Greater Greater Washington

Online maps now send through travelers into DC

The Southeast-Southwest Freeway and 14th Street bridge are very congested. They don't need cars carrying people who are just passing through the region. But now that DC has added new ramps to the 11th Street bridge, online maps tell drivers to do just that.


Driving directions from Google Maps.

If you're driving from Baltimore to Richmond and figure you'll just stay on I-95, you'd take the eastern side of the Beltway to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which recently got a massive expansion to handle more traffic. That used to be the route online maps would recommend as well.

But if you ask Google Maps or Bing Maps or another map site, it'll suggest taking the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to DC-295, then the 11th Street Bridge to the Southeast Freeway (now with the visitor-attracting I-695 label), then I-395 over the Potomac and down through Arlington.


Driving directions from Bing Maps.

This is probably not the best way. DC-295 is narrower than interstates. The freeways through DC and Arlington probably have more congestion than the Prince George's Beltway route. Try telling that to the map programs.

They think the Beltway route is 1-2 minutes longer, so they route travelers right through the core. Many people's GPSes are likely doing the same thing. This will make life worse for all other drivers who actually need to go to DC, even though those through drivers would only gain a minute or two even when there is no traffic.

The extra ramps certainly add options for residents and commuters, and will draw some traffic off some local roads, but an independent traffic analysis for the Capitol Hill Restoration Society predicted other roads will get worse thanks in large part to drawing traffic off the Wilson Bridge.


Effects of the 11th Street Bridge project based on the Smart Mobility analysis. Red segments get more congested, green segments less.

Yet DDOT never really engaged with CHRS's concerns or my warning about what it would do to casual travelers relying on technology.

Has traffic gotten worse or better on the freeway? If you drive (or walk or bike) there, what has your experience been?

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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If it's an off peak traffic time, I used to stay on 295 even when it would just drop me at the Wilson Bridge, when traveling from Baltimore to Central Virginia. Even if the roads are a little slower, the trip just seemed different and more pleasant from an urbanists point of view. Maybe this rationale is less appropriate for someone who's truly not a local to MD and really is just trying to speed through to their destination.

I don't see why the 395 spur to NY avenue would get more traffic, i'd think that route would have less traffic, since those people before were probably taking NY avenue back to either the BW parkway or to 50 east into MD. If I was on 395 at the Pentagon and wanted to go to either Greenbelt or New Carrollton i'd take the new bridge span and avoid 395 to NY avenue. I also don't know why the map didn't include NY avenue and the Beltway in its analysis of Red vs Green coloring.

by Gull on Apr 24, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

I ran into similar trouble last year. On the way back to Arlington from a trip to Laurel, MD, I followed the directions the GPS gave me. That's when I learned not to assume it would follow the beltway around DC. Instead, I got to see Columbia Heights, then Dupont Circle, then Georgetown, all places I recognized from having walked there many times. Yes, this took a lot of time and patience. On a Saturday night.

by Ryan on Apr 24, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

we live in NoVa and often go northeast - we generally still use the beltway - but the added option is nice - on the rare occasions when we need to stop in the distric on the way in or out, the direct connection is far superior to the old Penn Avenue route. Generally thats not right in the middle of rush hour.

On the occasions we use the car to get to the navy yard are (at rush hour), we have experimented with the new bridge as an alternative to I395. When we tried it wasnt much better, but with construction getting worse on 395, that may change.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 24, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

but yeah, GPS and map services are kinda dumb. The silly barney cirle thing certainly served to keep people on the beltway who needed to be on it.

I wonder how many long haul drivers are first times, vs people who know the area well enough to avoid 295?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 24, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

Do Google and Bing account for swing bridges that don't close?

by ah on Apr 24, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] In all cases the northern route is through the BW parkway -- a narrow, easily congested parkway -- rather than 95.

Some actual data would be useful.

And early GPS system (tomtom on my treo) told me regularly to drive through Arlington cemetery.

by charlie on Apr 24, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

Wow, it doesn't even give you the "correct" routing as one of the options now. I got:
1. The route suggested here
2. I-95 to beltway outer loop to I-95 via Silver Spring/Tysons
3. I-95 to I-97 to MD-3 to US-50 W to beltway inner loop to Wilson Bridge

The difference between routing #1 is 5 miles and apparently only 2 minutes of travel time according to google maps.

