From the Forum – Rock Creek Parkway Question

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Rock Creek Parkway Question:

“Hi, I’m new to the area and live in Woodley Park but commute to VA for work. I have been taking Rock Creek Parkway every day as part of the commute but I am worried about the upcoming winter. I find the road difficult to drive in the rain — and am worried that I won’t be able to drive it in the snow. Is there an alternative route that people take when it snows? Thank you in advance.”

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34 Comment

  • Trick question. When there’s snow in DC everything shuts down so there’s no driving going on anyway.

  • We don’t really get much snow here… you’re over-thinking it.

    • I’d be careful with such blanket generalizations. We got 4 feet of snow three winters ago. And while the past two winters have been a busy snow-wise, I’d estimate we receive 3-4 decent (3-6″) snowstorms a season. And with the mild summer, and hurricane-less hurricane season, I think we are in for a severe winter. This is just my take on it all…..

      • “I’d estimate we receive 3-4 decent (3-6″) snowstorms a season.”

        “a season”?! More like every 8 years.

      • And even a dusting can seriously screw up traffic conditions. I guess none of you had to drive home during the light snowstorm in early 2011? It took me 8 hours to go 12 miles, and I definitely wasn’t the only one.

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    People who don’t live in the District should be banned from Rock Creek Parkway. It’s the only way to get anywhere without stopping at 400 traffic lights, and VA and MD people get on it and drive 20mph.

    • As a DC resident, I wouldn’t be too upset if non-residents were banned from driving in RCP (never gonna happen obviously). However, the rest of your comment is ludicrous.

    • yeah because no DC residents drive 20mph on RCP? And you grew up in DC right … oh no suburbs of Indianapolis, or Cleveland or whereever … but now u are cool because you live in ‘The District’ … whatever dude.

  • The best alternative is probably telecommuting.

  • It doesn’t get bad when it snows. Like all driving, you should take it easy and drive as weather conditions permit.

  • If you are new to the area, know this. It hardly snows here, and when it does, the federal government closes down. For those couple of days this winter, you would probably be fine just driving through downtown, and then taking 66/395 as you get out of town. It will suck, and take a while, but it will only be a couple of days max, and more likely zero days.

  • gotryit

    Thank you for recognizing that you have a hard time driving in the rain / snow. Too many people who don’t know how to drive in those conditions continue with texting and other stupid stuff and cause accidents.
    Consider practicing somewhere safe (e.g., an empty street or parking lot) so that you can get used to accelerating, turning, braking, etc. in rain, snow, slush, and government crises (ok, not the last one). As a native NYer, our parents made us go through the paces to get comfortable as part of learning how to drive. Do you know someone from cold climates that can teach you those things? It seems like there ought to be a drivers ed class targeted at driving in the snow.

    • I came here to post this! I’m a New Englander and I wasn’t allowed to drive on the roads in the winter until I passed my dad’s “doughnuts in a parking lot” test. We went to a large empty parking lot when it was slick out and I had to practice getting out of skids until it was second nature to know which way to turn the wheel. Having to actually maneuver a vehicle is so different from learning the theory of it, it’s why pilots use flight simulators.

      • Though even having a clue helps too. In the 2011 storm, I was helping to push cars up a hill after my bus got stuck (…). In the 1-2 hours I was out there, exactly 2 cars did the right thing. One car, obviously used to snow driving, just kept it slow and moving, and was up the hill on there own in no time (though they might have had 4-wheel). Another guy was pretty analytical, and listened to us (and that he has to go slow enough that the tires do. not. spin. out.), he took a bit of a push and was on his way.

        Every other car didn’t know what was going on and ignored us, they proceeded to gun it. Most of them eventually burned through the snow and made it up, but with hurt tires, ruts left in the road, and a lot of exhaust fumes.

        • Knowing how to drive matters WAY more than 4-wd. I used to live in a hilly town with lots of snow, and we used to make a sport of watching the little front-wheel drive civics and corollas chug on up the hills past the 4-wd SUVS that got stuck in the ditches.

    • I’m happy you got here first, because I was going to say that much more sarcastically. But in all seriousness, we don’t get much snow, and when we do you won’t be going to work. Use that time to cautiously get to an open parking lot, and spend some time getting used to slick road conditions.

