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Friday night gridlock in D.C.

The nation's capital was largely gridlocked in bumper-to-bumper madness Friday night, a result of streets narrowed by piles of snow and a Metro transportation system buckling under constant strain.

Motorist Katherine Lewis sat for an hour in the 1700 block of S. Street NW around 6 p.m. Ahead of her, she said by phone, a Metro bus was stuck in the snow. A police car blocked her access to the southbound lanes of 18th Street NW. She and a dozen other motorists headed in her direction were going nowhere.

"We can't get out," she said. "Send help."

A D.C. Ambulance sat for more than 10 minutes in the intersection of Rhode Island Ave. and 15th street NW, siren blaring and lights flashing. But there was simply nowhere for motorists to go to make way for the emergency vehicle.

On traditional commuter routes such as 15th and 16th streets NW, as well as on neighborhood streets , it took more than 20 minutes to go a single block. On 16th street, a D.C. plow exacerbated the problem, double-parking for at least 40 minutes, blocking one of only two open lanes on the snow-clogged street.

Fifteenth Street NW was jammed downtown with motorists backed up trying to get out of their parking garages. On some streets, motorists were so impatient that they passed cars ahead of them by darting into the essentially empty oncoming lanes and then cutting back in. Many intersections are blocked, partially or totally, by drivers thinking they can make it across before light changes.

"I've walked from the Post and am almost to North Capitol Street," reported web editor Christopher Stanford. "Complete gridlock and chaos. Dozens and scores of people waiting at bus stops where there are normally just a few.
Very few buses to be seen. Not many cabs either.

Editor Marc Fisher reports: U Street in Shaw was so gummed up that some drivers got out of their cars and strolled about. In Columbia Heights, residential streets such as Lamont and Harvard streets NW were as jammed as the major streets connecting Adams Morgan with crosstown neighbors Mount Pleasant and Cleveland Park.

The Metro was running to all stations after the mid-morning Red Line derailment, but passengers reported packed cars, long waits and ongoing door problems on the Orange and Blue lines.

Traffic cameras showing routes out of Washington show packed routes. Similarly, suburban areas such as I-95 southbound in Springfield and Rockville Pike in Maryland showed lanes jammed with headlights of motorists stalled after a morning trip that AAA described as "the commute from hell."

The beltway east of the American Legion bridge was an almost unbroken line of head lights and tail lights -- motorists seeking refuge in opposite directions.

Kim Frum, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said things were slow out on the major Maryland highways around Washington but traffic seemed to be moving.

By Washington Post staff  |  February 12, 2010; 7:36 PM ET
 
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Comments

It should have been obvious to Metro managers that running only one-quarter the normal number of trains would result in dangerously crowded conditions in a system where rush-hour trains are already obscenely packed.

The overcrowding was made much worse by the fact that Metro ran mostly six-car trains today. The managerial personnel who made the decision to run six-car trains (or who failed to make the decision to run all eight-car trains all day Friday) should be held accountable. And Metro riders deserve an explanation.

Posted by: ThomasMD | February 12, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

The blue line was a nightmare tonight... there was a line to the bottom of the escalators at Farragut West in the direction of VA, I ended up taking the blue line to L'enfant and picking up the Yellow line to work around it.

That said, there isn't a whole lot metro could have done about the capacity issues. Evening rush hour was definitely less crowded than the morning rush hour was, and it's not like they could have dug out faster. Single tracking on Wednesday underground made what could have been a nightmare a lot better than it otherwise would have been.

Posted by: wmsheppa | February 12, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

I have no sympathy for chumps and suckers. Idiots.

Posted by: FridayKnight | February 12, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Metro announced that service would be that bad last night. It was OPM director Berry that put hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats on the roads and into Metro.

Thank you, Mr. Berry, for raping our transportation system.

Posted by: fireball72 | February 12, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

The situation today in downtown was absolutely crazy. Whoever made the decision to open the Federal Government should be fired NOW. Anyone that has such poor judgement has no business in any position of authority. People's lives were put at risk, both on metro and in the streets. The streets were not sufficiently cleared to accommodate the traffic. the few buses that managed to get downtown, were stuck in slush and ice and resulted in even more streets being unavailable. Who is the nut that made this crazy decision? And can we send Dick Durbin downtown with a snow shovel to see if he might change his mind after an hour or two clearing streets?