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

I wonder how many long haul drivers are first times, vs people who know the area well enough to avoid 295?

I would not be surprised if this change generated a significant amount of traffic on the parkway and DC-295. Especially if the change is also present in turn-by-turn GPS devices.

The problem is that the parkway and DC-295 are treated as interstates in these mapping programs when they are not designed to handle the same traffic volumes.

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

Anyone who relies solely on GPS directions without at least following up with traffic information deserves whatever they get. Taking 295/395 through DC is both faster and more direct (meaning less fuel consumed) during non-peak times. Of course DC has broader peak times than many places.

Perhaps overhead signage can help. What if a sign near College Park said something to the effect of:
-------------------------------
Springfield VA
295/395 - 20 miles, 30 minutes
95 - 25 miles, 25 minutes
495 - 30 miles, 75 minutes
-------------------------------
This should get people onto the Inner Loop where they belong.

by movement on Apr 24, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

I just got the same as MLD. Maybe if you tried it again at about 5 o'clock?

But where I live (Ballston) I take that route if I'm going to baltimore. It's either that or going down 66/267/Inner Loop. Checking that on google maps I get the 295 route for both options and then the inner loop option.

by Canaan on Apr 24, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

Did you know that taking I-495 is a mile short around DC than taking I-95? I.e. going around west is shorter than going around east.

But, you are correct that mapping tools need to do a better way of showing alternatives.

IMHO, it matters on when you want to get from one side to the other. In DC, any road can be stuck at any time. You just need to check WTOP.

by Jasper on Apr 24, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

This is new? Even if it didn't suggest 395 in Virginia or 695 in DC, it has never been uncommon for services to suggest 295.

by selxic on Apr 24, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

@ movement:Perhaps overhead signage can help.

I have been amazed how little info you get on the electronic overhead signs.

When coming up on I-95 south of DC, you always, and only get: DC line: 10 miles, 11 mins. Why does that not alternate with travel times to the MD state line and Tysons? After all, the Mixing bowl goes all three ways.

Same if you come in-bound on I-66. You only get travel times to DC, as if nobody uses the Beltway.

by Jasper on Apr 24, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

So the question is - how do we get google and bing and the other services to change? How do their algorithms work and is there data we can add it that would shift the routes?

by Ethan on Apr 24, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

People might do it once. I don't imagine they will do it twice thogh. I'd guess that most people who do though are either coming from or going well inside the beltway.

by Alan B. on Apr 24, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

Maybe someone can reach out to Google, Bing, etc. and ask them to change this.

And maybe the DOTs can add signage: "To VA and south: Take 495 to avoid congestion" or something like that.

I mean, the whole damn point of a beltway is to avoid this.

by Gavin on Apr 24, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

What Jasper said.

by movement on Apr 24, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

Why is it surprising, or a bad thing that the new freeway links increase traffic on the freeway and decrease traffic on Penn Ave, East Capitol and South Capitol? Seems that's what DDOT said would happen in the EIS. It is unfortunate that Google Maps is routing traffic on the BW Parkway and through DC. Seems like they should be able to account for congestion and average link speed by now.

by MD Ave on Apr 24, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

The overhead guide signs are pretty clear in keeping through traffic on I-95. Not sure how many people follow GPS vs. signs in selecting a route around a city.

by MD Ave on Apr 24, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

Alan B: A lot of people who do it once won't know a better way or will be nervous about trying a different way that's not familiar. If this is "the way through DC" then it'll stay that way for many people.

It could help that it's all signed I-95, but tell that to people who try to take I-95 between Delaware and Connecticut.

by David Alpert on Apr 24, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

Did you know that taking I-495 is a mile short around DC than taking I-95? I.e. going around west is shorter than going around east.
But, you are correct that mapping tools need to do a better way of showing alternatives.

The mapping services should show people the most consistent way to get from point A to B; in this case that is taking I-95 the whole way, south around the beltway.

