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New I-95 Pattern Confuses Some Drivers

Some drivers from the Washington area still are having a bit of trouble with the change in the traffic pattern on southbound I-95 north of Baltimore. It's something many of us encounter only as we return from vacations in the Northeast. (So I'll remind people about this again before Thanksgiving.)

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
As I was coming back to Washington last week, I noticed considerable confusion and potentially dangerous situations at the Harbor and Fort McHenry tunnel divide.

Traffic was criss-crossing in front in me with one driver going right then left then right. My daughter, who had traveled the road earlier that week and has a navigation device, told me that her device was giving her old advice and had not been updated to reflect the new road pattern. A warning therefore might be welcome: Do not trust what your car tells you!
Judy Uehlein

Navigation Devices
I have the same trouble with my three-year-old GPS: It's baffled by the Springfield Interchange and certain approaches to the Wilson Bridge. Shows you that some things have changed in Washington transportation, despite our overall lack of investment. I didn't try it at the I-95 split for the tunnels, but I assume the same thing would happen. (I could fix some of that if I wanted to pay for GPS map updates. I could get either a one-time update or, at a higher price, updates for the life of my device.)

The I-95 Split
It's the reverse of what it used to be. Stay left now to follow I-95 south toward Washington. That's the way most traffic goes, and it made sense to make this switch, which was done over the summer as part of the Express Toll Lanes project.

I printed a similar letter from a reader earlier this month. In responding, I said that I thought the confusion of the initial switchover probably had been resolved for most travelers because there are now two pretty big signs advising of the new directions.

But I was returning from a vacation in Maine this week, and at about 8 p.m. Tuesday noticed a driver -- clearly confused -- veering right across three lanes at the split. Sometimes, we stop looking for signs once we're sure we're familiar with a traffic pattern. That would make the new signs easy to miss.

What to Do
At the split, southbound traffic either continues on I-95 toward the Fort McHenry Tunnel or takes I-895 toward the Harbor Tunnel and on to I-97 toward Annapolis. The long-standing traffic pattern changed this summer. Stay left to take I-95. Go right to take I-895 toward I-97.

Has anyone else had trouble with this?

By Robert Thomson  |  October 15, 2009; 12:55 PM ET
Categories:  Construction , Driving , Safety  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Express Toll Lanes, Interstate 95  
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I haven't had problems with it. I knew the area was under construction and the signs for the new traffic pattern are pretty large. Don't excuse some people's dangerous driving by veering across lanes at the last minute. Personally, I think I-895 should be signed "Annapolis/Washington" southbound anyway since 895 avoids downtown Baltimore and connects back with I-95.

Posted by: CrestwoodKat | October 15, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Saw it myself for the first time about 2 weeks ago; didn't expect it but didn't have a problem, either. I don't have a GPS and have long resisted them for this very reason.

Posted by: --sg | October 15, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how anyone could miss the massively large signs that point out clearly which lanes go to which road. People not seeing those giant signs means they're not paying attention...and that's the most scary thing of all.

Posted by: pikamander007 | October 16, 2009 3:20 AM | Report abuse

The dumb thing about that location is that people swerve to head towards the Fort McHenry Tunnel, when ultimately both roads go to the same place (doesn't anyone else remember how the Harbor Tunnel used to back up before the Fort McHenry Tunnel opened in 1985?).

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 16, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

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