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Arlington’s Most Dangerous On-Ramps

by ARLnow.com February 8, 2011 at 3:19 pm 5,016 101 Comments

(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) For some reason, a number of highway and arterial road on-ramps in Arlington County seem to have been designed with little consideration to driver safety.

Whether they’re positioned just after a bend in the highway, obstructing the view of on-coming vehicles, or whether there’s precious little room for drivers entering the highway to get up to speed with on-coming traffic — or both — we’ve picked the following four on-ramps as the most dangerous in Arlington.

We know there are others out there. Feel free to make your most dangerous on-ramp nominations in the comments section.

Ramp from Courthouse Road to westbound Route 50 — Whether it’s the big pillar to your right or the non-stop, fast-moving traffic to your left, getting on to westbound Route 50 from Courthouse Road is not an easy task. This interchange is being redesigned — but the construction workers running across the road and the dump trucks entering the highway are only adding to the problem.

Ramp from northbound Washington Blvd to westbound Route 50 — Drivers on this ramp sometimes don’t seem to know they have to yield to on-coming traffic on Route 50. If they were expecting some room to get up to speed and merge, they were mistaken. Drivers on Route 50 routinely had to get out of the way of merging traffic, causing a hazard. Plus, Route 50 bends just before the on-ramp, causing a visibility problem for drivers who stop to yield to on-coming vehicles.

Ramp from southbound Washington Blvd to westbound Route 50 — Traffic stopped at a stop sign is forced to merge with full-speed on-coming traffic coming around a bend. Expect a long line of traffic waiting to merge safely around rush hour.

Ramp from eastbound Columbia Pike to northbound Washington Blvd — Cars exiting I-395 speed along this section of Washington Boulevard, making it hard for drivers entering from Columbia Pike to find space to merge. There’s no room to get up to speed, so this might as well be a stop sign. We witnessed one near-accident during our 10 minutes taking photos here. Ironically, the adjacent on-ramp from westbound Columbia Pike to northbound Washington Boulevard is much safer, with plenty of room to get up to speed. This interchange is in the process of being redesigned by VDOT.

An honorable mention up the road from this on-ramp: the ramp from Second Street to northbound Washington Boulevard, which confuses drivers on the ramp and on Washington Boulevard with a tiny, impractical merge lane.

  • JenLynn

    I believe you also forgot a big one along I-395 composing the Shirlington/Glebe exits on the north bound side.

    • bred

      I agree. But, please VADOT let’s get the overhead lights over the highway working again. PLEASE!!

    • MJM

      Agreed. That is a horrid interchange.

    • Jackie

      Oh my god that onramp is so awful and dangerous. Most onramps/offramps are really dangerous in arlington, especially around the north side with 395/50. I don’t know what they were thinking

  • gidge

    Ramp from 395 South to GW Parkway North (by the humpback bridge construction). Both off of 395 to the ramp, and from the ramp to GWP.

    • Blueloom

      A really deadly ramp! And from one week to the next, you don’t even know where the ramp will be. When do they ever plan to finish this construction project??

  • DB

    Getting onto 395 South from the southbound lanes of S. Glebe Rd. They’ve added signage and more arrows/stripes in the road, but it doesn’t make it any better.

    • Bobin

      Right about all of those, especially the merger onto 395 S from S Glebe Rd. Reminds me of Rt. 4 in Paramus NJ. A no merge area mess!

      • gail

        you must mean the Rt 4, Rt 17 intersection, a horror!

    • AR

      This ramp is a disaster. About five years ago I was hit from behind by a pickup while riding a motorcycle and waiting for traffic to clear on the ramp from SB Glebe onto SB 395. I consider myself lucky to have only spent one day in the hospital as a result of that wreck.

      Not sure if there is a solution to this ramp, but it sure is some of the lowest hanging fruit out there when it comes to potential ramp improvements in Arlington

  • Westbound Route 50 to Fairfax Drive (Clarendon-Courthouse); as soon as you exit youre basically right in a condo/apartment community, full of pedestrians in a narrow street. It’s easy to miss this exit too.