The other way around the beltway, or this way through DC may be "shorter" in distance or shave a couple minutes of travel time off in perfect free-flow conditions, but they are much more heavily congested at some times and are far more likely not to have free-flow conditions. The south route has much less traffic, that's the entire reason the signing of I-95 was changed to that route years ago.

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

Not sure how many people follow GPS vs. signs in selecting a route around a city.

GPS has made people stupid; plenty of people don't even know how to get from A to B along routes they take frequently without a GPS. And if you're on a new route, you're certainly not going to guess based on some sign rather than what the computer is telling you.

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

MLD hits the nail on the head. Does anyone look at maps (even on-line) to figure out where they are or the best route to their destinations?

Idiocracy at its best.

by William on Apr 24, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

Try this again during rush hour today and you may get different results. Google Maps always factors in traffic, at least whenever I access it from my phone or Google accounts. I've found the route times to be very accurate around here. GPS software that doesn't include a traffic layer obviously wouldn't change.

by worthing on Apr 24, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

I do. When I got my iphone I was excited to use the gps feature while walking around NYC. I discovered I still prefer paper maps and get one before most trips.

My friends consider this weird though. Then they call me when they get lost. Then they ask me to give better directions when I tell them to head in a cardinal direction.

Maybe I just have awful friends.

by Canaan on Apr 24, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

@ David Alpert -

The gap in I-95 between the northeast suburbs of Philadelphia and the New Jersey Turnpike is expected to be closed in 2017.

by Frank IBC on Apr 24, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

Does anyone look at maps (even on-line) to figure out where they are or the best route to their destinations?

People will check Google Maps and then not think about anything other than result #1, that's the problem!

Try this again during rush hour today and you may get different results. Google Maps always factors in traffic, at least whenever I access it from my phone or Google accounts. I've found the route times to be very accurate around here. GPS software that doesn't include a traffic layer obviously wouldn't change.

This, and that's why it seems these mapping programs should try and show you the most consistent route that is short, they shouldn't be showing you a route that shaves off 4 minutes of travel but also has a much higher chance of leaving you stuck in a traffic jam depending on when you are going.

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

I'm probably abnormal. I hardly drive any more but early experiences trying to navigate around Dupont Circle and getting stuck on a burning bridge in Spanish Harlem have developed a strong aversion for driving through cities I don't need to go through. People who spend most of their time in the burbs or country might think differently.

by Alan B. on Apr 24, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

Frank IBC: Yeah, but even then, you still shouldn't take I-95 between Delaware and New York. That's my point — just because you might be traveling between 2 points on the same numbered Interstate doesn't mean you should stay on that road; anyone who knows that won't assume that I-95 all the way from Baltimore to Richmond is the best route, though here it is the one we want people to take.

by David Alpert on Apr 24, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

I do wonder if the introduction of Google Maps increased traffic on the George Washington Bridge in NYC.

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

All of this and no one seems to know the best route between Baltimore and Richmond.

301(and I95 down near Richmond) is faster in real world traffic than any combination including 395, 495 or 295. The $3 toll on the potomac bridge going south is a little bit annoying but the traffic between Manassas and Fredricksburg cannot be avoided.

by Richard Bourne on Apr 24, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

@Richard Bourne
It's faster NOW but if we told all the through traffic to go that way it probably wouldn't be.

I think we can all agree this is a ridiculous way to go (and yes this was a real result I got):
http://goo.gl/maps/ub6Sq

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

Well, clearly the map programmers read last month's Washington Post article about how the beltway is crumbling, its roadbed "turning to mush," and they want to keep drivers from causing any further damage.

by Ryan Arnold on Apr 24, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

@MLD, I see your point
http://goo.gl/maps/RpzDA is the way we should send the traffic.

by Richard Bourne on Apr 24, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

I'm waiting for the first big rig driver coming from the south and who doesn't know better to rely on a GPS to take his sorry butt up 395, 695, 295 and then...oh, wait. Trucks aren't allowed on the BW Parkway. Fine time to find that out.

by Dave on Apr 24, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

@Dave

I always assumed big rig drivers have their own special procedures about where to drive and not drive. I've assumed they don't just rely on street signs to tell them what roads they can use and not use. If they don't already, trucking companies should have their own specially designed GPS directions.

by jh on Apr 24, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

@MLD

Did I miss something? Why did you add the "Via I-66" component?

by jh on Apr 24, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

@jh
I didn't - google maps did that automatically when I saved the link.

by MLD on Apr 24, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

Since we don't have any pollution or congestion it's really nice that DC enlarged our freeway connectors so people could cut across DC and save the suburbs some pollution. We're champs.

