D.C. not making friends with freeway work

The lane closings are scheduled to continue in phases through the end of August, though the District Department of Transportation hopes to get the work done earlier, weather permitting.

Nats fans using the freeway toward Nationals Park should allow extra time. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

The phase launched last Saturday is scheduled to continue till Aug. 10, closing the left-most lanes on both sides of Interstate 695 near South Capitol Street.

Starting Saturday and continuing till Aug. 11, another phase will close the right lane on the westbound side of the Interstate approaching the Third Street Tunnel.

The third phase, from Aug. 11 to Aug. 31, will close the right eastbound lane from the South Capitol Street exit to Sixth Street SE.

The next phase of traffic-snarling D.C. freeway project is scheduled to begin Saturday, but the lane closings that are part of this sign-installation work have the attention of commuters and Nationals fans.

This is a major regional commuter route, and on Monday morning, many drivers found themselves in heavy traffic that affected travel across the 14th Street Bridge and on the George Washington Parkway. They complained about it during my online discussion Monday.

This is also a route used by many baseball fans heading to Nationals Park, south of the freeway. The Nationals are playing a weekend series with the Mets.

While we’re in a summer period of relatively light traffic, probably the best time of the year to do this work, “light” is a relative term when talking about this busy freeway.

“There’s no good time to do this kind of work, and unfortunately, people are going to get caught in a lot of traffic congestion, said DDOT spokesman Reggie Sanders.

The project that is causing so much congestion this summer is part of a nationwide effort to provide drivers with more real-time traffic information. When the job is done, the overhead signs will be able to display travel time information, as well as advisories about emergencies, accidents and detours.

Because of the nature of the work — building the structures for large signs that will hand over freeways — the lanes must be blocked for long periods of time, Sanders said. It’s not safe or practical to take down the work zones for rush hours, or do the work only at night.

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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Luz Lazo · July 26, 2013

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