Virginia officials have reacted strongly to new traffic barricades installed by the D.C. government on the Rosslyn side of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
The barricades are causing morning traffic jams along eastbound Rte. 50.
"We are watching the backup on Rte. 50 closely," said Linda South, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation.
"If solving a safety problem on the bridge creates a safety problem in Virginia, we will move to correct it," she said.
Arlington County Board Vice Chairman John G. Milliken said he has had a "personally bad reaction to the shifting of this bottleneck to our side of the river" and will raise the issue with his colleagues at a board meeting Saturday.
Republican Rep. Frank Wolf has asked the D.C. Public Works director for an explanation.
Temporary barricades were put up last month at the foot of the Rte. 50 ramp onto the bridge by the D.C. Department of Public Works, which has jurisdiction over the bridge.
According to George Schoene, chief of the District's Bureau of Traffic Services, the barriers are needed to enforce pavement stripes designed to funnel two lanes on the Rte. 50 ramp into a single lane on the bridge.
Schoene says commuters have been ignoring the markings, crossing over them and forcing their way into one of the two bridge lanes that carry traffic from I-66 and the George Washington Parkway. Schoene contends that this much lane-changing at the bridgehead is a safety hazard.
But by keeping cars in the one lane set aside for traffic coming from Rte. 50, the barriers are causing rush-hour backups for several miles along Rte. 50.
"I've seen it backed up all the way to Pershing Drive approximately two miles ," said Herb Doyle, a Capitol Hill consultant who lives in Fairfax.
Doyle says the bottleneck has added 20 minutes to his morning commute. "It's a deliberate attempt to discriminate against people who use Rte. 50," he claimed.
Schoene says the barriers are justified, citing 15 accidents a year reported on the eastbound span of the bridge "and probably a whole lot more fender-benders that are never reported."
Schoene blames habit for part of the problem. Before I-66 was completed in December 1982, traffic on Rte. 50 was allowed to enter the bridge in two lanes, he said.
"Now it's a safety issue, but when you look, the volume of traffic also suggests that it's a fairness thing," Schoene said.
He said studies show that during the peak rush hour, approximately 2,000 cars enter the bridge from Rte. 50, while 2,200 enter from I-66 and 1,400 enter from the parkway.
"We have the cars from the parkway and from I-66 merging into two lanes, and then there's a whole lane just for Rte. 50," he said.
Parkway motorists are delighted with the change, because it has trimmed their commuting time, he added.
Schoene said the temporary barricades will be replaced with concrete dividers by early next year.