But we should be tolling 695 and the center leg freeway to at least get paid for our lower life expectancy it causes.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 24, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport

Maybe the DC government is paying Google for the new suggested routing. Sending through traffic by those speed cameras might be a nice added revenue boost. :)

by Ron on Apr 24, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

I don't know if it's gotten better, but I used to always find the signage horribly confusing through there. I live in Richmond now and am often traveling north towards Delaware. A couple of times I've gotten confused and ended up on I-395 north and then New York Ave - NOT a fun experience.

Nowadays I'll either take the Beltway around DC, or I'll take the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to 295 and then take that north. I know DC 295 is narrower but it's also more interesting and a little bit less stress-inducing than the four-lanes-wide beltway.

In either case I will pretty much always take the BW Parkway instead of I-95 north of DC, and will always take I-895/Balt Harbor instead of I-95/Ft McHenry through Baltimore.

by Marc on Apr 24, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

A lot of long haul drivers will take a bypass rather than go through a city and that often trumps what they get from Google Maps or some other source. I tend to be the exception as I've found that going through a city breaks up monotony, although most cities have complicated junctions that can easily get someone lost--Columbus, Ohio is a good example. The Beltway is congested much of the day as are the freeways through the city. They both are likely to remain congested no matter what GPS tells people to do.

by Rich on Apr 24, 2013 5:20 pm • linkreport

As a Baltimore to Alexandria commuter, I can't speak to David's original question about traffic on the Southeast Freeway, but what I can say is that I haven't noticed a significant difference in my normal route, BW Parkway to 495. It seems to me that any increase in vehicles due to updated Google Maps directions are unlikely to come during peak congestion times, although on the other hand I did read a study somewhere recently than even taking a 100 cars off the road during rush hour can make a significant difference in congestion, so it might not take too many additional trips to make things worse.

I can also say that during non-peak times, I much prefer taking the "Google Route" (via either 295 or 395, depending where I'm coming from) as opposed to going around the Beltway through Prince George's. It doesn't actually save much time because of lower speeds, but it's at least equal and saves mileage. And failing both of those, the I-95 to US-50 to MD-3 to I-97 route that MLD got from Google is actually a pretty good alternative, and is rarely congested. At least the northern portion of it.

by Ted on Apr 24, 2013 5:27 pm • linkreport

Google maps might be right to route people through the city. Most people should know to avoid the center of the city during rush hour, and off times the time savings may be small but the gas savings will be larger because the distance is less.

by Richard Bourne on Apr 24, 2013 6:40 pm • linkreport

I find google often times messes up some pretty simple things in their maps. Reporting problems sometimes gets them fixed, but not always. I noticed a while back that they don't allow right turns onto southbound 15th street NW from eastbound L street NW, and they still haven't fixed that So good luck getting them to change something like this.

http://goo.gl/maps/PEIYm

by UrbanEngineer on Apr 24, 2013 7:47 pm • linkreport

@ MD Ave: It is unfortunate that Google Maps is routing traffic on the BW Parkway and through DC.

Why? If it's shorter, it's a better route, not?

@ MLD: The mapping services should show people the most consistent way to get from point A to B; in this case that is taking I-95 the whole way, south around the beltway.

Why? Both other routes are shorter, and if we're honest, during rush hour, it all depends on where the traffic is.

This assumption that people should take a certain route, not through your neighborhood is rather NIMBY and DC-centric. There is a road, people paid for it, so why can't they use it, if it's faster?

Why do people around the Navy Yard have more of right not to see traffic go through their neighborhood than people in Largo? There is no reason.

Try this again during rush hour today and you may get different results.

