Bus Tours in Full Bloom and Blocking Traffic
DThe District plans to shut South Capitol Street’s Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge this summer for reconstruction and rehabilitation but has been doing preliminary work some winter and spring weekends. Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I commute to Arlington County from ear Dr. Gridlock:
Now that spring has sprung, the tour buses are back. Each afternoon, as my carpool leaves town, we take Henry Bacon Drive past the Lincoln Memorial. And each afternoon, there have been at least two buses there, idling away. Traffic is backed up onto Constitution Avenue. Can the Park Police get those buses out of there?
Jody Terry Springfield Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Although the signs clearly prohibit parking during rush hour, tour buses park there consistently, taking away a lane and causing backups on Constitution Avenue and beyond. Are we at the mercy of the tourists? Winnie Imperio
Alexandria The National Park Service allows buses to drop off and pick up in the right lane near the new visitor kiosk but not during the afternoon rush, when Bacon is a heavily used route to the Arlington Memorial Bridge.
Tuesday, between 4:45 and 6:15 p.m., a half-dozen tour buses stopped there. Unlike last fall, when I saw as many as five in a row parked there for long periods during the afternoon rush, these buses unloaded passengers and then drove off, returning for them later.
That might make them harder to catch, but it’s not helping traffic. One bus stopping there is enough to gridlock the intersection at Constitution and Bacon.
“We certainly recognize the situation, and we are communicating with — and will continue to have conversations with — the tour bus groups and the Park Police to make sure those buses do not park there between 4 and 7 p.m. on weekdays,” said Park Service spokesman Bill Line. The Park Service talks with tour bus groups to let them know what the rules are.
The best news is that the Park Service just reopened the streets on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial, following reconstruction, and there is more space for buses and taxis. What about enforcement? “We do our best to shoo them away and let them know they’re not supposed to park there,” Line said, noting that Park Police responsibilities at rush hour are broad and include many of the region’s parkways. “We manage parks and parkways, but we do pay attention to how bad traffic is in this area.”
This is a Park Service plan to balance the needs of tourists and commuters. It works only when the Park Service enforces its rules.
Douglass Bridge Repairs
Maryland. I’m looking for an alternative for July and August, when the serious work begins. New York Avenue is a zoo at the Third Street tunnel, and going through East Capitol Street will gridlock the neighborhoods. There are alternatives going home, but access to the westbound Southeast-Southwest Freeway is only through South Capitol.
I live 17 miles from Metro and do not get to Greenbelt in time for a parking place.
The last two times they did bridge work on Fridays, southbound traffic via Kenilworth-I-295 backed up all the way to Benning Road, sending traffic back through the Howard Road exit, back to Pennsylvania Avenue to the freeway. New York Avenue to the Third Street tunnel has poorly timed lights. Barbara Boward
Another round of preliminary work is scheduled for April 13 to 16, weather permitting. The shutdown of the inbound bridge lanes will start at 10 a.m. Friday and conclude before the Monday morning rush.
The D.C. Department of Transportation continues to recommend the 11th Street Bridge as the primary driving detour. “Northbound [inbound] drivers should follow detours on I-295 north to the 11th Street bridge,” said Karyn LeBlanc, a department spokeswoman. “Southbound [outbound] drivers should follow detours to I-395 south across the 11th Street bridge to I-295 south.”
After receiving this letter and others, I drove the detour zone between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on a Saturday and saw no problems except for a backup on Howard Road. But our letter writer commutes after Friday’s 10 a.m. closure.
Share your suggestions on detours and alternatives. I don’t see a better detour than the 11th Street bridge. Word about the summer closure really needs to get around so drivers can understand alternatives, such as parking at the Anacostia Metro station and taking the train. Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in the Extras and Sunday in the Metro section. You can e-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, home community and phone number.
A bus stops along Henry Bacon Drive, near the Lincoln Memorial, backing up traffic Tuesday.