      • gotryit

        Being a native NYer, I have to actively surpress my sarcasm. Like, delete the first thing I wrote, kick Danny DeVito out of my head, and start again.

    • My childhood friend in Boston was having fun doing donuts in the parking lot in the snow, when a cop stopped him he said he was just practicing and the cop let him go!!

      • Same experience! Cop saw the donut-activity, swaggered over to put a stop to what he assumed was youthful hijinks, and then my dad rolled down the window. The cop thanked him for teaching me how to drive properly, and we carried on. 🙂

  • It’s not snow that’s a problem, it’s ice. And that we do get a few times a winter. Listen to the forecast and traffic reports and go home early (or go to work late) if you want to avoid the worst of it (and the worst of it is the other drivers, not the roads).
    And look into public transit. Unless you’re working out past Vienna, most parts of VA are fairly well connected by bus to at least to the nearest metro station.

  • My personal thoughts, which are mostly covered by the other posts here: it doesn’t snow that much here in DC. When it does, actual road conditions (both in terms of road surface and traffic volume) are a crapshoot. RCP is no more or less likely to be in bad shape than your alternate route, with the possible caveat that fallen trees can be a problem in RCP. Whatever route you take, driving in the snow is likely to be a tough slog so be patient and cautious. I can’t help you with an alternate route, but you should have one in mind not because of snow but because it’s always smart to have a plan B.

  • The main sections of the Parkway and Beach drive tend to get driveable pretty fast, it’s the access roads — that often involve steepish hills — that are the bigger problem.

    Smashing your head against a brick wall for hours on end is preferable to trying to go through town for any distance on a snowy day, so the telecommuting advocate above probably has it right.

    Out of curiosity, are you from some desert state and hence precipitation-challenged to an extreme degree? Or just nervous generally? Rock Creek Parkway isn’t exactly Wolf Creek Pass.*

    (*Yeah, I’m pretty sure none of you know that song, but it probably has a ridiculously cool album cover and it’s pretty funny. )

    • saf

      Heeee. I remember that song, although not until you linked it.

      I have a friend who HATE the park. He tells me he thinks he’s going to “fly off the road,” and it makes him even more nervous at night. I have never understood that. He did not react well when I said, “perhaps if you slowed down?”

      • Does your friend have vision issues, for example halos from astigmatism or LASIK? I’ve found my driving vision is not as good at night (both pre- and post-LASIK), especially on dark, wooded, two-lane type roads like in RCP. (I *can* drive at night, I just don’t love it, and so I tend to avoid whenever possible.) I have a couple of family members with similar vision quirks not related to LASIK. It’s something about the pitch-darkness and having headlights coming straight at you. I’m much better with night driving in urban settings where there are streetlights and other ambient light around.

  • If you live in Woodley Park then you are probably accessing RCP at Calvert rather than having to drive down Beach Dr. Personally, I’d say that RCP is far easier to drive on than city streets even in the snow. It get’s ploughed and treated very quickly whereas some of the city streets are left a mess. I wouldn’t be looking for alternatives, I’d stay with RCP.

    • My experience has also been that the Park Service roads get treated faster than the city roads. Probably your best option.

  • It’s a total cluster, but if you can take it, Connecticut Ave is usually one of the first roads plowed since it’s an emergency escape route out of DC.

  • If public transit is an option (and if telecommuting is not), I’d say play it safe and find a route that could be your transit backup on days when driving might feel dicey. Sure, lots of people might feel comfortable driving in wintry conditions, but I agree with the one commenter that (in my experience, at least), many drivers don’t adjust their speed enough to compensate for bad weather–and in any case, if it’s going to stress you out, why sweat it. Grab some music or a good book for the train/bus, and spare yourself the white knuckles every now and then.. While it’s true that it doesn’t snow much in DC at all, the occasional freak snowstorm (or even blizzard) is possible–and I would submit that there’s just as much potential for traffic accidents during those in-between maybe-rainy/maybe-icy times, which DO happen more often than out-and-out snow. Plus, I’ve heard people saying the Farmers’ Almanac predicts a wallop this winter, so…who knows.

  • Google Maps…

  • I did the Woodley to VA drive on RCP for four years. It’s ALWAYS THE BEST OPTION. Get better all-weather tires for your car. And people do slow down if the conditions are messy.

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