The Capital Beltway is one of the most famous roads in the country, particularly for those who are interested in politics. The Beltway is also one of the most infamous roads in DC for local drivers who spend half of their lives sitting in traffic. It is also just one of numerous limited access highways provided transportation to and from the DC area. On a random Saturday in December 2008, it took me an hour just to cross the damned old Woodrow. On a Saturday! Thank god I don't have to drive this freakin road every day.
The Beltway (I-495) - As its name suggests, the beltway forms a ring around central Washington DC, with the road almost entirely in the states of Maryland and Virginia, traveling through DC just over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It is designated as Interstate 495 though the eastern portion of the Beltway is also the path of Interstate 95. On local traffic reports you will hear the inner loop and outer loop mentioned... the inner loop is the clockwise lanes closer to the city and the outer loop is made up of the counterclockwise lanes. The total route is 64 miles.
Interstate 395 - I-395 begins in the south where I-95 meets the Beltway at Springfield, VA (this huge interchange is known as the Mixing Bowl). It runs 13 miles northeast through Virginia then over the Potomac and into downtown DC. After passing under the Mall it ends at New York Avenue.
Interstate 295 - I-295 runs just 8 miles from the Beltway at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, along the east bank of the Potomac, then into downtown Washington DC (where it is called the Southeast Freeway, or even Interstate 695 for 1.5 miles) before it merges with I-395. If you continue north on I-295 rather then heading into downtown DC, this route becomes Anacostia Freeway / Kenilworth Ave then the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
Interstate 66 - I-66 begins in Washington and runs west for 76 miles to Interstate 81 in Middletown, VA. This is the only two-digit Interstate in the city of Washington DC other than the tiny portion of I-95 over Woodrow Wilson Bridge. In Washington I-66 occupies the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge just north of the Lincoln Memorial and it turns due north before quickly ending around Foggy Bottom and the Rock Creek Parkway.
George Washington Memorial Parkway - The GW Parkway is a small freeway maintained by the National Park Service. It follows the south and west bank of the Potomac through Virginia from the beltway to George Washington's home at Mount Vernon. The Northern Section runs from the Beltway past the Pentagon and Reagan National Airport to the north end of Old Town Alexandria at North Washington Street. The Southern Section begins at the south edge of old Town on South Washington Street, and runs to Mount Vernon.
Clara Barton and Cabin John Parkways - These small freeways run along the C&O Canal and the north bank of the Potomac from Georgetown to the Beltway. The Clara Barton Parkway runs the entire distance from downtown to the Beltway, while the Cabin John Parkway is just 1.5 miles long and connects to the Beltway a few exists to the north. the Clara Barton Parkway is part of the GW PArkway Administration under the National Park Service. It provides numerous parking areas for visitors to the C&O Canal trail.
Dulles Access Road (Rt 267) - As the name suggests it runs to the Dulles Airport. It is really two roads, a free road directly to the airport with no local exits, and a toll road providing access to the communities near the airport. A portion of the tolls will be used to build the Metro's Silver Line to Dulles Airport. The roads run about 14 miles from the Beltway east of the city to the airport.
Anacostia Freeway / Kenilworth Ave / Baltimore-Washington Parkway (DC & MD 295) - The non-interstate portion of I-295. It runs from I-295's end point all the way to Baltimore (via MD 295), mostly along the east side of the Anacostia River.
Interstate 270 (Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Highway) - Runs from the Beltway through Maryland, 34 miles to to I-70 at Fredericksburg. This route runs Northeast away from the city, and it connects into central Washington on Wisconsin Avenue.
If you don't want to fight traffic in town and struggle to find a parking spot, a great alternative is to drive to one of the stations outside of the city and take the Metro in to town. My last visit, I parked at Cheverly, Maryland, and enjoyed the 20-minute ride to the city center. Cheverly and the other Metro parking areas recently implemented the SmarTrip card system to pay for parking. A SmarTrip card costs $5 and strores up to $300 in value. It has a special RF chip embedded in the card that allows you to swipe it across a sensor, rather than inserting a paper ticket in the slot. Ahhh technology... no waste, no moving parts. SmarTrip cards are also in use on the buses and the Metro.
Many stations, particularly outside of the city offer daily parking, but only a few offer any long-term, or even overnight, parking areas. Check the DC Metro's website.
Driving in the city of Washington DC can be a real experience. Here are some of my big gripes after just a few weeks in the city:
1. Pedestrians never obey don't walk signs, and they always assume they have the right of way even if they are crossing in front of you when you have a green light. Where this is most frustrating for me is when I am trying to turn on red--I check to ensure pedestrians have a don't walk signal, I check for a break in oncoming traffic, then I go, only to find the crosswalk full of jaywalkers.
2. Avenues, squares, and traffic circles. We are all used to grid patterns in cities and they are easy to figure out. But in Washington DC the avenues are angle streets that create odd six eight, and ten-way intersections; and because of these funny angled avenues, through streets are occasionally randomly blocked, breaking up the grid pattern.
3. Drivers ignore red lights and block the box. Anytime a light changes from green to red at a busy intersection it seems the next six or eight cars will always try to squeeze through, so when the cross traffic light changes to green they always have to wait 10-20 seconds for the intersection to clear before they can proceed.
4. Security measures. Do we have to block half of the roads around all the government buildings? If I can walk there with a back pack or suitcase, why can't I drive there?