    Solid points about Wash Blvd/50. FREDTERP

  • Scott

    What really gets me with the Washington Blvd ramps is that it was just redesigned a few years ago. I was boggled that they would redesign it into a worse pattern than it was before.

    • charlie

      agreed. Westbound Wash. Blvd to Westbound Route 50 now backs up traffic so much that I have to go home a different way — mainly Walter Reed and Columbia PIke.
      this was never the case before the “improvements”.

    • Josh S

      I’m not sure that work was ever billed as a “redesign.” The bridge was replaced. I notice no real change in the design at all.

  • ERoss

    Totally agree, and since I live at 50/Washington Blvd, I know them well. Westbound 50 is just a lucky road to have such well designed ramps! Also, the pictures are reversed for the two entrances from Washington Blvd…

    • ERoss

      My mistake on the pictures being backwards, I was looking for the pictures after the section… duh…

    • SnowDay

      My wife and I have been calling that the Death Merge since we moved here. There used to be one exactly like it in Atlantic City, but it was temporary because of the construction going on. No such excuse here, unfortunately.

  • TryTheTacos

    The on ramp to RT 50 Eastbound from Meade (near Marine Corps War Memorial) is one of the worst. If I use this ramp I will always roll my window down before attempting to merge in.

    • Aaron

      100 percent agree, I come on 50 and know to avoid the right lane here as the pisspoor NOVA drivers do not understand no merge area, and every single day roll into the right lane, where I am moving steadily at 45mph.

      So unsafe.

    • arldriver

      This is by far the most dangerous. Coming from the on ramp, we are expected to merge onto 50E with truly no way of knowing if a car is coming until they are 10 ft. away and by then it’s too late. It’s dangerous for both sets of drivers.

      • Alexandrian

        So true. I’d not be exaggerating when I say I witness, on average, AT LEAST one rear-end accident per month in that intersection. I drive thru that road twice every weekday.

    • Jackie

      That one is always bad. I never take it to get onto 50E and if I’m on 50E I stay in the middle or left lane because I know some people coming on don’t yield. They have NO room to get on and they can’t even tell if traffic is coming. It’s deadly.

    • Aaron

      Agreed. This one has to be number 1 in my book because the sheer lack of visibility. Compounding the problem is that the county fails to regularly mow the grass between the on-ramp and 50 east during the summer, meaning there’s even less visibility!

  • S. Courthouse Rd (near 2nd St S) to southbound Washington Blvd. is another one. I drive by there everyday and see accidents at least a few times a week.

    • I meant to mention that — I’ll add that now.

    • OX4

      Yep…got into a 3-car bumper accident there. Whoever the idiot traffic engineer was that designed the west 50/south 27/south courthouse intersection, they should be put in jail.

  • GoVegArlington

    Ramp from South Glebe Rd onto 50 East. It’s a sharp “C” curve, leaving no room to accelerate to merge.

    • ERoss

      And a hill right there where its tough to see oncoming traffic… I don’t like that merge at all, either.

  • DCU_Phan

    Eastbound 50 to southbound Washington Boulevard / southbound Washington Boulevard to S. Courthouse Rd.

    I’m on this on the bus every day. No one coming off Route 50 yields and no one coming off Washington Boulevard slows down.

    • South204

      I am in complete agreement with this. I come from Wash. Blvd to the 2nd Street/S. Courthouse exit every day from work at rush hour, and I basically face possible death every day. The drivers coming from Rt. 50 do not yield at all and the cars behind me on Wash. Blvd do not want to slow down. At minimum, the yield signs on that ramp should be much larger or perhaps consider a stop sign/light.

  • Neighbor

    The worst is Columbia Pike at 395N &Wash Blvd. No question. Wash Blvd drivers who want 395S or River Road need to cross with Col Pike drivers who need to get on Wash Blvd/395N. Always nuts. Then there’s Wash Blvd & S. Courthouse Rd. Wash blvd drivers have to guess if drivers coming off Rt.50 realize they are the ones who have to merge. The other is the 395/Shirlington, but southbound – I forget where it starts, but one lane merges immediately into the road from the left. I know one person whose car was totalled there.

  • Tater Salad

    I’d also add N. Ft. Myer Drive to westbound Rte. 50 and eastbound Rte. 50 to GW Parkway south.

    • LyonSteve

      Especially those who are trying to merge onto US50/I-66 from that on-ramp. They have no sight line — and have to cross into the middle lane.

  • Dood

    I hate the one from Washington Blvd into the GW Parkway (after you go underneath the Memorial bridge). It puts you into the left lane after a bend on the road, and you’re coming into the path of fast-moving traffic.

    • Dood

      Meant to say Northbound GW Parkway

    • Yes, that’s another good one. We may actually do a separate post on that one later this week.

      • gail

        someone gets rear-ended there at least weekly. Even worse are the people waiting for the front car to merge who jump the divider…because they can! Patience people!

    • Lalaland

      technically, that intersection is in Washington, DC, if I’m thinking of the right one.

    • JK

      Absolutely!!! For some reason the drivers merging onto GW Pkwy from that particular ramp rarely yield and the traffic is moving very fast there. I’d be interested to see the stats on how many accidents occur there annually.

    • Cindy

      DC or not, that is the scariest intersection I use on a regular basis. Now, I’m from Boston, where the concept of a merge area is foreign in the first place. Even there, dumping onramp traffic in to the left lane in those conditions wouldn’t happen.

    • Josh S

      Of course if people on the GW Parkway would obey the posted speed limit (40 MPH), it wouldn’t be that big of a problem.

  • Scot H

    That northbound Washington Blvd to Westbound 50 is particularly bad — especially for bikes trying to cross the path at that point. And they just refurbished the bridge right after that on ramp and presumably could have added a merge lane, but for whatever reason chose not to.

    I would add that the merge from Columbia Pike toward 395 North where Washington Blvd. intersects is one of the worst interchanges in the area. Cars on Washington Blvd. who want to go south on 395 have to ‘weave merge,’ at high speed, with cars coming up the on ramp from Columbia Pike to go north on 395 in a very short merge area where nobody knows who has the right of way. Accidents and near-accident several times a day there.

    And don’t forget the merge onto 395 South from S. Glebe Road in Shirlington, where it appears to be a high-speed merge, but there’s no actual merge lane. Nightmare.

    • Josh S

      Actually, I’ve always had a bit of faith in area drivers restored when going through that intersection (which used to be daily). Yes, people come close to one another, but actual accidents aren’t particularly common. Certainly not “several times a day.”
      I think your average driver can handle the weave reasonably well – it’s the very timid and the very aggressive/fast that occasionally mess things up.

  • FrankIsAnIdiot

    GW Parkway northbound ramp to get onto 395 southbound. That is a miserable exit because you are crossing traffic that is trying to exit onto the parkway.

  • Mattie

    My personal least favorite is the ramp from 10th St onto Eastbound 50. You’re entering into the left lane of Rt. 50 traffic that’s really hard to see. Seems like it was designed by someone who never drove a car.

    • LyonSteve

      I was thinking that one as well. You have to deal with those who are exiting at Courthouse Rd a few hundred feet ahead and then those merging onto US-50 from Courthouse Rd.

      I try to get to speed quickly then move into the center lane — to be considerate to those at the next interchange.

    • MJM

      This is the one I thought of first as well. The angle of the merge coupled in with the high speed lane always makes me nervous. I always feel like I have to look like I’m backing up to get a good view. And right after you merge you have to watch out for the Courthouse interchange.

    • notahoo

      Agree. That’s the interchange I was thinking of. It is really fun with taxi drivers who seem not really to care that they are merging into the left lane or that cars may be coming right at them (us).

    • Christina

      Totally agree – this is one of my least favorite merges in Arlington. The angle of the ramp and Rt. 50 make it almost impossible to see oncoming traffic. I actively go out of my way to avoid it now – I’ll enter Rt. 50 eastbound from Pershing Drive, where there’s a traffic light to assist. I agree with the comment about taxi drivers and this merge – terrifying!

    • Westover

      10th to Rt 50 HAS to be the worst merge in the county. Not just the bad sight lines, short acceleration lane and the cross over traffic, but the folks not expecting merges from the left.

  • Brian

    I particularly dislike the eastbound 10th street onramp onto eastbound 50. The onramp has no merge area onto 50, you’re trying to merge into the fast lane on 50, you’re straining to see from the left side of your car to cars coming up from behind you on 50, and just a few feet away is the off and onramp onto courthouse road. Fun stuff.

    • Brian

      Like another Brian using my alter-ego wrote this. I merge on here most mornings and its really poorly laid out.

    • Me Brian, Too

      YES, the 10th street on-ramp to eastbound 50 is the worst, the pits, but mainly because the folks come flying down the on-ramp and have no idea what YIELD means.

      • Ballston

        totally agree with that 10th street onto Eastbound 50.

        Seems to me like half these are dealing with route 50, one of the most dangerous highways to get on/off of I have ever seen….

        Another one is trying to go Eastbound on 50 from Courthouse Road. You have to wait on that little bridge and make the left but the cars coming off 50 have the right of way and they pass in front of you. Its like frogger…. I hate that intersection.

        • Jackie

          I totally agree with you. I live near there and use that interchange to get onto 50E. Getting past those coming off of 50E is half the battle. Once you make the left to get into the merge lane you have to turn your head exactly 180 degrees to see what cars are coming and if it’s clear and at night it’s really hard to tell. I’ve also seen someone almost crash into the guardrail because she didn’t take enough time to turn back around and move to the right into the lane.

          Even coming off of 50E onto Courthouse Rd is awful. You have to fight traffic to get over and then stop and look for traffic in both directions on Courthouse Rd if you are turning left. It’s the dumbest interchange I’ve ever seen.

  • kw

    EB Columbia Pike to SB Washington Blvd/NB & SB I-395/S Arlington Ridge Road.

  • crabbby

    They’ve been working on the intersection at Beaureguard and Seminary which I guess is in Alexandria… but it’s even more offensive now than it was before. Coming towards the intersection on Seminary from 395 they’ve installed a plastic poles to stop you from changing lanes. I guess they intend you to make a u-turn after the intersection if you need to get onto Beauregard going south. But in the end you just get less time to merge over so it really makes it more dangerous. Crossing the intersection on Beauregard going south, the left lane turns into a left turn lane and you have to merge right. That’s a new development which makes no sense at all.

    • charlie

      yep. and wait for the 6000 BRAC employees to do the same.

  • charlie

    I believe Washington Blvd. is considered to be an Eastbound/Westbound road by Virginia numbering standards.

    I agree with all the add on ramps that have been mentioned.

    Here is my questions:
    WHy is that most everyone knows how to ZIPPER merge at Washington Blvd/GW Parkway approach to Memorial Bridge… BUT
    most of the idiots coming up off Columbia Pike feel that they have right of way onto Washington Blvd., eastbound, DESPITE huge MERGE signs??

    But seriously, why do people know how to ZIPPER at some merges and don’t know at others.

  • Ben

    Can we just say anything dealing with Route 50 in Arlington?

    • kay


      • Neighbor

        Rt. 50 and Washington Blvd.

  • Artie Fufkin

    Maybe I missed it, but what about westbound 50 to southbound Washington Boulevard?

    That’s where you have to turn right from the stop sign and its nearly impossible to see the oncoming cars in the inside lane because of the parked cars on Washington Blvd. It’s really bad at night.

  • NomNom

    Agree. Honorable mention to Route 50 East merging onto Washington Blvd South. Nasty

    • ERoss

      Absolutely, they need to change the parking restrictions so that you can see cars coming, or something

  • Henry Spencer

    Let’s not forget EB 50 to NB Couthouse where you have to look forward to see traffic coming down the hill and backwards to see traffic coming up the hill while you are pretty much parallell to the road you are trying to get onto from the left.

    • Worktron

      Agreed!! My car pool uses that exit daily- a very short merge area, and God help you if your brakes fail, as you’ll hit the Jersey wall. Plus the nimrods who don’t understand the meaning of Right of Way, both merging to the exit and once you get to the intersection. A study of horror every time I exit off 50. Not to mention the ClusterFoxtrot that is merging onto NB Courthouse in front of the hotel.

      • amb

        I used to live in the large apartment building right by the exit/on ramp. Every night, I would hear countless breaks screeching, and during the year that I lived there, I heard about a dozen accidents, some of them quite serious. I definitely held my breath every time there was a long screech. I refused to use the ramp going any direction most of the time–it wasn’t worth the fear.

  • suzy

    Has anyone mentioned the southbound GW Parkway to Rt 50 West? Dumps you into a no-merge lane where you can’t see oncoming traffic, it’s downhill and hidden.

    • LyonSteve

      Take the right lane (of the two.) The left lane dumps you into the center with no merge area (sign states that.) The right lane will allow you to safely merge over one lane.

      • suzy

        I think we’re talking about two different things – the exit from GW is only one lane.

        • LyonSteve

          If we are talking about the same ramp.. its one lane (under the bridge, etc) until the very end of the ramp.

  • Arlington4LIfe

    pretty sure courthouse road to east bound route 50 is also terrible, either way you’re trying to go!

  • steve

    Those two on Route 50 and 10th Street N are nightmares…. I avoid them like the plague when driving… I sometimes walk that way and every time I see a car turn right from courthouse onto 50 I just start running nad hope there’s no accident, but th eleft turn from 10th onto 50 towards key bridge, that’s the nightmare…

  • Rosslyn

    Courthouse Road to Rt. 50 East is survival of the fittest.
    Glebe Road to Rt. 50 East
    Washington Blvd to Rt. 50 East.

    These all need STOP signs, not Yield signs. This has been one of my Arlington rants for a few years now.

    • LyonSteve

      They do not need stop signs. Yield sign is sufficient. When conditions warrant, its much safer to merge with SPEED than from a complete stop. When you cannot safely merge, you must yield anyway, and thus stop.

  • CrankyMom

    Southbound George Mason Drive to Westbound Carlin Springs Road. Very steep, very short, no merge area, a driveway opens onto it, and you can’t see the Carlin Springs traffic until you are up at the top and about to be obliterated.

    • Errr?

      Could you perhaps mean Westbound Columbia Pike? Because that is definitely not a fun merge there. Carlin Springs runs north-south just as George Mason does and therefore the two never intersect.

      • Bender

        They intersect up by Ballston Mall.

      • CrankyMom

        Well, at that intersection Carlin Springs is most definitely East-West. Actually, I tend to think of it as a diagonal that goes directly to Columbia Pike.

        • CrankyMom

          I meant directly to Bailey’s Crossroads. And of all the intersections here, this George Mason / Carlin Springs one perplexes me the most. It only isn’t higher on the list because it sees less traffic. But try it sometimes, you have to gun the motor a bit to get up the incline (especially if it’s wet or icy), but just as you get to the top EEEK MOM THERES A CAR COMING!!!

    • Greg

      It could be worse. You could be the guy who owns the house there. He must be very patient not to get creamed backing onto George Mason.

  • I think a sadist designed the on/off ramps of 50 in Arlington.

  • Bender

    From George Mason to eastbound Route 50. All too often people on the ramp take their sweet old time getting up to speed, with the crowded right lane Route 50 traffic zipping by.

  • SJ

    All the on and off ramps for Courthouse Rd and US-50 are a complete disaster. Personally, I still don’t understand the design philosophy behind the on/offramp from eastbound 50 onto Courthouse Rd.

  • jan

    Appears Virginia would be wise to improve existing roads that are outdated and dangerous, instead of building more roads.

  • Bender

    Building more roads?

    When is the last time they built a new road in Arlington?

  • MsPerky

    My condo looks down on Route 50 near the Iwo Jima Memorial. Just about every other day in the evening (and I’m sure at other times), there is a rear-end accident on that ramp from Meade down onto Route 50 East. Zero merge and pretty much no way to see those cars coming around the curve – fast. I’ve sent an email to VDOT about it. I see I’m not alone. The others mentioned are awful, too.

  • G. Clifford Prout

    Quit the griping. All will be well once we get the streetcars up and running.

  • Rosslyn

    Would love to see a post on this area’s intense dislike of the invention known as the left-turn lane. Why does the County possibly think it is a good idea for traffic to be moving at 45 MPH+ on Route 50 while having cars stopped in the left-hand travel lane to make left turns…?

    • Josh S

      It’s not a county road. Blame the state. Also, some intersections along 50 do have left turn lanes. Even in Arlington.

  • Erin

    The merge from S Glebe on S 395, where you have to stop at the top of the hill, and wait to try to merge over to the right. I take that exit twice a week, at night, and it’s scary. You can’t see the cars zooming up because of the hill, you are at a dead stop trying to squeeze in, then you have a-hole drivers behind you honking for you to go. The pickup on my jeep isn’t that great, especially with shifting, and I know that. That’s why I am not pulling out in front of a car going 60 MPH, jerk. Patience!

    • DB

      I’ve had the same problem which is why I wouldn’t go that way. People behind me crashed into each other thinking it was an open on ramp. I switched to turning right on 24th Rd, go over to Shirlington Rd. and got onto 395 from there. Just wasn’t worth the fear to use the on-ramp from Glebe.

  • Steve

    The Merge from Washington Boulevard onto GW parkway just before you get to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge is horrible. Ive seen over 20 accidents there first hand and been involved in a fender bender there myself. There is no merge lane and zero room to merge. It also comes on a blind corner of the GW parkway meaning folks on the parkway have no way to see cars merging and you have no way to see cars coming on the parkway until they have rounded the bend and are literally on top of you. With cars often traveling upwards of 50-60 mph on the parkway its a disaster waiting to happen. Its only made worse by people who start to go then freak out at cars coming around the corner and slam on their breaks. This often leads to cars behind that are expecting the person to go… to rear end them. Something ive seen often.

  • Pope Lando

    Whoever designed US-50’s on- and off-ramps must’ve been on crack. My favorite is the N. Courthouse left-lane exit off 50 east — it’s marked by a sign that can only be seen by dwarves on foot, and it makes you slow down really quickly lest you end up in the trees.

  • Courthouse

    The merge lane from 395 south to Columbia Pike/Washington blvd has been greatly improved by recent lane changes but it still tricky where drivers have to change lanes to get over to the Columbia Pike exit.

  • Josh S

    Obviously a rarely used intersection since no one else has posted on it yet –

    from northbound 395 onto southbound GW Parkway

    Yet another no merge area with limited sight lines.

  • DudeGuy

    I saw a car re-end a crossover this morning getting on to N Washington Blvd.. 8:50am

    It made me laugh after reading this thread

  • SaveDaveMcKenna

    EB Columbia Pike merging onto NB Washington Blvd. Almost no merge lane, and in the summer if the County hasn’t mowed or during last year’s Snowpocalypse you cannot see oncoming traffic from a sedan.

    Also, not a ramp story, but Queen street and Columbia Pike is an Civil Engineering FAIL.

  • Matt B

    They aren’t dangerous if people would just properly YIELD as they are supposed to. I would venture to say that the majority of accidents are because someone did not properly yield the right of way.


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