U. S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
HS 808 705
Operation and Design Issues
Most participants think the Beltway is well maintained. There were scattered complaints about potholes and rough pavement.
Many differences were cited between Maryland and Virginia segments. Virginia was generally thought to have better merge lanes for traffic entering and exiting the Beltway. There also were comments that the width of the road is more uniform in Virginia, with fewer lane drops. Some people commented that they like the signs listing the next three upcoming exits in Virginia. The Springfield interchange, however, was mentioned by many as one of the worst areas on the Beltway. Maryland was mentioned by several as having more and better merge lanes onto city streets at the end of exit ramps. Some also thought the pavement is better in Maryland. However, the curves near the Mormon Temple were frequently mentioned as a hazard. The I-270 interchange also was frequently criticized.
The general consensus was that lane markings are adequate when the weather is fair. There were some complaints that they are hard to see when it rains or snows. A few participants advocated raised reflective lane markers like the "Botts Dots" used in California. Others in the same groups argued that they would not stand up to DC weather, and snow plowing in the winter.
Neither creating additional lanes by narrowing existing ones nor utilizing the shoulders to handle rush hour traffic were thought to be good ways to relieve congestion. Additional lanes are strongly desired, but there was no support for building HOV lanes. Many participants commented that HOV lanes are a waste of taxpayer money that have failed to provide any substantial relief to congestion. Few participants car pool on the Beltway. Most of those who drive to work alone said they cannot find a partner who goes to work at the same time and place or they said that they need their car at work.
Some participants already use mass transit for their daily commute. Most do not have any form of mass transit available to them that can get them to and from work in anywhere near the time they can get there on the Beltway, even during rush hours. A few commented that between parking and fares, mass transit is too expensive.
There was almost universal support for the idea of building additional roads to take traffic off the Beltway. The most popular proposal was a bypass for I-95 through traffic.