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Posted at 11:05 AM ET, 02/ 8/2011

What do Va. commuters need?

By Robert Thomson

TRIP, a research and advocacy group sponsored by insurance companies, transportation businesses, labor unions and others interested in building the transportation system, released a list today showing transportation projects it says Virginia needs to prosper.

Release of the report follows a string of announcements and discussions about what projects the commonwealth needs tackle to over the next several decades. On Monday, a research group released a chilling look at how much still must be done to handle the commuters who will head to Fort Belvoir, the Mark Center and other spots across the region that are part of the military's base relocation program.

Last week, Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton renewed a debate over the future of I-95 when he announced that Virginia plans to build High Occupancy Toll lanes along the Interstate, stopping just north of the Capital Beltway.

Meanwhile, the Virginia General Assembly has approved Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's plan to spend about $3 billion over the next three years to advance about 900 transportation projects across the state.

Collectively, the reports, studies and debates should focus commuters' attention on just what it takes to bust traffic congestion, how much they'd be willing to pay for that and what form the payments should take.

The new TRIP report names 50 surface transportation projects in Virginia "that are most needed to support Virginia's economic growth." Transportation improvements that are good for the economy tend to be good for commuters, too. But commuters I hear from aren't necessarily interested in huge investments. Rather, they often yearn for a few more seconds of green on traffic lights or a new turn lane or exit ramp.

So I invite readers to submit their ideas for what improvements would be most meaningful in Northern Virginia. Here are the Northern Virginia projects that are on TRIP's top 10 list for the state:

Widening I-95 between the District and Richmond. TRIP says this $2.4 billion project would add two to four lanes in several sections of the I-95 corridor. The project would add four lanes on the Capital Beltway from the I-495 ramp to Route 241 in Fairfax, two lanes (in conjunction with Metrorail extension to be studied from Franconia-Springfield to the Potomac Mills Mall) from Route 123 in Prince William County to the Stafford County line, two lanes from the Prince William/Stafford County line to Route 1 in Spotsylvania County, and two lanes from Route 1 in Spotsylvania County to the Henrico County line.

"This is the most heavily traveled corridor in the state, sustaining the economic engine of Northern Virginia," TRIP said in a statement accompanying the report. "Continued economic success in the state is dependent on maintaining a reliable and high functioning I-95."

Construction of HOT lanes on I-95/I-395 and transit improvements. TRIP says this $1.4 billion project would construct HOT lanes on I-95 and I-395 in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Fredericksburg and Prince William County and provide transit improvements. Adding HOT lanes will increase capacity and improve safety on Virginia's highest-volume roadway. "Northern Virginia's continued economic success is dependent on a reliable and well-functioning I-95 and I-395," according to TRIP. (Note that the HOT lanes plan announced by Connaughton last week does not include HOT lanes on I-395.)

Widening I-66 in Prince William County, Fairfax and Vienna. TRIP says this $761 million project would add two lanes to I-66 in several locations, largely in conjunction with Metrorail improvements. "It would address growing congestion on I-66 and alleviate congestion at the major chokepoint where I-495 and I-66 meet. The project would reduce delays and maintain Northern Virginia's economic competitiveness and ability to attract businesses and employers." (The Virginia Department of Transportation's HOT lanes project is rebuilding the I-66 interchange at the Beltway. Other plans call for repaving a section of I-66 from the Beltway west to Route 50.)

Extending Metrorail from Fairfax County to Dulles International Airport and beyond to Ashburn. TRIP says this $3.2 billion project would extend Metrorail from Wiehle Avenue to Ashburn to increase mobility and manage congestion between Dulles Airport and the District. "Completion of the project will provide significant regional mobility and economic development benefits." (This is the second phase of the rail to Dulles project. The first phase will go through Tysons Corner to Wiehle Avenue.)

Widen portions of Route 29 and add two lanes to the Eastern Bypass in Warrenton. TRIP says this $849 million project would widen several sections of Route 29 in Fairfax, Prince William, Fauquier, Greene and Albemarle counties and would add two lanes to the Eastern Bypass around Warrenton, where Routes 15, 17 and 29 converge. "Route 29 is a major north-south corridor in the Piedmont region of Virginia, serving a significant amount of freight in addition to passenger traffic. These improvements will also create the potential for economic development by improving access in the area."

The list ranges from front-burner projects, like the I-95 HOT lanes, to dreams that aren't often discussed, like extending Metrorail south from Franconia-Springfield. You can dream, too. What's on your wish list and how would you pay for it?

