The Inner Scoop

Tripling of crosswalks on Washington Circle creates gridlock

Posted on: Thursday 11/6/2014 8:59am

The tripling of the number of signalized crosswalks through Washington Circle has created major headaches for drivers. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON -- In "National Lampoon's European Vacation," Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, drives his family through London when they become stuck in a traffic circle on the east side of the Thames River. The Griswolds whirl endlessly around the circle for hours on end, unable to battle through the torrents of traffic.

A similar real-life scene is not so humorous for D.C. drivers, who have been battling heavy traffic in the West End near Washington Circle.

Amid a cacophony of horns Wednesday, a driver shouted out an open window: "It's gridlock! Traffic ain't moving." Another, who claims to have been making deliveries in the West End for more than 15 years, calls the delays "nightmarish."

After more than a year of construction, the complex junction that joins Pennsylvania Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue and K Street now sports triple the previous number of signalized crosswalks near, through and around the perimeter of the circle. Each new crossing delays drivers, who must wait to allow pedestrians to safely reach the curbs. This has caused long delays for drivers on the routes that feed into the circle, including 23rd Street.

James Cheeks, with the District Department of Transportation, says that the city began planning to revamp the circle nearly five years ago.

"It was a direct response to the community's request for a multi-modal solution. We took six signalized crosswalks up to 18."

More crosswalks mean more snags for motorists at an already clogged junction.

"We know what the capacity is and we know what we can handle at the circle," Cheeks says. "There's only so many pieces of that pie that you can give out. Now that we're providing that time to pedestrians, there's only so much time left. It's very similar to ... Dupont Circle."

Cheeks notes that this is one of the most difficult intersections in the country to time. He says that one traffic study yielded about 800 pedestrians in one hour in a single crosswalk. And the newly upgraded New Hampshire Avenue, on the northeast side of the circle, has contributed to an increase in volume since it was opened to two-way traffic a few months ago.

"There's a new approach that we had to deal with," Cheeks says. "That in itself has a major impact on traffic."

Cheeks says that DDOT is investigating how it can better divvy up what little time there is left after pedestrians cross safely to better serve drivers in one of the city's most densely populated areas. In a long list of calculations and compromises, the influence of "pedestrian interference" -- those pedestrians who walk against the signals or outside of crosswalks -- must also be accounted for.

"We've met with the community and the [Advisory Neighborhood Commission]. We've heard the complaints [from drivers]. But we've also tried to meet the expectations of the pedestrians and the hospital," he says.

DDOT has placed temporary crossing guards on the southern side of the circle during rush hours for several weeks. Traffic signal technicians were seen as recently as Tuesday working on the lights on Pennsylvania Avenue east and west of the circle.

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WTOP's Megan Matthews contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on Facebook.

Friday's traffic trifecta: It could get ugly out there

Posted on: Friday 10/3/2014 1:01pm

It could be a worse-than-normal Friday afternoon, WTOP's director of traffic operations warns. (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON -- Friday could bring the perfect storm of traffic to D.C.

The afternoon will see those trying to get out of town for the weekend meeting those observing Yom Kippur and Nats fans heading to a playoff game.

"So were going to have a lot of people heading out of town, heading toward Nationals Park and trying to get home in time before sundown," says WTOP Director of Traffic Operations Jim Battigliese.

He also says it's not just going to be jammed on the roads but on Metro.

"People are not going to be expecting large crowds on Metro during evening rush hour, during the afternoon. All of a sudden there's going to be a lot of fans wearing red Nats jerseys jumping on the trains."

His advice for Nationals fans: Get to the game an hour early or you're probably going to end up getting there late when something slows you down.

If you're not a Nats fan, he says, "Realize there is a game. Try to avoid going down near Nationals Park and avoid the Southeast and Southwest Freeway."

And remember the Jewish holiday: "Anywhere there's a synagogue, you're going to have a lot of people heading out for services, so keep that in mind as well," he says.

"Just trying to head through parts of Northwest D.C., there are a lot of synagogues, and a lot of people trying to park and trying to get to the synagogue on time."

