Sounds like a great start to a joke doesn't it? Only those of us living here know driving in this area is never very funny.
The Washington Post reported last week that once again, the DC area topped the list of the worst places for traffic tie-ups. The report issued by the Texas A & M Traffic Institute also noted that drivers here can sit for up to 67 hours a year and use up 32 gallons in gas sitting in traffic “Staus,” as the Germans say. You can read more at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/washington-...
Driving in Military District Washington is probably the hardest thing to adjust to when military families find themselves stationed here. Let’s face it, most of us are used to 5 or 10 minute jaunts to work, shopping, church and school within our “gated communities.” The first time we moved to Northern Virginia, we were coming from Fort Polk, where the only traffic jams I had to face were in Leesville around the drive-thru Daiquiri Bar on Friday evenings or Jack’s All U Need during crawfish season. The only traffic hazard that loomed was the speed trap zone in Rosepine on Highway 171 – not unlike Nolanville when driving into Fort Hood.
I will admit to being totally unprepared for the amount of cars on the road during that first experience. We had found a rental just outside the beltway in Annandale that met spouse’s desire to be fairly close to a Metro station to ease his commute time and was centrally located to the high school, middle school and grade school the kids were attending. This seemingly idyllic neighborhood was named Camelot, but I quickly learned that the name didn't stand for a magic kingdom. The name reflected the jousting I had to do trying to pull out of our community onto the main streets. It was like merging onto the Indy 500 racetrack.
When my dentist asked if I was grinding my teeth at night or during stress, during my first check up here, I flashed to being behind the wheel. I wasn't just clenching the steering wheel while maneuvering through traffic in those early days, I was gritting my teeth, too. After a stern warning to save my teeth and relax from my new dentist, I tried to be a little more at ease behind the wheel. In the days before Garmin and TomTom, I took advantage of the best ‘Welcome to DC’ present I had been handed by a good friend already living here – a detailed neighborhood street map. I studied and learned side street routes to Ft. Myer and Belvoir for shopping trips. I planned drives for what I hoped were non-rush hour times. And I learned to take lots of deep breaths while stuck in traffic.
Before moving back to the area again, we found ourselves at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia for four years. That area has its traffic issues also, mainly due to the two bridge tunnels connecting the northern part of the Hampton Roads to its southern neighbors. Okay, you can get stuck on the Hampton Roads Bridge, but at least you have the lovely views of the Chesapeake and the imposing Norfolk Naval Base to enjoy while waiting (unless you are caught in the tunnel).
Now retired and here to stay for awhile, we purposely picked a home that offered a minimal commute for spouse, short drive to Fort Myer and access to Metro. But even those short drives are often fraught with construction zones, malfunctioning street lights and unpredictable drivers. Just the other day I watched as a car crossed two lanes of traffic to turn left from the far right lane. There has been a change though. Where before that move would have turned me into a teeth-clenching, white knuckled bundle of nerves, now I just shake my head and keep a look out for any other crazy drivers. I must be finally getting used to driving in DC.
How have you adjusted to driving in this area? What are some of your traffic horror stories? Are there other areas out there where military families experience worse traffic, Korea perhaps? I’d love to hear your tales.
(Photo from switchboard.nrdc.org)