- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

Viviana Attamirano left New York City at 4 a.m. yesterday for what she expected to be a five-hour drive down Interstates 95 and 295 to Virginia, where she planned to watch her sister get married in Stafford.

Six hours later, she was standing in the shade at a gas station on New York Avenue Northeast — two hours from her destination and too late to witness one of the happiest moments of her life.

“We were stuck in that traffic, and now we missed the wedding,” she said, her tank top and shorts disheveled from the drive, her weary face marked with sleep lines from waiting in the car. “We’ll make the reception, but as for the wedding — I guess we’ll just have to watch the tape.”

Mrs. Attamirano was among the thousands of frustrated commuters who sat for hours in yesterday’s relentless traffic jam caused by a high-speed-pursuit-turned-car-wreck on New York Avenue and a fiery tractor-trailer accident on I-295 in the District.

The accidents shut down westbound New York Avenue and both directions of I-295 in the District for several near-90-degree hours, bringing the peak morning commute to a standstill and snarling traffic for the rest of the afternoon.

Tonya Hill, 39, said she almost ran out of gas during the two hours she spent inching along I-295 from Laurel. She was so harried by the experience that when she finally sputtered into the gas station, she couldn’t get the gas cap off her rental car.

“How does this thing work?” she said, frustrated by the situation. “I spent so much time in that traffic. I was supposed to be downtown a long time ago. And I’ve got to get gas in this car — it’s all out.”

Miss Hill sighed heavily and ran into the station to look for help. Moments later, a U.S. Postal Service worker and a businessman — both equally late for appointments — followed her back to the car, ready to tackle the obstinate gas cap. After a few more minutes of tugging and turning, the tank popped open.

“Finally,” she said, brushing a strand of hair from her face. “I can get on with it.”

Kurt Boehm, 22, dressed in rumpled khakis and a button-down shirt made a pit stop to put a few dollars of gas in his car before rushing off to an audition in Northwest — for which he was already late.

“This has pretty much destroyed my day,” he said, rushing to pump his gas. “And I’m still trying to reach my destination.”

Taking a break from his extended commute to drink some iced tea in the shade, Bruce Kelly, 50, was heading from Columbia, Md., to a trade show in Northwest Washington with Jim Blair, 52, and had sat in traffic on I-295 for almost two hours.

“I’ve been coming into Washington for many years, and this is the worst I’ve seen it,” Mr. Blair said. “It’s seriously frustrating. It’s a like a parking lot out there — you’re sitting in traffic for so long, you’re just burning fuel.”

Mr. Kelly, dark sunglasses shielding his eyes from the glare against the cars, said he felt a different kind of discomfort from the backup.

“It was stressful for guys who have to go to the bathroom,” he said.

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