Just before 9 a.m., the Virginia Railway Express commuter service reported that a broken-down Amtrak train at Union Station was stopping its trains from arriving. The stalled train also prompted Amtrak to warn in a tweet that its trains traveling through Washington could experience delays because of “rail congestion” at Union Station.
There were no major shutdowns on primary commuter routes during the rush, but plenty of backups and crashes brought delays.
“From the operational standpoint, there were no major road incidents this morning,” Ellen Kamilakis, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said in an email. “This was simply volume.”
The toll for solo drivers to travel nine miles on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway hit $46.50, falling about $1 short of a record. Outside the Beltway, two lanes on I-66 were blocked at one point after rescuers responded to a crash near the Fairfax County Parkway.
All lanes of the Beltway’s outer loop were closed about 10:45 a.m. for a crash near the Telegraph Road interchange in Virginia, bringing miles-long delays.
Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the commute didn’t have an “inordinate amount of crashes," but he cited a rule of thumb that “every minute a lane is closed during peak travel times, it takes four minutes to recover.” He noted that some workers take Monday off or telecommute, leading to increased Tuesday traffic.
Tim Canan, planning data and research program director at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, said road incidents can have a compounding effect on the morning rush. Mid-September is also one of the busiest times for travel on local roadways, as fewer residents are traveling outside the region, he said.
“Even at 9 a.m., when the morning rush is winding down, there is little reserve capacity in the system and incidents like these can have a disproportionate effect,” he said.
Matt Bradfuhrer, a government contractor who commutes daily from Woodbridge, Va., to downtown Washington, spent an additional hour trying to get to work Tuesday.
His commuting troubles started when he had to exit a VRE train in Alexandria because of congestion on tracks into Washington. At the King Street Metro station, he said a crowd quickly built up outside the turnstile as many VRE riders tried to get on the rail system.
But then Metro wasn’t any better.
Bradfuhrer would normally take a Yellow Line train to the L’Enfant Plaza station. But since that line was delayed, he got on a Blue Line train that was packed. He finally managed to get off the train at the Smithsonian station and walk to his office.
“It was frustrating,” he said of his commute. “But it’s Metro, so it is what it is.”
The various delays led commuters to find other ways around the region.
On Twitter, @bcrogs said he paid $37 for a Lyft ride share — three times the normal rate. “It’s part of my transportation budget now,” he wrote.
For Metro, the troubles came one day after it reopened six stations on its Blue and Yellow lines that had been shut down for months of renovations. One commuter, who goes by @emamadden on Twitter, wrote “I never though I’d say this but, I want the express shuttle back.”