The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Why I have extreme dislike for Virginia


August 19, 2008

Vacation blogging! The beach is very nice, and it looks like Fay will stay away from us.

The trip down, however, left a bit to be desired, and only served to reinforce my extreme dislike of Virginia. I’m sure all you Virginia apologists will jump to the defense of your state, and yes, Virginia, there are some nice things about the state here and there (heck, one of our Duck contributors even lives there), but that said, you must admit that I-95 between the Beltway and Fredericksburg is perhaps one of the worst stretches of highway that you could ever drive on.

The story: We decided to drive to the beach this summer, as its much easier than flying when you involve a small toddler and all his assorted stuff. We had planned to leave Saturday afternoon, about nap time, so said toddler could sleep for a while, with the idea to make it to Florence, SC (about 6.5 hours in normal traffic), where we would overnight before continuing on to the Beach. We go out OK, and rounded the beltway, through the re-constructed mixing bowl, and on to 95 heading south. At first things were moving, and this was good. But, about 10 miles south of the Beltway, it slowed down.

And then it stopped. We’re in the Virginia Ex-Urbs, lovely places like Occoquan, the Prince William Parkway, and the like, familiar to everyone who ever listens to traffic and weather on the 8’s for the Metro DC region. Wanting to know what was up, we turned on the traffic report, and they said: its a long, slow drive down to Fredericksburg on I-95. Great. We’re several miles outside the city on a major highway with 3 lanes going south, 2 more HOV lanes going south, and 3 lanes going north. ALL 8 LANES were at a DEAD STOP. On a Saturday afternoon, at like 3pm! No accident, no construction. Just too many cars for the road, going who knows where into Virginia.

So, we bailed at Dumfries and slid over to Route 1, which parallels 95 all the way down to Miami. Everyone else had the same idea, and so it too was painstakingly slow. Finally, about the time we hit Quantico, Rt 1 opened up a bit, and so we could cover a bit of ground. We stayed on 1 until it hit 95 just below Fredericksburg. It sort of moved, with traffic here and there. When we finally re-joined the main-line, southbound traffic was moving, and we were happy. It had taken us about 3 hours to make it to Fredericksburg, a trip that should be an hour. The kicker–the northbound lanes were still stopped, with traffic crunched nearly to Richmond.

Thank goodness I never actually was in serious consideration for that job at Mary Washington I once applied for and thought I could commute to….

We ended up in Richmond at like 6pm, and so we stopped at an Applebee’s off 295. I hadn’t been to an Applebees in years (and now I know why….) though the Toddler did enjoy his Mac and Cheese (Kraft, it seemed…). I was hoping to be in NC by then. Finally we got to our hotel in Florence, SC at about 10:30 pm, several hours late, all due to inane traffic in the VA suburbs.

1. If this were a unique story, it would be sad, but this happens ALL THE TIME! Rush hour traffic on the weekends, between somewhere and nowhere, overwhelming NoVa’s road capacity. Don’t you people have somewhere else to be than on the highway on a Saturday afternoon?

2. What happened to $4 gas keeping people off the roads? Maybe it keeps people from driving where you are, but there were plenty of people driving Saturday. Maybe they all just decided to drive out of Washington at the same time as me, the end of some protest I must have missed or something.

3. For crying out loud, VA, build some freaking roads! Every year the cave-men in the VA legislature wimp out (toned down to keep this a family blog) and won’t raise taxes to build the roads they need. Its so bloody obvious to anyone who has ever gotten in a car in NoVa that they need more roads, a few trains, some buses, more walkable communities, the whole bit. But no, no one will pay for it. The people in NoVa want to pay for it, as they are already paying with lost time sitting in traffic. But those crazy people in the VA legislature, they won’t pay for jack. Because they are dumb and won’t raise the needed revenue to pay for the improvements that a modern state needs.

4. And build a bail-out to 95! There’s terrible traffic in MD as well, going up 95 to Baltimore. But 95 between DC and Baltimore doesn’t clog on the weekends or in the middle of the night, because a) it can handle the volume, being 8 lanes instead of 6 with a stupid HOV middle and b) there are viable alternatives. Between DC and Baltimore, you can travel up 29, 1, the BW Parkway, and 95. You can take the MARC. In VA, you’ve got 95 and that’s it. Give those other people a place to go. You people allowed the sprawl, so build the freaking infrastructure to support it.

5. And what the heck is it about Stafford and Prince William counties that so many people need to go there anyway? The long haul traffic (like me, heading several states away) stays on the highway, but the congestion ends around Fredericksburg. So, clearly, the problem are too many Virginians driving in the middle of a weekend afternoon when they should be doing anything else.

Seriously. It was the most ridiculous traffic in the middle of nowhere. I’ve sat on the PA turnpike before, but at least that was on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, an obvious travel day following a real Holiday. This was just insane.

And I blame it on You, Virginia.

Rant over, I’m going back to my vacation. Real blogging will resume once I get back.

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.