Posted by: kathims | February 12, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

2 1/2 hrs to get 10 blocks in dc. The city fenty has let become a 3rd world backroad hole. Every major street has one travel lane and no progress in clearing the curb lanes. Metro buses blocked traffic everywhere. These drivers need to get off the road they take up too much room and dont allow for 2 car lanes. Fenty is useless. Where's the traffic cops? Where's the snowlowers? This guy need to be fired. No sign of plows, loaders, or backhoes. Just unbelievable. What are these idots doing all day and night? Breaking more plows? What are we up to 40% not working. Pathetic repsonse.

Posted by: espnfan | February 12, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

I went in yesterday and scoped things out and knew this was coming so stayed home today.

Post Staff, can you find out why snow removal operations have stopped downtown? This is far from a complete job and since there is no warm spell coming, the only way to open these lanes up is to plow them further or use frontloaders to haul snow away. If nothing is done, all of next week will be the same. Boston and NYC can handle this, perhaps DC should call them up and get some help on what to do.

Posted by: merganser | February 12, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

I'd really like to know who came up with the bright idea to send front-loaders into Georgetown to clear unplowed streets DURING RUSH HOUR.

I've tried to give the City the benefit of the doubt given the staggering amount of snow, but this sent me over the edge. If Fenty's fingerprints or his DPW have anything to do with this, I think I will declare my candidacy for Mayor and run against him on this issue alone.

Posted by: njacobs | February 12, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

19th street going down to Constitution was pinched down to a single lane because of snow, that alone caused huge ripple effects in the p.m. commute. And there was plenty of room to put the snow, no one had bothered to check and/or clear another lane. Inexcusable.

Hey, guess what agency has an office on 19th St in that area? OPM! You have to try to laugh so you don't cry.

Posted by: joe36 | February 12, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

OK Fenty, you have a three-day weekend, let's see what you can do. If every "snow emergency route" in the District isn't plowed to the curbs by Tuesday's morning commute, then will there be any excuse?

Posted by: GovFlack | February 12, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Most of us that commute every day knew that this was a very bad decision, but I knew it was coming. I wonder how much work actually got done today by the federal workers who came to work for 6 whole hours. Another ridiculous decision by the arrogant gang from Chicago. Thanks Obama....

Posted by: johnfchick1 | February 12, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

The government is so terrified of looking 'weak' in front of morons 20+ states removed from 72 inches of snow, that they literally ignore 80 inch piles of dirty snow choking off 50 percent of the traffic flow in a region notorious for it's impatience and lack of tolerance for other drivers.

They could have taken another day off, and given the workers a 3-day weekend to get things semi-passable, but they did not.

They caved into completely imagined pressure that didn't even exist, and literally caused several fatalities today.

Thank you for your service, you pointless idiot morons.

Posted by: SupremeWu | February 12, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

I'd just like to say that my 6-mile commute in western Fairfax County was lovely today. There were definitely fewer cars on the road, because even with the half-plowed lanes, tall snowbanks, ice, and unplowed de/acceleration lanes, I didn't have any delays. Thank you Virginia.

Posted by: VelocityAtrocity | February 12, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

The crybabies are out! If the government had decided to close some of the same people complaining now would be whining about "babying useless bureaucrats"

Posted by: fredcorgi1 | February 12, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if it's the piles of snow blocking traffic sensors at lights or just wiring gone wonky from the storm, but for some reason, the light at University Boulevard and Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park was completely out of whack this evening. The Carroll signals would only post green long enough to let 2-3 cars through and then go straight to yellow; usually they're at least three times longer. The traffic was severely backed up in both directions on Carroll. Does anyone know what happened there?

Posted by: wondermojz | February 12, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Anything from Metro about opening the orange crush above ground in VA tomorrow?

Posted by: kc47i | February 12, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

@wondermojz: I experienced the same thing tonight, but unfortunately I don't have any idea what happened. Would love to know, though - it took 20 minutes just to get from Washington Adventist Hospital to that traffic light.