This is very true. Routing software is including more and more real-time information, and reroutes people away from traffic. Tomtom uses the GPS info from their devices to create real-time traffic info. So instead of interfering with technology that makes our life better, we should push harder to get better real-time info to make our lives even better.

by Jasper on Apr 24, 2013 8:43 pm • linkreport

In either case I will pretty much always take the BW Parkway instead of I-95 north of DC, and will always take I-895/Balt Harbor instead of I-95/Ft McHenry through Baltimore.</>

If you feel that way, maybe you should consider the Francis Scott Key Bridge, if not US-50/301 to Newark.

by JimT on Apr 24, 2013 9:20 pm • linkreport

This assumption that people should take a certain route, not through your neighborhood is rather NIMBY and DC-centric. There is a road, people paid for it, so why can't they use it, if it's faster?

It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact that Google's algorithm doesn't actually reflect the reality of which way is faster most of the time. Traffic on the SE portion of the beltway is much lower than traffic elsewhere. If you compared those routes when people are actually travelling (e.g. not from 1AM-4AM) then likely the beltway route is going to be faster.

Why do people around the Navy Yard have more of right not to see traffic go through their neighborhood than people in Largo? There is no reason.

There is a reason, it's called we built a big fat f---ing 8-lane highway around the city so that through traffic doesn't have to clog up the commutes of people from Largo going into and out of the city. It's not an "us vs them" NIMBY thing, we build alternate routes for through traffic to help drivers from outside the city get in and out.

Google Maps does not suggest a different route based on traffic, it will always suggest the same routes for a trip but will give you a little footnote about time "in current traffic." I tried doing this yesterday afternoon, it gave me the same routes in the same order, with the through-the-middle route as the #1 choice even though the "in current traffic" calculation for that route was 30 minutes longer than the other two.

by MLD on Apr 25, 2013 9:08 am • linkreport

Oh, the irony.

One can hope by the time the outer beltway gets fully built, that they will have those kinks worked out -- or, we will bereading here about how these programs continue to send these "passing through" drivers onto the overburdened roads of the inner beltway and the routes through the city.

It's funny -- I remember, back in the dim, dark days of the early internet and into the aughts, how urbanists were so critical of these ring roads and other highways, blaming them for killing the core of the inner city, because traffic could just skip over those neighborhoods.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 25, 2013 9:50 am • linkreport

Whether DC would be better off if the beltway had never been built is quite a different issue from whether its better, given that it exists, that through drivers take it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 25, 2013 10:02 am • linkreport

I haven't heard many arguments against beltways (besides sprawl/congestion relief arguments, but those aren't focused on inner city neighborhoods but rather the communities the beltway travels through). Pretty much all the arguments I've ever heard against urban freeways implicitly rely on a bypass system that preserves inner city neighborhoods from bi-section.

But this also comes with the assumption that these bypasses would come with strict land-use controls to preserve through-put but I don't know of anywhere that has done this.

As to our current situation, yes its whether its better to take the 8 lane road without much in the way of tricky interchanges (if you're driving straight through) or a road who's width varies wildy from 4-6-8 with a number of turns/short interchanges.

by drumz on Apr 25, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

@ MLD:There is a reason, it's called we built a big fat f---ing 8-lane highway around the city so that through traffic doesn't have to clog up the commutes of people from Largo going into and out of the city. It's not an "us vs them" NIMBY thing, we build alternate routes for through traffic to help drivers from outside the city get in and out.

But now, there's a decent route through the city as well. Let people use it at their convenience.

Google Maps does not suggest a different route based on traffic

I think Google Maps calculates travel time based on speed limits. This works fine on interstates, but not in urban areas, because you loose a lot of speed through stops at intersections.

by Jasper on Apr 25, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

I appreciate bypass highways exactly because they allow cities to spare themselves interstate traffic. The resulting sprawl isn't an inherent problem with highways, but rather how we zone and plan for development. At least we have metro stations out far enough to capture people that would otherwise drive into the core. Hopefully a combination of light rail and new metro lines will continue to be used inside the beltway as the transportation improvements of choice.

by Alan B. on Apr 25, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

But now, there's a decent route through the city as well. Let people use it at their convenience.