Additionally, D.C. United plays Sporting Kansas City at 8 p.m. Friday.

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Big events should not have major traffic impact

Posted on: Friday 9/12/2014 3:19pm

WASHINGTON -- Several events take place in the District this weekend and while none should have a major impact on traffic, there are multiple road closures.

On Friday, Sept. 12, "Real Time With Bill Maher" will be shot downtown at the Sydney Harmen Theatre at 6th and F streets. Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed in the westbound direction between 13th and 6th streets; 13th Street will be closed from Pennsylvania Avenue to 6th street; and 6th Street will be closed between F and Pennsylvania. The closures are scheduled from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Sept. 13, the Children's National Health System's "Race for Every Child" begins on Pennsylvania Avenue at 12th Street NW. Closures will be along Pennsylvania Avenue between 12th and 3rd streets and Independence Avenue between 3rd and 6th streets. The race is scheduled from 6:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Sunday streetcar drill will block District streets

Posted on: Thursday 8/21/2014 2:51pm

WASHINGTON -- The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and other local agencies will be conducting a Streetcar Emergency Preparedness Drill, Sunday Aug. 24. The drill will close H Street NE between 12th and 13th streets.

The expected road closure begins at 6 a.m. and runs through 11 a.m. There will also be parking restrictions in effect on 12th and H Streets.

Residents are advised to expect a significant emergency personnel presence on the site but bear in mind that this is only a drill.

The following detours will be in place;

  • Westbound traffic on H Street NE will be detoured south at 13th Street, then west at G Street.

  • Eastbound traffic on H Street NE will be detoured north at 12th Street, then east at I Street.

  • 12th Street NE traffic will be directed to I Street to travel east.

  • 13th Street NE traffic will be directed to G Street to travel west.

Traffic blog: Night work on the Leesburg bypass, repaving Georgetown Pike

Posted on: Monday 8/4/2014 1:02pm

Amy Freedman,

WASHINGTON -- In Leesburg, Virginia on the route 7/15 bypass underneath the Sycolin Road Bridge overpass, crews will begin one week of overnight work starting Monday, Aug. 4. Lane closures are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. each night and run until 5 a.m. each day with the work on Saturday morning expected to run a bit longer.

As rush hours trend toward starting earlier and ending later, the 7 p.m. start time could pose a problem to drivers on a road that already tends to be quite congested in the evening.

In addition the "Scenic Highway" that will connect you with Route 7 and points west, the Georgetown Pike will undergo a paving operation beginning Sunday, Aug. 10.

While the work is scheduled primarily in the overnight hours, this could cause traffic issues especially on Fridays when a start time of 9 p.m. is still relatively early. The project hours are Sundays through Thursdays between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. and Fridays at 9 p.m. into Saturdays at 9 a.m.

VDOT estimates the project to run approximately two months and asks that you consider alternate routes during project hours. Remember that all work zones are weather permitting.

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African summit to close roads throughout downtown D.C.

Posted on: Monday 8/4/2014 7:02am

Click on the image to see where the road closures are slated for next week's summit. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON -- A slew of street closures are on tap for downtown Washington.

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will welcome African heads of state and government leaders to the nation's capital from Monday, Aug. 4 to Wednesday, Aug. 6. The continent-wide summit is the largest event any U.S. president has held with African leaders.

With many foreign dignitaries in town, downtown travel will be further complicated by police escorts, motorcades and demonstrators.

Some federal workers have already received special orders to telework to reduce the impact the summit is expected to have on traffic. Sudden traffic stoppages are possible the weekend before and stretching into the middle of the work week anywhere between Dupont Circle, the West End, the Southwest Waterfront and the downtown grid.

Reggie Sanders with the D.C. Department of Transportation says there will be several venues used across the city for various meetings related to the summit.

"Motorists should pay close attention to motorcades and short-term road closures, which will cause short-term delays throughout the District," he says.

The Metropolitan Police Department has released a list of all planned road closures, parking restrictions, pedestrian screening areas and tips for those using public transportation on its website.