Posted by: gewaldron | February 12, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

"Hecka job you're doing, Berry!"

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 12, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

The DC government doing the only thing it is competent to do and that would be to screw things up royally.

Posted by: fenoy | February 12, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

It took me over 5 hours to get from Fairfax to DC this morning. Pure hell. That's what happens when you open the government before all of the metros are back up and running.

Posted by: bossofbam | February 12, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Tonight was a first for me -- my first traffic jam three stories underground, trying to exit the parking garage at 1120 Conn. Ave. N.W. It took a half hour just to get to the surface, and then another half hour to circle the block to get onto K Street. And this was all after 7 pm.

Remember this next time the issue of funding Metro comes up. This is what happens when Metro is underfunded, undermanned, and overwhelmed.

Posted by: PostSubscriber | February 12, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Mayor Fenty:

Can you please tell your snow removal crews not to leave 15 feet tall piles of snow blocking 2 to 3 lanes on 18th, 19th, and 20th Street. Other than that keep up the great job!

Posted by: jymerk | February 13, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to know what DC's plans are for removing snow from the curb lanes of streets downtown and streets leading out of downtown (Connecticut, Wisconsin, Georgia, 16th, etc.). The Snow Emergency is still in effect. But I haven't seen a plow on Connecticut since Thursday night. Did they just give up before the job was done? The whole point of a snow emergency is so you can plow from curb to curb. So either finish the job, or admit that your snow removal plan is to "wait till spring", and lift the snow emergency.


If today is any indication, we need the streets cleared from curb to curb, scraped down to bare pavement. These lanes are needed for travel during the rush hours, and parking during the non-rush hours.

Posted by: thetan | February 13, 2010 3:32 AM | Report abuse

We left yesterday from Alexandria, VA to Chevy Chase/Wisconsin Avenue around 4 PM. It took us almost an hour and a half to get to Chevy Chase. Then, returning we were stuck on Wisconsin Avenue going towards Georgetown. I tried to go down Mass Avenue. There were snowplows blocking BOTH lanes of traffic. Back to Wisconsin Avenue we went, finally making it across P street bridge to Memorial Bridge. The back up getting onto the bridge was insane. As soon as we were back in NoVa, traffic was heavy but running well. No major issues in NoVa. DC was a DISASTER and MESS. I cannot believe the number of unplowed streets in the District. Horrendous.

Posted by: nolaalex | February 13, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

thetan: The District is lifting the snow emergency at 5 pm today, so after that, cars will be parked in each direction in of the two lanes. So, there will now be ONE LANE in each direction on Connecticut, Wisconsin, etc., because the curb lane is still blocked with huge snowdrifts. Can you think of anything more moronic than doing that?

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 13, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Nice decision by Mr. Berry @ OPM to open the federal government offices for less than a full day before a three day weekend. It seems as though he couldn't be bothered to give the city another few days to adequately and safely clear the streets. And the quote from this arrogant putz, "Convenience does not factor into this decision." A brilliant comment from another 'Dubya' hack that was recycled by the Obama adminstration that feels the need to be an all-inclusive non partisan family. Then again, what would you expect from the principal bureaucrat that allowed long-term-care and health insurance premium increases for federal employees of no less than 25 percent! Wonder if he even called in yesterday. Bravo!

Posted by: Magua | February 13, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

"The beltway east of the American Legion bridge was an almost unbroken line of head lights and tail lights"

This causes me to ask why a bunch of cars decided to bail out into the Potomac River. A car cannot be on the road and be east of this bridge. This bridge runs North-South. East is in the river.

Posted by: tounces | February 13, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

WashingtonDame...I agree, that is a dumb decision. By declaring the snow emergency over, they are essentially saying "we don't plan to plow anymore". My intent with the above statement I made is that they need to finish plowing, and then lift the emergency. But as long as they emergency is in effect, they should never have stopped plowing. It adds insult to injury to say that we are keeping these emergency rules in effect for no reason.

Posted by: thetan | February 13, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

thetan: I distinctly remember Fenty saying that the snow emergency would be in effect until the main roads were cleared curb to curb. I guess he thinks we're stupid and will forget what he said.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 13, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

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