What’s causing extra slow traffic at D.C.’s 11th St. Bridge


Traffic flows onto inbound 11th Street Bridge from I-295N, on left, and D.C. 295S, on right. (Photo courtesy of 11th Street Bridge project.)

Travelers have been asking about the traffic congestion they encounter on Interstate 295 south of the 11th Street Bridge and D.C. 295 north of the bridge. On Sunday’s Commuter page, I wrote about some of the changes in the traffic patterns related to the reconstruction of the bridge.

The 11th Street Bridge reconstruction changed the connections between the freeways on the banks of the Anacostia River. A lot had to be done within a small space to give freeway drivers the links they longed for while creating separate connections primarily for local traffic.

In the aerial photo at the top of the page, you see the main thing bothering morning commuters now. The photo was taken for the bridge project toward the end of the morning rush hour. Traffic from Capitol Hill toward the Anacostia side (top to bottom in the photo) is very light.

Traffic remains heavy on the inbound side, going toward the Navy Yard, Capitol Hill and I-395. That stream is coming north on I-295 in the left side of the photo and from the southbound lanes of D.C. 295 on the right side.

In the middle, drivers are weaving between lanes. Many came in from southbound D.C. 295 are trying to move left so they can be in the two lanes that go through toward I-395, downtown D.C. and the 14th Street Bridge.

This pattern will remain until 2014, when demolition and reconstruction on the Capitol Hill side of the rider will allow for a third inbound through lane, eliminating the need for some of that weaving.

For now, the slowdown on the bridge for the weaving drivers ripples back onto I-295 North and D.C. 295 South. Drivers heading north should line up for the bridge’s far left lane, so they can avoid getting involved in the weave. Drivers on D.C. 295 South who have patience and don’t like to change lanes too much should stay in the left-most lane on the bridge ramp, so they have to change lanes only once to reach the lanes that go through to I-395.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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Debbi Wilgoren | March 11, 2013