Also, Sanders cautions that delays could result from unplanned protests and heavy pedestrian activity.

Beginning late Monday evening and lasting through Tuesday, street closures will go into place near the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and near the Waterfront in Southwest. Portions of Maine Avenue, 12th Street and D Street will be closed through Tuesday.

On Tuesday, lane closures and complete traffic stoppages will be possible near the White House along 17th and 15th streets during presidential visits. Police movements will likely affect traffic several blocks away from these closures at random times, however.

On Wednesday, numerous streets will be blocked all day long near the State Department and the Institute of Peace. Virginia Avenue, Constitution Avenue, 23rd Street and others will be off-limits for much of the day. Virginia drivers who normally commute into the city using the Memorial and Roosevelt bridges will want to consider alternate routes.

Metrorail service won't be affected. Some Metrobus routes will be detoured around the road closures. Cars parked along roads slated for closure will be ticketed and towed.

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Robber gives new meaning to the words 'drive-thru'

Posted on: Tuesday 7/29/2014 12:13pm

WASHINGTON - The summertime rush hour for the D.C. area was relatively uneventful Tuesday morning.

But, as my mom would say, "It's always something."

Early morning in Prince George's County at the Capital Plaza Mall will justify that sentiment.

It was just a little after 5 a.m. when the scanners in the WTOP Traffic blew up with the report of a car into a store at Capital Plaza Mall and a fire. We sent the WTOP mobile unit to the scene in preparation for what would probably cause big problems on Route 450/Annapolis Road just to the east of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Once arriving, our mobile reporter Finn Neilsen called back to the Traffic Center reporting that a SUV went through the side of a McDonald's restaurant. No, the driver wasn't ordering breakfast. With a large response and lots of hoopla, things sifted out relatively quickly.

As Jack Taylor stated on air, "the roadway is unaffected but you will have to make alternate breakfast plans." However, as of 9:45 a.m., the Prince George's County Police investigating officers were still on the scene.

A police spokesperson told WTOP that there was a carjacking and a report of a vehicle into the McDonald's within minutes of one another. Police say the preliminary investigation indicated the carjacking victim was at the intersection of Route 450 and 71st Avenue when the suspect asked for a ride.

When the driver declined, police say the suspect revealed a weapon. The victim then jumped out of the SUV and the robber drove away on Annapolis Road and hit a minivan. The driver of the minivan followed the SUV which subsequently crashed into the McDonald's drive-thru.

Nobody was in the store at the time, no McMuffins harmed and Prince George's Police have the robber in custody.

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Traffic blog: Commuters outraged by I-395 road striping

Posted on: Wednesday 7/23/2014 9:21am

395 road striping (WTOP/ Rick McClure)
A view of the road Wednesday morning. (WTOP/Rick McClure)

WASHINGTON -- When it comes to traffic in D.C., it's always something. Well, Wednesday morning's commute may be one for the record books.

The main call to the WTOP Traffic Center was not about a crash with an overturned tractor trailer, or the Beltway being littered with an oil spill. No, Wednesday morning, it was all about the lines on the road.

Apparently, in Virginia, Interstate 395's terminal construction through Landmark had taken a turn. Or, as Jack Taylor said on air during the morning commute, "it was a line striping project gone awry."

It appears a contractor failed to finish restriping about 1,000 feet of Interstate 395. Work on the interstate typically wraps up by the time commuters head out in the morning.

The WTOP Traffic Center received call after call from commuters about the incident -- some angry, some enlightening, some very, very amusing. This was not taken lightly by the traffic staff. WTOP sent a driver to take a look and he too was bewildered and at a loss for words by the project calamity.

Usually, a summertime rush hour is lighter than normal, but by mid-rush Wednesday morning, delays on I-395 heading northbound toward D.C. stemmed from I-95 in Newington.

The phones were ringing off the hook with great descriptions of the mishap, how the lanes went from three to four, back to three. But our favorite description in the Traffic Center came via social media, using a Seinfeld reference, asking if Kramer was in charge of the paint job, "Kramer Striping."