(more to come, I'm sure)
Update June 2008: DC cabs now use meters! The new system charges passengers $3 for the first sixth of a mile and 25 cents for each additional sixth of a mile. Also passengers are charged 25 cents for each minute stopped in traffic or traveling slower than 10 miles per hour.
Taxi fares inside the District stump even the long-time residents. Fares are based on a zone system rather than actual distance or time spent idling in traffic. Travel within a zone and get charged the lowest price, travel into an adjacent zone and get charged the next lowest price. Sounds simple right? The trick is knowing where the zone lines are because you could ask to be dropped off on one corner and pay a higher price than if the cabbie had dropped you on the other side of the intersection.
Virginia licensed taxis (Alexandria, Crystal City, Arlington) use the familiar meters, even when traveling into the District.
If you are good enough in parallel parking, you can try yourself on Constitution Ave between 14th abd 17th. There are no meters there and I saw no other signs there to mark parking spots. Since rural US is a parking paradise and most Americans are not trained in parallel parking (or even never heard about), you can be surprised with an empty spot with a good view on the White House over the Ellipse just from your left window.
May be very handy for Europeans, New-Yorkers, and other experienced parking fighters.
A tip: I heard that americans do not mind when you compress their cars by gently pushing them with your bumper. Tried that in Boston (where Avis surprised me with a Buick) and it worked for me.
Yes, parking is free around the Mall. Be there before 9 am you will find a plenty of spots there. I parked easily by the Capitol and by the Natiuonal Gallery. For early birds only.
Signs restict you to 3hrs, but I would consider is as a gentlemen agreement rather then a law. Please advice.
You need great luck to park there after 10am.
Driving in DC is about as bad as it gets (okay, actually not that bad, but still). Traffic is always bad, every day of the week; and it's especially bad if there is a state funeral or if some group or another decides to hold a protest or rally. Parking is always impossible; and traffic circles (like Dupont Circle) are rather tricky and hard to navigate. During rush hour, traffic is at a standstill; don't think you'll get anywhere. If you're visiting DC, its best to park outside the city and take Metrorail or Metrobus into the city, since many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other.
There is a Metro Station not to far from the Wat Thai Temple. There is some parking near the temple but it will most likely be full fast and if you park in the neighborhoods near by its very possible to get a ticket from the police (depends on how and where you park). Your Best Bet is to park at Metro Station and Hope the Wat Thai Shuttle (may be a school bus) and it drops you off right in from of the Temple. It is a free shuttle so dont worry about price and usually the Metro Parking lot is free during this event (if held on a sunday). I do suggest however that you tip the Driver, being that Gas prices are crazy and they are saving you a lot of engery spent trying to get around. Just think of all the money saved by not getting a Ticket! And give it on the way to the temple because you may not have any on the way back to the car...plus your hands will be free and not lugging around all the stuff you bought!
Limousines are a standard mode of transport for Washington's important people and people who think they are. They not only come in basic black stretch jobs like in the included photo (outside the Hart Senate Office Building), they can also be in white, or customised stretch SUVs (sport utility vehicles, for those on the Left Bank) where folks can have all the luxury as well as the ability to move about in snow, ice or more treacherous terrain.
I was lucky to park my car close to the Lincoln Memorial, on a street (free!) - Ohio Drive SW. I saw a car trying to park between the two cars in a long row of parked cars and the driver after two attempts gave up, thus I parked there. Well, my parking training from Paris was again useful, that time in DC. There is a sign which says: 3 hours parking there and no parkometers. Hmm... it's likely I parked a bit longer there. Before I checked whether other cars had any paper clock put behind widshield to set for hour and minute of the parking and thus show whether 3 hours already passed or not (popular in Europe) but i didn't notice any. You see what I mean, right?
- read carefully parking signs put along a street you are going to park,
- parking on a street in downtown is usually limited to 2 hours from Monday to Friday from 9.30 am - 4.00 pm or even 6.30 pm and paid in a parkometer (get change ready)
- in Georgetown parking on a street was limited to 2 hours Monday to Saturday 9.30 am - 4.00 pm and 6.30 pm - 10.00 pm
- I've seen tickets put behind windshield wiper of cars whose drivers didn't pay
- I've never seen cars parked where it was not allowed (they are towed away, I've seen cars ready to tow them), hmm... in European cities it often works quite different :-(
- there are a few covered parking lots in downtown, look at the prices in my picture ($16 per 12 hours, expensive? it's half the Californian price from downtown San Francisco in 2003!)
- Georgetown tends to be a bit more expensive for parking than downtown
- check the opening hours of the parking lot (some are closed at night!)
- check how to pay for the parking (in some automatic parking lots you have to have change ready to pay and be let out)
- the option is to drive to metro parking lots and use metro, the lots are free in weekends and cheap in business days (say $3.50 - 5.00 per day) but you must buy a SmarTrip card to pay for the parking, details here.
Hay Adams Hotel Washington D.C.
6 Reviews and 347 Opinions the hay-adams hotel is located on lafayette square a block from the white house. the hay-adams is in...
See all 170 Hotels in Washington D.C.
Willard Inter-Continental Washington Washington D.C.
8 Reviews and 745 Opinions Not just a typical hotel in the chain, this oozes presidential character. Located well, near the...
See all 170 Hotels in Washington D.C.