They are free to use it "at their convenience," the issue is that Google Maps suggests it as the "best" route when it is most certainly not. The "best" route is not one that has wildly varying travel times depending on time of day when there is another route with a 1% difference in "free flow" travel time and much less variance.

I think Google Maps calculates travel time based on speed limits. This works fine on interstates, but not in urban areas, because you loose a lot of speed through stops at intersections.

Your claim was:
This is very true. [The idea that GM gives you a different route based on time of day] Routing software is including more and more real-time information, and reroutes people away from traffic. Tomtom uses the GPS info from their devices to create real-time traffic info. So instead of interfering with technology that makes our life better, we should push harder to get better real-time info to make our lives even better.

Google does not give you a different "best" route based on the time of day or the traffic, they merely tell you that it will take longer. Do GPS devices send you on alternate routes automatically based on traffic or time of day?

It seems like you don't actually care about the real reason people think this is a bad idea (it presents a massive inconvenience for travelers unfamiliar with the area) and just want to be contrarian based on some idea that it's "NIMBYs" saying "don't drive thru my backyard!"

by MLD on Apr 25, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

Google maps on my phone certainly routes me away from the red traffic depending on what's going on at the time of day. But I still make the final decision.

by johan on Apr 25, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

Maybe DC can continue to lower speed limits on 295, and feed that information to the GPS providers, to increase the travel time and thus fall to #2 on the ranking.

Aaand, I-495 is very different than the small-town-suffocating bypasses of the 1990s (where the problem was less the bypass than the Wal-Mart that inevitably sprung up alongside it). Indeed, it was urban planners who first proposed "townless highways and highwayless towns" back when mass motorization began in the 1920s, and they're correct to this day.

by Payton on Apr 25, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

@ MLD:Do GPS devices send you on alternate routes automatically based on traffic or time of day?

Based on real-time traffic info. I know Tomtom is working on combining real-time traffic info with expected traffic info based on time-of day; this will ad a predictive element to their traffic info. If they know that a jam forms everyday at a certain time, and they've got you headed that way at that time, they might divert you. I am not sure how far they are on that.

Tomtom devices pick up real-time traffic info of the internet, often through a blue-tooth connection to a cell-phone. Tomtom even sells the info. In Holland there was quite some uproar when if was found that the police buys Tomtom's info to determine where to put their mobile speeding cams.

My Garmin device here picks up traffic info via FM, and reroutes me if it finds a better route.

I am not sure Google does this. I think I've noticed that routes change, but I've never figured out based on what.

It seems like you don't actually care about the real reason people think this is a bad idea (it presents a massive inconvenience for travelers unfamiliar with the area) and just want to be contrarian based on some idea that it's "NIMBYs" saying "don't drive thru my backyard!"

Because that is not to be expected at all, right? GGW has not complained about the new bridge and extra traffic it would generate. GGW commenters have never shown any dismay about out-of-towners having the audacity of driving into or through their city. Nah. DC is certainly NIMBY free.

by Jasper on Apr 25, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

I don't think you understand what NIMBY means.

"Don't build this because it will generate more traffic" is not a NIMBY point of view.

by MLD on Apr 25, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

I used the GPS program that Verizon Wireless licenses (at extra cost) for users of its smartphones a few years ago (long before the 11th Street Bridge project was close to complete - it may have been before ground had been broken) when I was driving north from South Carolina to my home in Maryland.

I wasn't using the program to give me turn-by-turn instructions, just keeping track of miles and time remaining.

Sure enough, it chose a route via the I-95/I-395 HOV lanes (which were running south when I passed through Northern Virginia on a weekday afternoon) and down the Southeast/Southwest Freeway to Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E.; across the Sousa Bridge; north on D.C. 295 and then east on U.S. 50.

Nobody with even a small amount of knowledge of D.C.-area geography would use that route as an alternate to staying on I-95 across the Wilson Bridge, even with the ramps at the 11th Street Bridge interchange now largely complete.

Only if there were a serious I-95/I-495 incident would I consider driving through D.C. instead of around.

by C. P. Zilliacus on Apr 25, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

This is probably not the best way. DC-295 is narrower than interstates. The freeways through DC and Arlington probably have more congestion than the Prince George's Beltway route. Try telling that to the map programs.

