Northern Virginia’s Road Network

Northern Virginia’s traffic is shaped by its proximity to Washington DC and proximity to several important job centers. The world famous Capitol Beltway (Interstate 495) circles DC like a wheel around a hub. The Beltway links Northern Virginia’s suburban communities such as Springfield, Kingstowne, Braddock Road and Vienna to the transportation network. The Beltway generally moves at or above the speed limit most times and most days.

In Virginia, the Beltway travels from the American Legion Bridge upriver to the newly-rebuilt Woodrow Wilson Bridge downriver. At each bridge the Beltway enters Maryland. In Maryland the Beltway loops around DC creating a complete route.

Tysons Corner VA
Nesbitt Realty is a real estate brokerage serving Tysons Corner VA

There are several important job centers along 495, such as Tysons Corner. Tysons Corner is poorly served by mass transit and there are regularly scheduled traffic jams at Tysons every rush hour.  In addition, the bridges are choke-points for traffic entering and leaving Virginia at the American Legion Bridge and at the recently re-built Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Traffic into Maryland at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge favors Virginia commuters heading into Maryland. Commuters from Virginia generally won’t have much trouble reaching Andrews AFB, the Census Bureau, etc. Conversely, the evening approach to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge backs up with Maryland residents heading home from jos in Virginia. This problem should soon be alleviated greatly as the new bridge comes completely online.

The American Legion Bridge serves many Virginia commuters headed for Rockville, Silver Spring, etc. This  burden, coupled with its proximity to Tysons Corner causes the Beltway to slow during rush hour.

The Beltway loops around DC like a wheel around a hub. Many roads and rails in the area link to DC like spokes on that wheel. There are many of these spokes, but in Virginia there are three primary corridors from DC: I-66, I-395, and US 1 together with the GW Parkway.

66 Corridor and Orange Line

I-66 is HOV only during rush hour, but other routes (such as 50, 29 & 28) parallel the interstate as it approaches DC. Taken as a whole this road system can carry a tremendous amount of traffic, but it slows considerably during rush hour.

i-66
Interstate 66 is a major commuter route in Northern VA

The 66 corridor is also served by the Orange Line, with Metro stops in Arlington at Rosslyn, Clarendon, Ballston (and more). The Orange Line continues through West Falls Church and then into Fairfax County with a terminal station at Vienna. 66 is used by commuters in Fairfax, Centreville, Manassas and beyond to the hinterlands.

In addition to the routes mentioned above, outside the Beltway 66 is supported by the Dulles Tollroad, which links the area to Dulles Airport and outlying suburbs such as Herndon, Reston and beyond.

I-395

Interstate 395 doesn’t have a Metro train service but it carries a massive load of traffic none-the-less. In addition to its 8 to 10 lanes of traffic, 395 has an extra 3 lanes of HOV that switch direction depending on the hour of the day. 395 leaves DC between the Pentagon and Crystal City (both in Arlington) and on the way out to I-95 and the Beltway at Springfield, I 395 passes Shirlington, Landmark, East Falls Church and other neighborhoods.

Traffic on 395 is nearly always heavy but only slows during rush hour.

George Washington Parkway, Rt. 1 and the Yellow & Blue Lines

North of the Key Bridge, the 4 to 6 lanes of the George Washington Parkway ties into I-495 at the American Legion Bridge. This route serves Mclean and Northern Arlington County. South of Memorial Bridge, the George Washington Parkway and US Rt. 1 together only carry 8 to 10 lanes of traffic.

Huntington Metro
Huntington Metro Yellow line at the lower level

Traffic here is relatively light considering the proximity to the city, and the fact that US 1 has several traffic lights. This route follows the Potomac downriver toward the Beltway at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

This route is also supported by the Yellow and Blue Metro Lines. Taken as a whole, this route serves commuters at Crystal City, Pentagon City, Del Ray, Old Town, New Alexandria and Mt. Vernon to the city. At King St, the Yellow and Blue Lines fork with the Yellow Line continuing toward Mt. Vernon, but ending at Huntington. The Blue Line turns south toward Springfield with stops at Van Dorn and Springfield.

Northern VA roads and driving, Roads and Transit

Aubrey Nesbitt

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Aubrey Nesbitt is a native of Northern Virginia who attended Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a veteran of the US Army and helps his family business by providing informational articles like this one. In addition to photography and blogging, Aubrey provides administrative support for the office. Aubrey is a service-disabled retired veteran and a part of our family. We give him the opportunity to work at the office and on the web as part of his recovery. The opinions and statements presented by Aubrey are his own and we don't necessarily agree with them.