The actual stretch of the Beltway, south of Interstate 66, on the left in the photo above, that will become much more dense with the elimination of the great Exit 49C. (Jahi Chikwendiu/WASHINGTON POST)

And now, as if Northern Virginians needed more traffic trauma, the left-hand exit to I-66 – the beloved Exit 49C – has closed forever.

Tysons. Route 50. BRAC on Interstate 395. Now this. How have we angered the traffic gods so? Light at the end of the tunnel? I can’t even see the tunnel.

This time it’s the construction of the HOT lanes on the Beltway, causing the permanent closing of 49C. No one really knows what the HOT lanes are or how they’ll work, but they’re another long-term source of aggravation, so far.

The left-hand exit to I-66 was not the greatest idea, safety wise, but it was fun to crank through at high speed, if a sometimes crazy fight to get there. And it broke up the mass of exiting westbound traffic. Now, a stretch of the Beltway that is packed every weekday morning (and at any other time can see backups from one Maryland border to the other) is going to be double-packed with one escape route eliminated.

And that is sad and terrible for all concerned.