- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A report by the Transportation Planning Board released yesterday documents what drivers already know: Traffic in the D.C. region has gotten worse in the past three years.

The report is based on 80,000 aerial photographs taken during four morning and evening rush hours. Two of the most changed areas are westbound Interstate 66 in Fairfax County and southbound Interstate 95 from Dumfries Boulevard to Russell Road in Prince William County. Traffic density on both stretches of road has doubled since 2002.

Ron Kirby, the board’s director, called the increase dramatic and said the biggest traffic changes should be addressed with road and transit improvements to head off further problems.

Mr. Kirby said the Virginia Department of Transportation will be widening I-66 through part of that section identified as a bottleneck.

The study also found that the rush hour is beginning earlier. Total lane miles of congestion increased 64 percent between 4:30 and 5:30 in the evening.

Mr. Kirby acknowledged that the photos of backups on the Capital Beltway, Interstate 395, I-95 and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge document known problems, but there were some surprises.

“The approach to the 14th Street bridge in the evening was the second worst congested,” Mr. Kirby said.

That section also ranked sixth on the area’s list of top 10 bottlenecks in the morning.

But there also was positive news.

The report said the traffic backup along the Beltway from Interstate 270 to the Dulles Toll Road exit showed a 50 percent to 60 percent improvement since 2002. Mr. Kirby credited a new lane on the exit ramp for the toll road, added in the summer.

“It’s really dramatic for such a modest change,” Mr. Kirby said. “It cost $3 [million] to $4 million to expand the lane.”

There are plans to fix some of the most congested areas. High-occupancy toll lanes have been proposed to aid the top two congested areas — the northbound I-395 and the Inner Loop of the Beltway from I-270 to Connecticut Avenue.

The new Wilson Bridge is scheduled to open in June and could help one of the top congested areas, although no lanes will be added in this phase.

D.C. officials told planning board members that they had earmarked $148 million in federal funds for improvements on the Anacostia River bridges, which ranked in the top 10.

“It’s hard for citizens to get across the Anacostia. We need to make that easier,” said board member Phil Mendelson, who represents the District.

An engineer for the D.C. Department of Transportation told board members that improvements to Anacostia River bridges also could help Washington Nationals fans trying to get to a new stadium on South Capitol Street.

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