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Tips to avoid D.C. motorcades

Wednesday - 3/5/2014, 4:24pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Few traffic incidents drive local commuters more berserk than the unexpected gridlock caused by downtown motorcades.

Late Tuesday morning a perfect storm of factors including several police escorts, icy roads, and a two-hour delay for federal employees led to widespread delays that proved particularly traumatizing for downtown drivers. Many reported being trapped for more than an hour. Some reported feelings of claustrophobia and panic on the WTOP Traffic Center hotline.

Police do not make the details of motorcade closures public. However, there are a few things you can do to lessen your risk of being trapped by motorcade-related delays.

  • Pay attention to your surroundings when driving downtown. If you notice an unusually large number of police cruisers idling quietly off the road, they may be waiting for their signal to move into the road and block traffic.

  • Know the most common places for motorcades. This include streets near the White House and nearby hotels especially along 16th and 15th Streets. The Rock Creek Parkway and Massachusetts Avenue near Embassy Row and the Naval Observatory are also common places for motorcades to appear. The routes leading to Joint Base Andrews are also subject to periodic stoppages.

  • You can check the WhiteHouse.gov website to see what times of day the president or vice president may be on the move.

  • If you sense that police are starting to block roads for a motorcade, plan on doing an "end-run" around the closures. Delays will form quickly on surrounding roads. The farther away you are from the motorcade's route and the delays caused by its closures, the better off you'll be.

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