There are few busier intersections in this region, if not Western Civilization, than where Interstate 66 and the Capital Beltway meet in Falls Church. But to partially ease the drama for the millions heading west on I-66 from the northbound Beltway (the Inner Loop) there have been two exits – one on the left and one slightly farther up on the right.
And now, as if Northern Virginians needed more traffic trauma, the left-hand exit to I-66 – the beloved Exit 49C – has closed forever.
Tysons. Route 50. BRAC on Interstate 395. Now this. How have we angered the traffic gods so? Light at the end of the tunnel? I can’t even see the tunnel.
This time it’s the construction of the HOT lanes on the Beltway, causing the permanent closing of 49C. No one really knows what the HOT lanes are or how they’ll work, but they’re another long-term source of aggravation, so far.
The left-hand exit to I-66 was not the greatest idea, safety wise, but it was fun to crank through at high speed, if a sometimes crazy fight to get there. And it broke up the mass of exiting westbound traffic. Now, a stretch of the Beltway that is packed every weekday morning (and at any other time can see backups from one Maryland border to the other) is going to be double-packed with one escape route eliminated.
And that is sad and terrible for all concerned.