A few thoughts:

(1) Some of the GPS programs out there use dynamic traffic conditions (like Inrix) to come up with suggested routes.

(2) You are absolutely correct about D.C. 295 - it is not an Interstate and was not built to Interstate standards.

(3) Same applies regarding the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, yet since GPS units became popular, I often see tractor trailers on the Parkway (apparently most GPS units don't offer "truck legal" routing). At least the overpasses on the B-W are high enough to accommodate most tractor trailer units, unlike most of the parkways in metropolitan New York (Megabus double decker buses use the B-W Parkway without difficulty). The U.S. Park Police will stop and ticket the drivers of tractor-trailers that they observe on any of the federal parkways.

by C. P. Zilliacus on Apr 25, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

Yeah, we in Greenbelt have noticed the B-W Parkway traffic increase for a while now, and we blame it on the GPS. Here and there I've heard of the Park Service exploring the idea of widening the parkway from four lanes to six, which would go over like the proverbial lead balloon in Greenbelt. I think some large, permanent "BEST ROUTE TO..." signs in strategic locations would be an inexpensive way to direct more traffic onto the interstates and off the parkway.

by Greenbelt Gal on Apr 25, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

Just thinking, what if we had commuter rail that followed the same route?

by Randall M. on Apr 25, 2013 5:55 pm • linkreport

"...getting stuck on a burning bridge in Spanish Harlem...."

@ Alan B

You can't start a story about a burning bridge and not finish it. Sorry, Internet rules.

by washingtonian on Apr 26, 2013 9:48 am • linkreport

@ MLD

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] Your NIMBY Wiki page includes the number one reason for NIMBY opposition as increased traffic.

"The claimed reasons against the development of these projects are varied. These reasons include, but are not limited to:
Increased traffic: More jobs, more housing or more stores correlates to increased traffic on local streets. Industrial facilities such as warehouses, factories, or landfills often increase the volume of truck traffic."

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by washingtonian on Apr 26, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

NIMBY means "we need this but do it elsewhere."

The opposition to projects that increase traffic here is because there are alternatives that provide mobility without the induced traffic. Not because mobility infrastructure shouldn't exist in the area.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by MLD on Apr 26, 2013 9:57 am • linkreport

Just thinking, what if we had commuter rail that followed the same route?

Freight rail can follow that route (at least at night, since Norfolk Southern has trackage rights on Amtrak's N.E. Corridor, mostly running freights in the overnight hours), though the single-track Virginia Avenue Tunnel (ironically located near the 11th Street Bridge project) is a major East Coast bottleneck for freight rail.

by C. P. Zilliacus on Apr 26, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

I use the BW Parkway and DC 295 to Benning Rd to get into the city for work. In recent months (dating back to last fall), the traffic on DC 295 (southbound) has been significantly more congested than previously. I drive through around 7:00am. In the past, traffic speeds were typically around 30-40 mph on the DC section of 295. Now it's typically stop-and-go with a max speed around 15mph. I have assumed this was due to downstream congestion caused by the ongoing construction on the bridge, but it's possible that higher volume plays a role too.

by John on Apr 29, 2013 8:49 am • linkreport

I believe Mr. Alpert tried the Google directions during non rush hour. If you are traveling south on I95 from Laurel at 8:15 on a Monday, and you are traveling to Woodbridge, I guarantee the map will suggest staying on I95 going through Landover and over the Wilson Bridge. It is very good at recognising heavy traffic. The 295 to 695 and 395 route is indeed much faster during middays and overnights as well as the weekends. That's why Google suggested it.
We are all in this mess because of the DC interstate plan that was cancelled back in the early 70's. I wish there was some kind of way to finish the project by connecting I395 to Beltsville and connecting I270 to I395. Montgomery county residents would finally have 2 freeway options to get into the city. That was the original plan, and it was brilliant. But now, it can never ever happen. It's really a shame; all those who opposed the freeways back then are all now living in the suburbs now.

by Marc on Jul 21, 2013 8:36 pm • linkreport

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