By Robert Thomson  | February 8, 2011; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Congestion, Construction, Highways, Metro  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock  
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Comments

My suggestion for the Beltway would be expensive, and I have no idea where the money would come from, but it makes eminent sense: Extend the quad-carriageway "Local/Thru" configuration west from its planned end (which is to be just east of the Eisenhower Connector interchange) to the Springfield Interchange. This way, long-distance traffic would be separated from local traffic all the way from south of the Springfield Interchange to beyond the Wilson Bridge. It might also be reasonable then to post a higher speed limit (likely 65 mph) in the "Thru" lanes due to fewer exits.

A reconstruction of the horribly-designed Van Dorn Street interchange could perhaps be part of the project. That interchange is dangerous because all traffic shares a single ramp with ridiculous amounts of lane-changing as people sort themselves into the proper turn lanes.

I suppose a quad-carriageway Beltway would need a couple of things:

(a) Because the only access to the Outer Loop from northbound I-95 is via the long flyover at Springfield, the quad-carriageway would have to be configured so as to allow people using that flyover to have access to either the "Local" or "Thru" lanes. (I would rename "Thru" to "Express," BTW. It's eminently clearer and more consistent with other quad-carriageways, including I-270 in Maryland.)

(b) Likewise, some sort of provision would have to be made so that Inner Loop traffic entering from any of the Virginia interchanges between the Wilson Bridge and Springfield could access the flyover ramp to I-95 South. For traffic from Telegraph and Eisenhower, a simple slip ramp might be enough. Van Dorn is more complicated due to its proximity to Springfield. Perhaps as part of a rebuild, they could provide direct ramps to and from the express carriageway on the Springfield side for that one interchange only. (While normally I would not advocate having exits and entrances directly to or from the express lanes, that interchange would be an exception because access to the thru portion of I-95 is very important.)

(c) VDOT would need to do a better job on the signs. The Van Dorn exit, and the slip ramp to the "Local" carriageway, would need to have a "Last Exit in Virginia" notice, similar to the "Last US Exit" signs you see as you approach the Canadian border, or the "Last Exit Before Toll" signs used all over the place. The key is to make sure that drivers not sure of where they're going can bail to the "Local" lanes.

(d) The sign ought to indicate "All Lanes Thru" so as to advise out-of-towners that both the "Local" and "Express" lanes will get you to Baltimore and beyond. The current signage is very weak in this respect, and the use of "Thru" instead of "Express" compounds the problem (after all, if one set of lanes is "Thru," doesn't that logically imply that the other set does not go "thru"?).

(e) The ends of the HOV ramps now under construction in Springfield might require slight reconfiguration to accommodate a quad-carriageway.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 8, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Also, a few thoughts on transit:

(a) Virginia wouldn't be funding a project to separate the Orange and Blue Lines across DC. But any extension of the Blue Line ought to be considered SOLELY in the context of a line-separation project. There's simply not enough capacity with the present shared-trackage situation.

(b) I wonder if it might make sense to extend the Yellow Line south, rather than the Blue. Presumably the Blue Line extension would run along the existing railroad tracks. That corridor is already served by the VRE. A Yellow Line extension would serve areas currently only served by buses. But those areas are also quite low-density (the US-1 corridor through Fairfax County). Any Metrorail extension ought to be coupled with rezoning similar to what Arlington did along Wilson Boulevard. Otherwise it's a waste: You just build big parking garages (which would become white elephants if the line is ever extended).

(c) I think local officials have done a lousy job of considering how to tie the Tysons Metrorail line into getting around Tysons. That is, the line as designed will be fine for getting people TO the Tysons area, but useless for getting them AROUND WITHIN Tysons. The vast majority of office space in Tysons, for example, is along Greensboro Drive or Westpark Drive, well beyond the distance many commuters will be willing to walk (especially Westpark). Perhaps some sort of streetcar loop could be designed that would connect the Tysons Metrorail stops to destinations within the Tysons area that are not right on the subway line (meaning most of the area). People might be more willing to use it in that situation.

(d) Speaking of streetcars, the planned Columbia Pike streetcar project should be extended so that it will reach the BRAC-133 structure at Mark Center. It seems silly to build a streetcar from the Pentagon area out to Bailey's Crossroads only to fail to run it that last mile or so to Mark Center, given the traffic schemozzle projected to occur when that monstrosity opens.

