The Washington region’s freeway system has become significantly more crowded over the past three years according to a major new aerial traffic study released today by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). From 2002 to 2005, the first hour of evening rush hour (4:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M.) experienced the greatest increase in lane miles of congestion—64%.
The study declared a tie for the worst traffic chokepoint in the region between evening rush hour on the inner loop of the Beltway from I-270 to Connecticut Ave and the evening rush hour approach to D.C. on I-395. At these locations, commuters averaged a mere 5 to 10 mph on a regular basis.
“Improved ramps and merge areas connecting major roads along with the construction of High Occupancy Toll or Express Toll Lanes are the best short term solutions to addressing these traffic chokepoints and bottlenecks,” said Ron Kirby, Transportation Planning Director for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). He said the region also must fund transit adequately and continue to promote ridesharing and telecommuting.
Some locations in the outer suburbs such as Westbound I-66 (4:30 to 5:30 PM) from Lee Hwy to Sudley Rd and Southbound I-95 (4:30 to 5:30 PM) from Dumfries Blvd to Russell Rd experienced the most significant changes between 2002 and 2005—both spots doubled in congestion.
On a more positive note, the study found some examples where highway upgrades added capacity and improved traffic flow such as the Beltway from I-270 to the Dulles Toll Road, US 50 Westbound in Maryland and the Springfield Interchange.
COG planners believe shifting more growth to the eastern half of the Washington region would help reduce some of the imbalances that create chokepoints. They note that the major chokepoint heading into D.C. over the 14th Street Bridge during evening rush hour is due largely to commuters heading back home from jobs in the western half of the region.
Over 80,000 aerial photographs were taken of the region’s 300 mile freeway system for the study. It was first conducted in 1993 and repeated every three years.
Top 10 Worst Traffic Chokepoints
1. Inner Loop I-495 (4 to 4:30 PM) from I-270 to Connecticut Avenue
1. Northbound I-395 (5 to 6 PM) from VA 110 to GW Pkwy (approaching 14th St Bridge)
3. Northbound I-95 (6 to 8 AM) from Dale Blvd to Prince William Pkwy
4. Inner Loop I-495 (6:30 to 7 AM) from St. Barnabas Road to I-295
5. Westbound Frederick Douglass and 11th St Bridges (8:30 to 9:30 AM)
6. Northbound I-395 (7:30 to 8:30 AM) from VA 110 to GW Pkwy (approaching 14th St Bridge)
7. Northbound I-295 (7:30 to 8:30 AM) from Suitland Pkwy to 11th St Bridge
7. GW Pkwy (7:30 to 8:30 AM) from Spout Run to Key Bridge
7. Eastbound I-66 (6 to 7 PM) Dulles Toll Road to Westmoreland St
7. Eastbound US 50 (5 to 6 PM) from I-95/I-495 to Martin Luther King Blvd
Freeway Segments with Most Significant Increases in Congestion
1. Westbound I-66 (4:30 to 5:30 PM) from Lee Hwy to Sudley Rd
1. Southbound I-95 (4:30 to 5:30 PM) from Dumfries Blvd to Russell Rd
3. Eastbound I-66 (6 to 7 PM) across Theodore Roosevelt Bridge
For a full copy of the traffic report, please click here.
For the traffic study presentation to the TPB, please click here.
For an interactive, HTML version of the report and its photographs, please click here.