The Beltway

When the “beltway” around Washington, D. C. was built approximately 50 years ago, many people commented they would “never drive on that road”.  Not me – I was thrilled to be able to get to destinations in Maryland or Washington without having to drive through dozens of small towns with traffic lights on every corner.  The Beltway, or “495” as it was also known, was a huge circular highway around the city of Washington, with well-spaced exits.   With just a bit of planning, you could shorten your t rip by half.  It started with two lanes, and gradually increased to three and four lanes in certain areas – all going in one direction in a continuous loop.  If you were in the lane nearest the “core” you were in the “inner loop” and the lanes used for exiting, were known as the “outer loop”.   On a normal day, you could complete a loop in approximately one hour.   Today most major cities across the country have “beltways”.

When I was attending NorthernVirginiaCommunity College, my home campus was in Alexandria and I lived in Fairfax so I drove the beltway three nights a week.  No problem.

Recently, I got quite a shock.  I had not visited the beltway since we left Northern  Virginia seven years ago.  With any luck, I won’t visit it again.  Two “HOV” (high occupancy vehicles) and two Express (toll) lanes have been added and it is now a six to eight lane circle of fast moving chaos.  Fortunately, I knew where I was going to exit so I remained in the outer loop lanes, kept up with the traffic flow, and stayed out of trouble.   My husband was riding shot-gun and white knuckled in the passenger seat, reading from our page of directions.

For those of you not familiar with Northern Virginia, Springfield is a highly populated residential, commercial and industrial community in the southern part of FairfaxCounty.

Interstate 95, the major north-south route on the east coast, joins the beltway as they meet on the Baltimore side and exits at Springfield.  From a distance, it looks like a nightmare that really happened.  To me it is a condensed version of the worst Los   Angeles freeway.

My goal on this recent trip was to exit onto I-95 South.  It was obviously the goal of half of the 1 million+ people living in FairfaxCounty.  It took at least one-half hour to travel the less than 10 miles to my next exit – total stop and go traffic.   And this was Sunday afternoon – not a week-day work commute!

When it was time to return home, and now realizing where we were, I chose an alternate route that kept me off both I-95 and the Beltway.  When we reached Route 66 with my beloved mountains on the horizon, I said Yippee!  The experience made me realize once again how fortunate I am to live in the Valley.  I will continue to enjoy my “View” from the peace and quiet of my hill!

As for the  Beltway – to borrow a line from Mr. Poe, “ . . .quoth the raven, Nevermore”.