Driving directions from Google Maps.

The Southeast-Southwest Freeway and 14th Street bridge are very congested. They don’t need cars carrying people who are just passing through the region. But now that DC has added new ramps to the 11th Street bridge, online maps tell drivers to do just that.

If you’re driving from Baltimore to Richmond and figure you’ll just stay on I-95, you’d take the eastern side of the Beltway to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which recently got a massive expansion to handle more traffic. That used to be the route online maps would recommend as well.

But if you ask Google Maps or Bing Maps or another map site, it’ll suggest taking the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to DC-295, then the 11th Street Bridge to the Southeast Freeway (now with the visitor-attracting I-695 label), then I-395 over the Potomac and down through Arlington.


Driving directions from Bing Maps.


This is probably not the best way. DC-295 is narrower than interstates. The freeways through DC and Arlington probably have more congestion than the Prince George’s Beltway route. Try telling that to the map programs.

They think the Beltway route is 1-2 minutes longer, so they route travelers right through the core. Many people’s GPSes are likely doing the same thing. This will make life worse for all other drivers who actually need to go to DC, even though those through drivers would only gain a minute or two even when there is no traffic.

The extra ramps certainly add options for residents and commuters, and will draw some traffic off some local roads, but an independent traffic analysis for the Capitol Hill Restoration Society predicted other roads will get worse thanks in large part to drawing traffic off the Wilson Bridge.


Effects of the 11th Street Bridge project based on the Smart Mobility analysis. Red segments get more congested, green segments less.


Yet DDOT never really engaged with CHRS’s concerns or my warning about what it would do to casual travelers relying on technology.

Has traffic gotten worse or better on the freeway? If you drive (or walk or bike) there, what has your experience been?

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle.