This is our Nation’s Capitol. Visitors are often overwhelmed by the traffic and feel that getting from point A to point B is next to impossible. I was born here and I suppose I find the city less intimidating. Let me breakdown how the city was laid out. It may help you understand the best way to get around. The city is broken down into four quadrants, designated Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast.
North Capitol street divides Northwest and Northeast, South Capitol Street separates Southwest and Southeast. The northern portion of the city is separated by East Capitol Street heading East and the National Mall heading west. East West streets begin as letters then progress with one, two and three sylables. Roads going north and south are predominantly numbered.
So far so good. The problem arises when you are faced with a street that does not fit the pattern. You have to remember that some roads have been added since the city was originally laid out. Toss in the fact that until recently the city was under Congressional control and you have some hiccups along the way. Then you mix in Wards and neighborhood clusters and it becomes very confusing.
Here’s the good news. You can forget about Wards, there are eight of them but they have little to do with getting around town. Neighborhood clusters have even less to do with traffic. Of course, when you are buying a home in the city, the Ward and neighborhood cluster do matter. Then, that is also a time when the NAC or neighborhood advisory council will come into play as well. The politics of the city are far more difficult to understand than the traffic patterns.
Your best routes into the city from the north are Connecticut Avenue or 16th Street. From the west, River Road and the George Washington Parkway will get the job done. Did I mention the George Washington Parkway is across the Potomac River? It is, but it is also easier to take the Capitol Beltway across the Legion Bridge than it is to maneuver through the narrow roads heading in from the west.
If you are coning into town from the East, you might want to use the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to 295 South and either follow New York Avenue or East Capitol Street into town. Oh, don’t overlook Benning Road off of 295 south. It will take you west and eventually turns into H St NE. Those coming from the south have to use one of the bridges from Virginia. The only thing south of Washington is the Potomac River.
If all else fails, open your iphone and go to the app store. Search for WAZE and download the free application. It will get you where you need to go with the use of a solid gps and input from all the other users on the road with you.