Dr. Gridlock

By Robert Thomson
Thursday, October 22, 2009

Are any two merges exactly the same? Our recent discussions of how to merge safely drew responses from travelers who envision many different setups and scenarios that can cause trouble. One element seemed to unite the descriptions: picturing a high level of congestion. The driving manuals that guided us through the written test for a license don't cover many of the real-world experiences of Washington's commuters.

Here's a description of a problem many drivers encounter:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

When the exit lane on a two- or three-lane highway backs up, impatient drivers cruise slowly or even stop in the adjacent travel lane, awaiting a chance to squeeze in between vehicles in line.

You can see this almost every morning on the George Washington Parkway, where the 14th Street bridge exit traffic backs up. Through travelers are forced to squeeze into the far left lane, causing additional backups. The U.S. Park Police occasionally patrol this exit but are down at the off-ramp, well beyond the dangerous shenanigans.

I've also seen this situation on the Interstate 395 HOV lanes at the Pentagon exit, where even Metrobuses attempt a late merge to avoid the exit-lane backup.

Chuck Werchado


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