The new one-way traffic pattern at National Airport went into effect this weekend with only minor hitches, rating high marks from most airport traffic policemen and cabdrivers.But there were many bewildered drivers who found long-ued entrances to parkings lots had been transferred to new locations.
"It's running beautiful," said 11-year-veteran of the airport police force, John K. Reed. "Police who are used to the old traffic pattern are a little confused. But for strangers, who aren't used to the olde way, it's ideal."
"I think it'll be better for the airport because it's more organized," said Officer Carl V. Hylton.
Some traffic policemen, however, said they were expecting some problems during the rush hours 3-7 p.m. Snuday when the weekend traffic flow is heaviest.
The new traffic plan was originally scheduled to go into operation today but it was moved up because of good weather last week and because airport officials wanted it installed when traffic was down, said David Hess, an airport spokesman.
The principal reason for the new traffic pattern, which has been in the making for a couple of years, according to Hess, is "to relieve congestion."
The traffic tie-ups in front of the main terminal were one of the primary targets of the new plan. "Everyone wants their last kiss and everyone wants to park right next to the terminal," said Patrolman Ardeen C. Hill. "If we had to get an emergency vehicle in there (directly in front of the terminal) we couldn't have," Hill explained.
Under the new system it is no longer possible to circle directly in front of the main terminal in search of a place to stop to drop off or pick up passengers and luggage. As of Saturday, automobiles which pass by the main terminal once, must travel the half-mile loop along the airport's back roads in order to arrive back at the main terminal's drop-off area.
Cab drivers queried yesterday said they were having no problems with the new traffic system and one said it was an improvement because the space allocated for waiting taxis has been lengthened. "Before if there was no place to wait, we had to circle around in front of the terminal," said Harold J. Dawkins, "but now, we can get right in line."
The main problem for most visitors to the airport yesterday was locating the new entrances to parking lots. Several entrances on the terminal side of the lots have been closed or made into exist to eliminate turns which might slow down traffic. New entrances have been made on the opposite side of the lots along Abingdon Drive.
Patrolman Hill was on duty yesterday near one of those entrances-turned-exists. How was the new system working? Hill raised his eyes to the sky and joined his hands in mock prayer as if to say "I need help."
"They can't read signs. Nine out of 10 drivers stop and ask me where to park," Hill said.
Hess emphasized yesterday that the new traffic pattern was "a major change" - the first trafic alteration since the airport opened in 1941 - and that "it's going to take a while for people to get used to it."
Workmen have not finished altering all the directional stripes on the roads which pointed the way into the old parking lot entrances, Hess said. Old stripes must be sandblasted off before new ones are painted, he explained.
Hess said the airport continues to run free shuttle buses from the parking lots to the main terminal for arriving and departing passengers.
The new traffic pattern has meant a minor change for commuters coming to work in Crystal City from Alexandria along George Washington Memorial Parkway. Those who formerly got off the parkway onto Smith Boulevard and then turned left to cross over the parkway on a bridge can no longer do so.
They must now follow Smith Boulevard past the main terminal and make the loop along the airport's back roads to get to Crystal City. This will mean a couple of extra driving minutes, if there are no tie-ups at the main terminal.