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August 29, 2014 Published in Top Stories, Traffic & Transportation

Terrible Traffic Tuesday: The Top Three Bottlenecks And Hotspots To Avoid On The Day Of Reckoning For Gridlock

“They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday is just as bad,” the old blues  standard goes. But this coming Tuesday is the worst of them all. It’s “Terrible Traffic Tuesday,” the day of reckoning that Washington area commuters dread the most because it reminds them - after a three-month summer hiatus - how bad they really have it. It is the dreary day when trips take longer at rush hour, increasing by 26 percent to 25.8 minutes, when onerous traffic jams become the norm once again, and the absolute worst gridlock in the nation returns with a vengeance to area roads. It’s bumper-to-bumper time.

After a summer of having the roads to ourselves, it’s now the time when that half-hour trip in non-congested conditions in the Washington metro area becomes the erstwhile. Next week, it will take three hours at rush hour, transportation planners calculate. That’s the worst in the nation. It is all in a day’s work, but at lower travel speeds. It is so bad out there that some drivers have the gumption to find the nearest exit, turn around, and head back home to telework in pajamas and slippers with their coffee and Teddy Bears. Others will adjust their travel patterns and even switch transportation modes, such as rail, bus, rideshare, slug lines, bike lanes, and foot.

“The prevailing workday commute is so downright chaotic, dysfunctional, and disconcerting that it also impacts our productivity, lifestyles, health, emotions, blood pressure, and stress hormones, and it robs us of quality time with our families and loved ones,” said  Mahlon G. (Lon) Anderson, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs. “Terrible Traffic Tuesday epitomizes just how overcrowded and overstressed our roadways and our mass transit systems really are.”

“Terrible Traffic Tuesday is a wake-up for all of us. The average one-way commute is 36 minutes, up from 32 minutes in 2001,” said Nicholas Ramfos, Commuter Connections Director. “The four-minute increase in the commute time is equivalent to four full eight-hour workdays wasted driving to and from work. We change the outcome, reduce stress in our lives, and reduce our carbon footprint, by using transit, sharing the ride, bicycling, walking, or working from home instead of driving alone.”

“The road to hell is paved” right through the Washington metro area, or so it seems. Glistening in the morning and noonday sun, the new Silver Line Metro leg will attract 25,000 boardings a day, WMATA estimates. Volume on the 495 Express Lanes increased to an “average of 43,325 workday trips” in the June 2014 quarter, reports Transurban. It comprises a “23.9 percent increase from 34,974 in the June 2013 quarter.” But will these big ticket projects make a difference in the daily grind this Terrible Traffic Tuesday? They will, but there is no escaping it. There are still some nightmarish spots – the worst of the worst – to avoid on Terrible Traffic Tuesday. The leading candidates for the worst commutes from “East Hades” are seemingly innumerable, but one stands out: I-395 SB/I-95 SB from Franconia Rd/Exit 169 to Russell Road/Exit 148. INRIX ranks it as the fourth worst corridor in the USA on its 2013 scorecard. Here are three more that immediately come to mind.

  1. The Capital Beltway: Going In Circles.  No roadway in the area symbolizes Washington more than the 64-mile-long Capital Beltway. Circumferentially, it teems with a quarter of a million vehicles each workday. Poor wretches with their noses so hard to the grindstone. In its jubilee year or 50th birthday, the über-iconic Capital Beltway is showing the telltale signs of her age, so to speak, and its wrinkles, blotchiness, and age spots are there for the entire world to see on Terrible Traffic Tuesday. Inexorably, its under-bed is deteriorating into a muddy mess, reports The Washington Post. Love the roadway, but try avoiding its hot spots or its worst corridors.  If you like creeping along at 23 mph at rush hour, try the Capital Beltway NB/Capital Beltway WB from Exit 27 to MD-97/Georgia Ave/Exit 31 during the morning rush hour at 8 a.m. on any Tuesday of the workweek, chiefly on Terrible Traffic Tuesday.

If you value your precious time, take a rain check on traveling along the 20.6 –mile- long stretch of the Capital Beltway EB/Capital Beltway NB from Braddock Rd/Exit 5 all the way to exit 34 at MD-355/Wisconsin Avenue during the afternoon and early evening rush hours. Avoid it at all costs Thursday evenings around 5 p.m. Both spots were ranked in INRIX’s 2013 scorecard of the most congested corridors during peak periods. Yet they aren’t the only “10 miles of bad road” around here.

 

  1. All Roads Leading To Washington. Come Terrible Traffic Tuesday, as per usual, the most congested corridors and commuter routes in the District will be New York Avenue, Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue, D.C. 295, I-395/695, Rhode Island Avenue, and Wisconsin Avenue, says the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). Nearly 75 percent of the workforce in Washington, D.C. comes from outside the city. Daily, nearly 200,000 vehicles enter the city. DDOT put it this way: “Two-thirds of traffic on the city’s streets during morning and evening peak periods is from neighboring states. This traffic is comprised of people traveling to jobs in the District as well as traveling through D.C. for other purposes.” Twenty percent of the workers coming into the District each workday hail from Prince George’s County and 14 percent from Montgomery County. In Virginia, Fairfax County residents comprise 12 percent of the work force within the District, and Arlington six percent.

 

  1. Union Station. Frequented by millions of passengers a year, it is at once the “largest intermodal transportation center in the Washington metro region.” Traffic patterns at Columbus Circle in front of Union Station, the second busiest rail station in the entire nation, will become chaotic again with hurried and harried commuters trying to catch 229 Amtrak, MARC and VRE trains. It is also the hub for Greyhound and other intercity bus lines. Inside, 70,000 passengers will enter and exit the Metrorail Station, including 18,000 passengers transferring between Metrorail and railway services at the extremely busy transit hub. Like an intricate beehive, the mezzanine, platform, concourse and escalators will bustle with 35, 0000 passengers attempting to get on board. More than 50percent will experience “severe congestion and delays at the north mezzanine in the peak hours.”  It will get even worse at this historic landmark when the United States Senate and House of Representatives return from the August recess on Monday, September 8. Just ask Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia).

Other commutes from hell include I-395 NB from VA-27 to VA-110, I-495 Inner Loop from VA-193 to the GW Parkway, and I-395 SB/SW Freeway from 4th Street to 12th Street. That’s why none of the 2.9 million worker bees in this area was surprised when the Washington metro area was ranked the most congested place in the country last year in the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI) annual Urban Mobility Report (UMR). This is the common lot and destiny of Washingtonians. Last year, the number of “singletons” – motorists who drive to work alone - increased slightly in the region from 64% to 66 %, reveals Commuter Connections’ 2013 State of the Commute Survey.  Previously, the drive alone percentage dropped from a high of 70% of the area’s work force in 2001 to around 64% by 2010. Nationwide, 76% of American workers drive to work alone.

AAA Mid-Atlantic and Commuter Connections are encouraging area residents to un-car for the day and pledge today to celebrate “more sustainable forms of transportation on Car Free Day – Monday, September 22, 2014.” As always, Commuter Connections is poised to provide better transportation options to commuters who want to avoid being caught up in the post-Labor Day traffic congestion. “It’s the smarter way to work.”

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