bridge yesterday afternoon around 3. There were NO warnings posted anywhere until the very end - I kept wondering what had happened and assumed an accident. This is absurd!!

Posted by: DevilsCapsGal | June 2, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

This morning was horrible. I take Chain Bridge every day, and there were NO SIGNS on the Virginia side warning of this construction. I've since been to DDOT's website, and it promises that there will be informative signs regarding the project. They must all be on the DC side -- not helpful at all for the thousands of us who drive in from 123 every day.

Sounds like this construction will effectively nix the usual summer traffic lull I've been looking forward to for months now. Sigh....

Posted by: J2-D2 | June 2, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Road signs have been up for several weeks, one at the end of Georgetown as you head out to Canal Road just past where the Whitehurst freeway comes in and one on MacArthur and Arizona.

But I prefer we go back to the Inauguration plan where we close all the bridges so the Virginia people can't block up the roads! (Just kidding...)

Posted by: fide | June 2, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Yes, definitely signs in DC and they've been there for at least two weeks. So if commute both directions, you should see them. Not to mention the news coverage.

Posted by: ah___ | June 2, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Commute out on Chain Bridge every evening. The signs must not be obvious as I took no notice of them. Given the overflow onto all other neighborhood streets this is producing it seems that for the duration of the project one-way rush hour flow is the way to go.

Posted by: paulhowdy | June 2, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Dr. G-

Thanks for posting this as my comment in another post suggested. Next time, please be on top of the game or give credit where it is due.

Posted by: PlateMan | June 2, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I commute daily on Chain Bridge, in both directions, and saw no signs whatsoever until last night, when the traffic moved so slowly we had plenty of time to read it. That sign at MacArthur and Arizona was not visible to those of us who turn right off MacArthur. I agree that the answer has to be one-way flow during rush hours. In the meantime, I'll try every alternative, and get on the road both ways at least one hour earlier, as long as my supervisor agrees.

Posted by: ansleydavid | June 2, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I never saw any signs, but it's not like they do any good in and of themselves - the traffic would still stink. I commute between AU and McLean. Last night my 20-minute commute was almost 90 minutes; this morning (via Key Bridge), it was an hour. Tonight I'm going to try the Beltway but am not optimistic. In the fall, I'll have kids to drop off and pick up from school/daycare on 2 sides of the river, and I've structured my entire work and childcare situation around having a 20-minute commute. This is really freaking me out.

Posted by: lollykat | June 2, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

All road repairs of this nature should be done at night. It also appears the reason the lane is closed is to provide parking for the contractors. Not necessarily because the work requires the lane be closed. If that is the case then I would like to see the engineers report and justification for the closure. Let him put his neck on the line and not hide behind DDOT. There should be a referendum on these types or repairs. If we're gong to be inconvenience and out cost increase then we should be compensated. If they had to pay us I bet they would find a better ad faster way to complete THIER PROJECTS. I work in Herndon VA and take a med. size road to work. The road backs up at a certain spot due to (Famous FXX. CO.) bottle neck. They have finally begun taking care of this. Basically they have approx. 150 yards of road that needs to be built to join the two other sides and make it a 2 lane (each way) road. They have been working on this for over 6 months. Good thing our fore fathers knew how to build a country or we would all be sitting under a tree waiting for our houses to be completed. PATHETIC management and job planning.

Posted by: askgees | June 2, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm opposed to one-way traffic during rush hours, as this conveniently ignores the fact that many reverse commuters take Chain Bridge to get to jobs in Virginia. Based on the jamup that regularly occurs (not just during construction) on the reverse commute side of Chain Bridge, I think more than a few people would be inconvenienced by a one-way traffic pattern.

As it is now, VA residents commuting to DC can still get into DC, albeit with delays. If it is made one way, DC residents commuting to VA will just be screwed. Since DC residents are the ones paying for this project, I don't think it is right that we should be inconvenienced for the benefit of those who do not pay taxes here.

Posted by: thetan | June 2, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Dear "thetan" -- I do have sympathy for the reverse commuters, but on balance the one-way is a bigger deal to many more people. People who work in Tysons can take the Beltway. But how do you drive from, say, north Arlington to AU or Sibley Hospital not using Chain Bridge? There just aren't nearly as many jobs on the Virginia side that are so far from an alternative. Anyway, the DC government must have run this analysis and agreed, which is why Canal Road is one-way too.

And Virginians who work in DC pay for these projects too, through business and meal taxes, not to mention that in reality most of the project is probably from federal funds anyway. I have an office in DC but am considering closing it and just working from my Virginia one, because that drive is now impassable.

Posted by: savechainbridge | June 2, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

There is now a Facebook group, Save Chain Bridge Commuters. Come join!

Posted by: savechainbridge | June 2, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I had an hour delay on the commute home Monday as I crawled along Canal Road, and I don't even use the Bridge!

Yesterday, I took Foxhall to Loughboro to MacArthur, only to find that right before where you turn off MacArthur to get to the Clara Barton Parkway, 1 of 2 lanes was closed to do tree trimming around electrical lines! This caused a 10 minute delay on top of the 10 minute delay for using Foxhall instead of Canal Road.

Was Canal Road a lot better on Tuesday afternoon? I didn't use MacArthur the whole way because I was afraid too many people would do this, but how was MacArthur from Georgetown to Arizona Avenue?

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | June 3, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Drove in on the bridge this morning around 9am. NOTHING going on in the closed lane. Just a bunch of stacked up scaffolding.

Why was it was so important for them to close the lane during rush hour? Maybe the construction workers needed places to park their cars?

Posted by: anthonya9999 | June 3, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

This started right when schools end and the road situation normally gets a little better so luckily we're not seeing it as bad as it could have been. It will be a long eight months unless they do something more than put up signs, like study the one way idea. I don't take 123 in either direction but this has made my drive in Arlington a disaster.

Posted by: jrudmin | June 4, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

How is it that the Obama administration, residing only miles from this construction site, is so focused on green energy and environmental factors, yet the DC DOT elects to keep thousands of cars running hours longer (creating more emissions) all to save placing and removing a few cones each day????? Is this really progress?

Posted by: jelisemyers | June 4, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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