Navigating around the Washington DC area can be a daunting task. Many of the roads in the capital region are especially confusing for visitors and new residents. The following guide will help you get to know the roads around the Washington DC area. For specific directions, consult a map before you begin your trip. See maps of the Washington DC area. Even if you have a GPS, there are often several routes that you can take to get to your destination. It is a good idea to plan ahead and choose the most convenient roads based on the time of day and traffic patterns.
I-495 – The Capital Beltway
The Capital Beltway surrounds Washington, DC passing through Prince George's County and Montgomery County in Maryland, and Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria in Virginia. The highway is one of the busiest in the nation and traffic can be very unpredictable. Read more about driving on the Capital Beltway
George Washington Memorial Parkway
The GW Parkway runs along the Virginia side of the Potomac River and provides a scenic route to the nation’s capital. The road is a memorial to George Washington and a part of the National Park system which connects Washington DC attractions and historic sites that extend from Great Falls Park to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. The Parkway encompasses a variety of park sites offering a wide range of recreational activities. Read more about the sites along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
I-295 - Baltimore-Washington Parkway
The 29-mile highway runs southwest from Baltimore to Washington, DC and provides a scenic route between the two cities as well as an alternative to driving on I-95. The northern section of the road is maintained by the Maryland State Highway Administration while the southern portion is maintained by the National Park Service.Read more about the sites along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
Interstate 95 is the major highway on the east coast, extending 1,925 miles from Maine to Florida. The road serves some of the most populated areas of the country and includes several toll roads. It passes through more states than any other Interstate highway. In Maryland, I-95 follows the Capital Beltway around Washington, DC. In Virginia, I-95 crosses into Maryland via the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
I-395 is a 13 mile route than begins at a junction with I-95 in Springfield, Virginia and ends in northwest Washington, DC. It passes underneath the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol Building and ends at a junction with U.S. Route 50 at New York Avenue NW. In Virginia, I-395 is also named the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway and in Washington DC it is known as the Southwest Freeway. I-395 also provides access to Downtown DC from the George Washington Parkway.
U.S. Route 50 is a major east–west route of the U.S. Highway system that stretches more than 3,000 miles from Ocean City, Maryland to West Sacramento, California. When US-50 crosses from Maryland into Washington DC it becomes New York Avenue and Constitution Avenue and then crosses the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge into Virginia.
Interstate 66 is a 65-mile road linking Washington, DC with Front Royal and Interstate 81. Eastbound I-66 approaches U.S. 50 and the E Street connector. The road heads northward about a half mile and ends at U.S. 29 and the Whitehurst Freeway. I-66 is the only highway that runs west from Washington, DC into Northern Virginia and traffic is often very congested.
Interstate 270 is a 34.70-mile road that runs from the Capital Beltway just north of Bethesda to I-70 in Frederick, Maryland. The 2.10-mile spur that provides access to and from southbound I-495 is one of the most congested roadways in the region. The southern part of the route in Montgomery County passes through suburban areas around Rockville and Gaithersburg and is up to twelve lanes wide and consists of local, express and high-occupancy vehicle lanes. The road configuration can make this area confusing for visitors and new residents to navigate. North of the Gaithersburg area, the road continues as a four-lane freeway.
VA Route 267 - Dulles Toll/Access Roads
The Virginia highway consists of two toll roads – the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Greenway – as well as the Dulles Access Road, which lies in the median of the Dulles Toll Road. The combined roadway provides a toll road for commuting and a free road to access Dulles International Airport. The Dulles Toll Road is an eight-lane, 16.15-mile road with tolls ranging from $.50 to $1.50. The Dulles Access Road is a four-lane, 13.65-mile highway with no general-access exits from the west-bound lanes, and no general-access entrances to the east-bound lanes. VA Route 267 connects to the Capital Beltway and I-66 and provides access to many Northern Virginia communities.
Interstate 370 is a spur off of I-270 that connects to the parking lot for the Shady Grove Metrorail Station. The road provides exits to MD Route 355 and Shady Grove Road and connects to the new Intercounty Connector (ICC) – MD 200 that runs east to I-95 in Laurel, Maryland.
MD-200 - The ICC
The Intercounty Connector is an 18-mile toll road in Maryland linking Interstates 270 and 95 and providing easier access from Montgomery to Prince George's Counties. Construction of the ICC began in 2007 and is projected to be completed in 2012. The first three phases of the road are now open. Read more about the ICC.
Interstate 70 is an Interstate Highway that runs east–west from Baltimore, Maryland to Interstate 15 near Cove Fort, Utah. It is the oldest interstate in the United States and traces the route of the National Road, now known as U.S. Route 40. In Maryland, I-70 runs from the Pennsylvania state line near Hancock east across the central portion of the state towards Baltimore. The highway provides access to Hagerstown and Frederick and leads to Washington DC via I-270.