Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You mentioned MapQuest and Google Maps as allowing users to drag mapped routes in different positions to see alternatives. I’m writing to share with you that Bing Maps also does this, plus offers traffic on the map showing flow and incident data (red equals bad; green equals good).

Plus, Bing has Streetside, as well as bird’s-eye views offering different ways for users to visualize data. It’s a very easy alternative, one that I use quite often, and so I wanted to share it:

Kevin Adler, Arlington County

DG: I’m happy to share suggestions that will help guide travelers around the Washington region, especially when their primary route — the one they know by heart — is blocked. That was the focus of the May 1 column cited by Adler.

The online navigation aids are constantly improving. They also can be found as apps for mobile devices, although I recommend that you study your alternatives at your leisure, rather than when you’re behind the wheel and trapped in traffic.

One app I’ve been checking lately is Traffic View. I use this on my iPhone and iPad to see a map of the Washington region with pins designating the location of traffic cameras that I can view. If there’s a problem on my route, I can view how nearby streets are doing. (I would find this impossible to use while driving because of the time it takes to stare at the camera, but I can use it from the passenger’s seat.)

Now, is this just me and my fellow traffic nerds testing out such resources, or are many of you checking in the new technology? I hope it’s the latter, because avoidance doesn’t make sense, not in a region as congested as ours, where so many travelers have access to desktop and mobile devices.

Using new routes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My wife and I had reason to go from North Arlington County to Route 50 in Maryland, toward the Bay Bridge. Because I heard about trouble on the Capital Beltway, I decided to try out the new connector from Interstate 395 to Route 295, what we used to call “the white-knuckle route” because the way the potholes on Howard Road rattled your teeth.

It was beautiful. There’s not much signage, but if you know you’re looking for Route 295 north, you’ll find it. And it saved us easily 10 to 15 minutes.

Anyhow, I might next have to experiment with 295 to the
Baltimore-Washington Parkway, instead of the Beltway, to I-95. And we did not come back that way, so I don’t know what the signage is like from east to west.

Warren Emerson, Arlington County

DG: This is a relatively new option that the District Department of Transportation created as it rebuilt the 11th Street bridge. No more need to go south after crossing the Anacostia River and loop around at Howard Road to go north on Route 295 to reach eastbound Route 50.

The new routing can be discovered using some of the online mapping services. But here’s an issue that pops up from time to time: MapQuest appears not to have caught up with the new ramps that make Emerson’s route a good option.

In fact, when I asked MapQuest to take me from Rosslyn to Ocean City, the directions sent me along a segment of freeway that no longer exists. It’s the portion of the Southeast Freeway that used to link up with Pennsylvania Avenue and the Sousa Bridge over the Anacostia River.

DDOT has shut that for reconstruction, as part of the 11th Street bridge project. DDOT also noticed this mapping issue and is asking MapQuest to update the directions.

This happens from time to time when reconstruction opens up new routes. It took a while for online mapping services to catch up with the opening of Maryland’s Intercounty Connector and Virginia’s 495 Express Lanes. Moral: It’s a good idea to check several mapping services when planning a route.

DDOT didn’t shut the freeway segment until it had opened the new freeway ramps that helped smooth Emerson’s eastbound trip. This works the other way, too. A driver heading south on Route 295 should stay right after passing Pennsylvania Avenue and take the next ramp, which leads onto the 11th Street bridge.

It’s a two-lane ramp. Stay on the left side of it. That will make it easier to follow the route to I-395 on the far side of the bridge. And don’t be thrown by the signs for I-695. That’s the designation for the bridge and a portion of the freeway leading to I-395.