The I-66 drive itself will be very fast, maybe just 40 minutes…until you enter DC. Then everything slows to a crawl and you may take another 40 minutes just to get to your destination and a parking spot. DC is a labyrinth. Count on jammed traffic. You may take a couple of wrong turns that will take another half hour to get back.
I’d budget two hours for the trip, just to be safe.
66 eastbound in the morning between Manassas and DC will be “very fast?”
I disagree. I strongly disagree.
From the Fairfax County Parkway to the Rt 7 exit of I-66 takes me 30-40 minutes; I drive that hell-on-Earth daily. I absolutely guarantee you that adding distance at the beginning (from Manassas to the Parkway) and at the end (from Rt7 to the DC line) will not shorten the time.
I would love to know on what basis you concluded that the trip would be “very fast.” With no traffic at all, the distance between Sudley Road/I-66 and Rosslyn is 30 miles. That means that even travelling at 60 miles per hour, the trip between Manassas and the DC line would take no less than 30 minutes. And I assure you that on a Friday morning at 8:30, you will not be able to say that I-66 eastbound is “with no traffic at all.”
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, commasense, but I don’t believe even two hours is safe. If traffic isn’t bad, two hours is workable, but if you want some wriggle room, then add another 30-45 minutes.
ETA: or consider parking at the Vienna Metro, taking the train in, and walking the short walk from Union Station to the Capitol.
Second the Metro suggestion. And if you take Metro, walk all the way down the platform to take the first train car which will probably be less crowded during rush hour (and easier to wrangle a group of children in).
If you drive in, you should find parking at Union Station, I’ve never had a problem. I’d give myself some extra time just because you’re taking a group of school kids and they dawdle. And I agree that 66 will likely be very slow in the morning.
x2. I-66 dumps you directly onto the National Mall. Traffic is going to be at a snail’s pace, there will be cars merging in every direction, and there will be nowhere to park.
Have you considered taking Metrorail? You could drive to Franconia-Springfield at the bottom of the blue line and have a fairly decent trip. Leave at least an hour (preferably 1.5) for the Metro ride, but it should be pretty pleasant. Franconia-Springfield is the end of the line, so you’ll get the first pick of seats.
Good point. Definitely HOV. Would that make a big difference on travel times? I’ve been in HOV lanes that were slower than the regular lanes. Is HOV separated by more than painted lines? Do I need a special pass, or just a car full of kids?
I just tend to find 66 to be cursed at all times. One accident and the HOV advantage evaporates. I keep waiting for a sticker to fall off the sign and reveal that the highway number is actually 666.
If you get on the Metro at Vienna, consider taking the Orange Line all the way to Capitol South. It lets you out on the wrong side of the Capitol, but you will avoid having to transfer a crowd of kids from one train to another during rush hour.
If the Vienna metro stop were a half-hour off I-66, I might understand thinking there’s a good reason to drive all the way in. (If Vienna parking didn’t take credit cards, I’d have suggested someone could pick up a Smarttrip card (and other farecards) at some point between now and Thursday after planning out trip at wmata.com.)
You don’t say what time you’re leaving DC, and how it was concluded the return trip would be faster by car. Even if non-rush hour, I don’t know that you’d make it back as far as Vienna in 45 min.
A friend in Vienna used to start work in DC at 7:00 a.m. She left Vienna at 5:00 a.m. I don’t think she was ever late to work, but she was never particularly early, either. And she had a designated parking space, so she didn’t have to worry about that.
After having lived in Annandale that commute at that time causes flashbacks of the thing I hated most about living in NOVA. The bigotry is what forced me out of there early but the traffic is what guarantees I’ll never go back.
I spent 12 years driving big rigs. And when I had to deal with the DC area, I learned to modify my time/distance formula accordingly. I’d start with a normal 60 miles per hour. As soon as I hit the first congestion, I’d double the time for the remaining miles. And then I’d add another 30-45 minutes just to be safe. Of course, I’d be the first to admit driving an 18 wheeler has issues that 4 wheelers don’t encounter, but still… there’s going to be a lot of traffic heading into DC when you’d be driving there. I’d recommend taking the Metro.