Parking along some of Washington's busiest roads is about to get more difficult in an effort to make the drive through the District faster.
Gridlock has increased along Wisconsin and Connecticut avenues since the start of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Safetrack Program and the Beach Drive construction closure. In an effort to relieve some of the traffic pressure, the Department of Public Works will be increasing enforcement of parking violation, meaning more cars will be towed.
The region has already been struggling with additional traffic since Metro’s Safetrack rail closures. The closure of Beach Drive, a popular route for commuters from Montgomery County, has forced additional traffic onto already crowded arteries, like Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest, and Connecticut Avenue, Northwest.
“We had traffic fairly well stabilized in the first few weeks, and then over the last week, things have been thrown out of balance because of some other situations with Metro, police activity, crashes,” said District Department of Transportation Director Leif A. Dormsjo. “It’s a very fragile system.”
Neil Albert, the former deputy mayor of D.C., knows how tough it is to manage traffic in the District. He currently represents businesses in the downtown area that are hoping officials manage to get a handle on the traffic problems.
“As people try to leave the District of Columbia, and particularly in the downtown area, where we are standing, there is gridlock between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., 7 p.m.,” Albert said. “I think something has to happen.”
Dormsjo said the District is keenly aware of the problems and are working to ease the congestion.
“I had a meeting earlier this week with senior city officials. One of the focus areas was Connecticut Avenue, principally with the parking enforcement,” Dormsjo said. “I think there are some things people should see in the coming weeks from DPW that should make sure that we are getting compliance in regard to the parking restrictions that we do have in place.”
The plan is to add two additional tow trucks to the northwest section of Connecticut Avenue for the morning and afternoon/evening rush hours to tow cars off when they park illegally between the 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. extended time.
Since May 2016, they have issued 1,695 tickets, mostly along Connecticut Avenue, Northwest, and Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest, during that extended time. Many of those tickets were given to D.C. and Maryland drivers.
Construction crews working closing lanes during rush hours have also created more problems to throw the traffic flow out of balance.
“It’s not allowed, but we’ve got a lot of construction activity across the city, and we don’t have an endless supply of inspectors," Dormsjo said. "We try to police that as closely as we can.”
DDOT has 20 inspectors that sometimes can’t get to construction crew violators fast enough when notified about a lane closure.
“Keep in mind, the inspector is going to have to fight through the traffic as well," Dormsjo said. "But we were aware when (News4’s) Tom Sherwood made sure that on Twitter we had a minute by minute reporting on what was going on up there.”
Metro's SafeTrack program is scheduled to continue until at least April 2017. Construction on Beach Drive is expected to take several years, but it is being done in segments.