Eventually, WTOP did get word from VDOT. The situation was deemed to be an incomplete project, which comes as no surprise. But, commuters can rest assured it will be remedied during the overnight and ready to go again tomorrow morning, hopefully.

Ways to avoid miles-long delays during summer getaways

Posted on: Monday 7/7/2014 5:47pm

WASHINGTON -- Travelers returning from holiday weekend getaways Sunday found themselves stuck in stop-and-go traffic for hours, and it was some of the worst traffic WTOP's Director of Traffic and Transit Operations has ever seen.

"I've been doing this traffic now for over 30 years and it was probably one of the worst days I've ever seen [Sunday] and it was bizarre," WTOP's Jim Battagliese said on WTOP Monday.

Beach routes, such as Interstate 95 in Virginia and U.S. 50 in Maryland, had continuous traffic jams. Backups were reported on westbound U.S. 50 most of the day. They cleared around 11:45 p.m. Sunday, but the traffic jam extended up to 10 miles at times.

Traffic started at 10 a.m. on some routes and didn't ease up until midnight.

A crash early in the afternoon on the eastern span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge brought all traffic on the Western Shore to a stop for about 15 minutes and exacerbated westbound delays.

In Virginia, congestion developed by late morning on northbound Interstate 95 North. By 11 p.m., there was a 28-mile backup before Va. 606 at Thornburg that took until nearly 1 a.m. to clear. Numerous other slowdowns developed throughout Stafford and Prince William counties as well.

It was even worse in the afternoon: Northbound traffic was at a standstill on U.S. 301 with nearly 8 miles of stop-and-go traffic leading to the Gov. Harry Nice Bridge. The highway is a well-known alternative to the clogged lanes of I-95.

Interstate 70 eastbound also was a slow drive between Hagerstown and Frederick, Maryland. Traffic on I-70 East and I-270 South is typically heavy in Frederick County on the Sundays following federal holidays.

Because July 4 fell on a weekend, more people may have taken a long weekend and decided to return home at the same time, contributing to the delays.

But whether it is a holiday weekend or just a heavily-traveled summer weekend, Battagliese has some tips to avoid getting stuck in traffic when coming home:

  • Try to leave Monday. Take off at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. Monday morning to head into the region and then go right into school or work.

  • Take shortcuts. Avoid main routes such as I-95 during big travel weekends. Instead, head west and opt for routes such as Interstate 64, U.S. Route 17 or Virginia Route 3.

  • Have options. Before you hit the road, map out some alternate routes so if traffic is bad, you can jump off and keep moving.

    In Virginia, "Route 1 is not a good option," Battagliese notes, "because that's where everyone goes."

    Instead, he suggests U.S. Route 15 or U.S. Route 29.

WTOP's Dave Dildine contribute to this report. Follow @WTOPtraffic and @WTOP on Twitter.

Crowds and traffic for the Fourth of July: Caution is the key

Posted on: Thursday 7/3/2014 6:12am

fireworks (Getty Images)
Expect crowds and massive traffic if you're heading to the National Mall on the Fourth of July. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- Heading down to the National Mall for the Fourth of July? Between the traffic, the parking and the crowds, it's going to be an experience.

WTOP's Dave Dildine says that streets and sidewalks will be packed with cars and pedestrians, so caution is key.

Consider taking Metro. Metro will run more trains as the day continues. On Friday evening, trains will run on a rush-hour schedule. Both should help the congestion a bit, Dildine says.

Capital Bikeshare will set up a corral at Constitution Avenue and 10th Street, in Northwest, from 3 p.m. until an hour after the fireworks end. It says it can guarantee you a place to dock your Bikeshare bike if you ride down there, but it can't assure you that there will be a bike for you to ride home, so plan accordingly.

In her Tuesday appearance on WTOP, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said many of the District's Potomac River bridges will be closed for the fireworks.

Meanwhile, some parking restrictions will be lifted due to the holiday, but some will still apply. And temporary no-parking signs are going up already along the Mall, while all parking restrictions will remain in force around Nationals Park for the Fourth.

Get more Fourth of July information in WTOP's live blog.

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