Dear Dr. Gridlock:
The intersection of Interstates 95, 395 and 495 in Springfield probably will always be a troublesome one. But it seems a fairly simple thing could be done to make life easier -- and safer -- for drivers coming from the Wilson Bridge on southbound I-95 approaching that knot, and that is the signing.
The signs announcing the intersection are not clear enough and cause many southbound drivers to find too late that to stay on I-95, they must EXIT to the right. I have lost count of how many out-of-state cars have dodged dangerously in front of me to make the southbound ramp.
The main cause, in my view, is a sign a mile or two before the ramp announcing that I-495 exits to the left. In fact, there is no such exit. All four lanes of I-95 become I-495, and to get on I-495 one need do nothing but drive on in any lane. Strangers to the area can be forgiven for assuming the opposite: I-495 probably has a ramp to the left and they can proceed normally.
That sign should be changed to reflect reality.ANDRES VAART Vienna
This sign is a wonder to behold. It basically says that to get on the Capital Beltway, which you already are on, you have to get off at the next left, which, as you pointed out, does not exist.
This causes motorists to sometimes dangerously race across three lanes of traffic to exit to I-95 southbound because they have assumed, as you point out, that the upcoming exit is for I-495.
This sign is dumb and dangerous and is perhaps the most ludicrous symbol stemming from the decision to designate half the Beltway I-495 and the other half I-95. Because federal signing guidelines consider I-95 to be the through interstate from the Wilson Bridge through Springfield toward Richmond, you technically can switch from I-95 to I-495 only by "exiting" I-95. That there is no left exit seemed not to bother the sign makers; at least they have made I-95 the primary through road, even though motorists draw from the signing exactly the opposite impression.
Mary Anne Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said this:
"VDOT recognizes that the signs are confusing, and traffic engineers will in the next month go out there and take a hard look at the whole five-mile stretch between the Wilson Bridge and the I-95/I-495 split."
Certainly that signing should be fixed. But the best solution would be to put dual I-95 and I-495 signs on the overlapping Beltway segment. As reported in this column last week, Maryland Sen. Howard A. Denis (R-Montgomery) is trying to lead that charge right now. If that battle is won, it would be possible to use the forbidden I-495 interstate logos alongside the I-95 shield to help motorists easily and safely get where they want to go, and end this sign fiction about an exit that doesn't exist.