Holidays usually mean fewer cars on Washington’s congested roadways.
But that was not the case yesterday, when hundreds of area motorists got caught in construction-created and festival-fueled jams around the District of Columbia.
Construction crews took advantage of the federal holiday to repair bridges and roads, including sections along New York Avenue. Meanwhile, motorists who had the day off flocked to Columbus Day festivals or Taste of D.C., or they headed for area shopping malls to take advantage of holiday sales.
As a result, scores of commuters steamed while sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“It’s just holiday traffic, and it’s not that unusual,” said Barbara Robinson, a D.C. police communications specialist. “There are a lot of sales going on and many people are going to malls. And not all road crews honor the holiday and figure it’s a good day to do road repairs.”
Most commuters were caught off guard by the tie-ups. Some said they were expecting to navigate the city at a leisurely pace since yesterday was a holiday.
“I don’t understand it,” said Marion Murphee, a federal government employee who lives in Arlington, Va.
“I thought I could take a drive around town on a holiday and not have to sit in traffic congestion. I was wrong. It would have been better to stay home than waste my day away being stuck in traffic,” she said.
The worst of the jams occurred in the eastbound lanes of New York Avenue where the three-lane street and the Interstate 395 tunnel intersect. Road crews blocked two lanes of traffic between North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue to allow workers to pave over the cuts utility companies made while laying fiber-optic cable in the area in the last year, said Bill Rice, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Public Works.
“They are doing some permanent resurfacing, and that’s why there’s congestion,” Mr. Rice said yesterday afternoon.
The resurfacing project caused commuters traveling east on New York Avenue to come to a standstill as far back as Massachusetts Avenue, near the D.C. Convention Center. Others traveling north in the I-395 tunnel came to a halt just past the Massachusetts Avenue exit.
Commuters in Maryland also experienced some delays on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway near Laurel early yesterday morning when the driver of a Toyota Camry was killed after the vehicle crashed into a tree.
U.S. Park Police said yesterday that the Camry was traveling north on the parkway just north of Maryland Route 197 when it crashed at about 4 a.m. and burst into flames. The driver, who had not yet been identified, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Several motorists sat in traffic as a police accident reconstruction team blocked off lanes of traffic and exit ramps to investigate the cause of the crash, authorities said.
Across town, road repairs on the 14th Street Bridge also delayed commuters who traveled north into the District throughout the day as cars were forced to merge from four lanes into two. Most of the delays began before the bridge, just north of the Pentagon on Interstate 395.