Actually, I-395 (Shirley Highway) is the best route from the South into Washington, D.C. In non-rush hours, it generally is very good. However, all roads from Virginia into Washington, D.C. can bottleneck at a bridge, including I-395. Also, I-395 turns into 14th St., with stoplights on every corner. There is only one way to avoid normal traffic jams: don’t travel during workday and holiday rush hours.
1. Weekday rush hours begin at about 6:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and end at around 9:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Yes, the evening rush hours into D.C. are just as bad as in the morning.
2. Summer Sundays and travel days following a holiday create heavy mid-to-late afternoon stop-and-go traffic through late evening into the night on I-95, which feeds into I-395 at I-495 (the I-95 Beltway around D.C.). For those coming north up I-95, the jam begins about 50 miles from D.C. in mid-to-late afternoon, with traffic on I-395 easing somewhat at the I-495 (Beltway) exit.
3. In the mornings, carpool with four or more persons and get on the express lanes. I-66 East (also requiring carpooling) is a good alternative if traffic is extremely bad, but it is about a 15 minute detour via I-495. Both slow down at the bridges.
4. Traffic accidents will cause jams at any time. Avoid these if possible by listening to the radio traffic reports.
5. If you must travel when there is likely to be a jam, use an alternate route. River Road through Alexandria parallels I-395 and has few traffic lights. U.S. Route 1 is another parallel alternative but has many stoplights and its own high volume of traffic. Both are to the right of I-395. Rt. 50 (Arlington Blvd.) and I-66 can be reached by taking I-495 West. Carpooling on I-66 is not required outside of rush hours.