Evening commute just as much of a mess as the morning in D.C.

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 12, 2010; 10:49 PM

The roads, down to one lane in some areas because of unplowed snow, were jammed. The Metro, having endured a mid-morning commuting catastrophe, was plagued by an evening ride home that crawled at a snail's pace.

Federal workers returned to work Friday -- and many likely wished they hadn't.

Following the morning derailment of a Red Line train just outside the Farragut North station, downtown continued its meltdown. Delays were reported on the Orange and Blue lines. The homebound trip was in places bumper-to-bumper madness.

Motorist Katherine Lewis sat for an hour in the 1700 block of S Street NW around 6 p.m. Ahead of her, she said by phone, a Metro bus was stuck in the snow. A police car blocked her access to the southbound lanes of 18th Street NW. She and a dozen other motorists headed in her direction were going nowhere.

"We can't get out," she said. "Send help."

Fifteenth Street NW was jammed downtown with motorists backed up trying to get out of their parking garages.

The Metro was running after the mid-morning Red Line derailment, but passengers reported packed trains.

Traffic cameras of Interstate 95 southbound in Springfield showed lanes jammed with headlights of motorists stalled after a morning trip that AAA described as "the commute from hell."

The Beltway east of the American Legion Bridge was an almost unbroken line of headlights and taillights -- motorists seeking refuge in opposite directions.

Kim Frum, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said things were slow on major Maryland highways around Washington but traffic seemed to be moving.

She noted that federal government workers were allowed to come to work late Friday morning. "Everybody now is going home at the regular time," she said. "It looks like a pretty regular rush hour."

Try telling that to the people stuck in their cars and on Metro.

At 7 p.m. 15th Street NW was a nightmare of bumper-to-bumper northbound traffic, as cars inched through the slushy street amid a din of honking horns. Motorists said R and S streets NW were blocked with police tape for unknown reasons. One commuter reported moving only six blocks in 20 minutes.

"Many residents whose cars have been snowed in have now shoveled them out and taken to the streets," said a spokeswoman for D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said, quoting the Transportation Department. That traffic was added to "regular downtown after work traffic mixed with Friday night traffic from dinner, theater and entertainment goers.'

"This is ridiculous," said Kim Simmons, 24, who was visiting from Richmond, as she sat in the jam on 15th Street.

Cabdriver Gabe Gebremedhin, in a car behind her, said he had never seen traffic this bad.

"This is horrible," he said. "And it's throughout the city." He said he had been in traffic so long he was running out of gas.

"I drove a cab for 18 years," he said. "This is the worst."

Don Merion, 47, a Florida resident trying to get to Seventh and P streets, said he had been inching along 15th Street for half an hour.

"What is the city doing?" he said. "They're not cleaning up the snow. I was out in Virginia . . . The roads are clean. The roads are clear. There's no traffic. I hit the D.C. border and I stop. It's been like this ever since I crossed the 14th Street bridge. . . . There's not even any police out here. I don't see a single cop out on the street. Where are they?"

Daouda Sambene, 35, of Gaithersburg, was trying to get home, with little luck. "It's just horrible," he said as he sat in the traffic. "I have never seen this before. It's unbelievable."

Elsewhere in the city, commuters tweeted warnings. K Street was said to be excruciatingly slow.

"Downtown is like the ninth circle [of hell] right now," wrote one person. "Glad I don't drive."

Another cautioned: "Dupont Circle traffic nightmare. Don't even think about driving or riding anywhere near there right now."

From Georgetown came: "Circulator Bus is not circulating. Georgetown is completely gridlocked."

"Dear Mayor Fenty," wrote another, "have you been outside tonight?"

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