(e) The Metrorail system still suffers from the hub-and-spoke design. A Circle Line of the sort seen in London and Moscow is probably impractical here, given density issues. But at some point thought has to be given to more effective ways to allow the transit crowd to commute ACROSS the suburbs, rather than from suburb to city and back out. If Virginia is serious about turning Tysons into more of a city, there ought to be some way to take the subway, or an express bus via the HOT lanes, from Springfield to Tysons without having to ride all the way to Rosslyn, change trains, and ride all the way back out.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 8, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

@95
I have a few things to tack onto your ideas.

Circular rail lines stink but Maryland has a workable model with the red line. The silver line should go from Dulles to Alexandria via Arlington Cemetery. (The Rosslyn tunnel is a bottleneck and must be kept clear as much as possible.) This would establish a great business corridor that could be extended further along US 1 towards Belvoir.

You mentioned Tysons, but Alexandria needs a circular bus/streetcar lines as well. In Alexandria the Metro stations are in awkward places. A single line is needed to connect Old Town (including the northern part), Del Ray, Potomac Yard, and possibly Crystal City and Pentagon. Old Town and Del Ray are great neighborhoods, but they are surprisingly not well served by transit.

Love the idea to extend the Columbia Pike streetcar line to Mark Center.

I'm not sure extending the quad carriageway from Eisenhower to Springfield really does much. Is that really a pain area?

The one I never see is a rail link from Dulles Airport to Manassas via 28. I'm not sure why this isn't under at least long-term consideration.

Posted by: slar | February 8, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

There needs to be more focus on moving commuters around the greater metro area and not just in and out of the core. End-to-end transit use (combing local buses with rail (or dedicated bus ROW) for longer routes should be the goal.

To that end here are some dream projects on the VA side:

1) Light Rail on Rt 7 from new metro station to Leesburg. This would help move folks from the fast growing Loudoun county into the work centers in Tysons, Arl/Alex and DC.
2) Extend Orange Line to Gainesville but pull it back and stop in Rosslyn (along with Silver Line). Spilt the Orange and Blue lines in Rosslyn. This would increase the Orange and Blue line capacity by removing the overlap. I don't understand how Orange Line is supposed to work while it overlaps with 2 different lines.
3) Light Rail on Rt 28 from Rt 7 to (at least) I-66. This would connect the Orange Line with the Rt 7 light rail and connect the Rt 28 work centers (Dulles, Westfields, etc) with transit.
4) Transit option between MontCo and Fairfax that doesn't involve going through DC and switching at Metro Center. This would probably warrant heavy rail mostly following Beltway ROW.
5) Combined regional bus system supporting the movement of people to the rail stations. Today's most cobbled together system of local jurisdictions running their own service needs to be more reliable and accessible. Combining into one Northern VA bus system that focus on major arterials (Rt 50, Rt 7100, Lee Hwy, etc) and as a collector to the rail stations and those arterials would help get cars off the local roads too. Bus stops and schedules should be well marked and easily accessible (i.e: good, well lit sidewalks and waiting areas and heavily used stops should have up-to-the-minute updates on next arriving buses and "time till major destinations").

Funding is another story. It would have to be a combination of grants, use fees (tolls, mostly) and special tax districts from the areas that would benefit most.

Posted by: pilampinto | February 8, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Number 11:

An outer bypass to take long-haul traffic way from the I-95 Fredricksburg-DC corridor and the Beltway.

Nearly every other major metropolitan area, including Richmond and many small cities, had the sense to this; this region indulged the road-haters.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 8, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not sure extending the quad carriageway from Eisenhower to Springfield really does much. Is that really a pain area?"

It's often pretty bad, especially in the mornings. I will admit that I'm not sure how much of the backup I see on the Beltway there every morning on my way to the Van Dorn Metro stop is due to inadequate capacity and how much is due to the ongoing roadwork from the Eisenhower Connector to Telegraph. It's quite possible it may clear up once all the work is done next year (the opening of the new Wilson Bridge spans certainly helped the traffic flow big-time). But it's not at all unusual to get major slowdowns in either direction between Springfield and the Wilson Bridge.


The other project that crossed my mind while I was eating lunch is one that may not resonate much with many DC-area folks but that is vital to Virginia in the long term: Improving I-81. Anyone who's used that road knows what a disaster it is. The primary problem is the increasing volume of truck traffic on a road with only two lanes in each direction. There was a proposal about ten years ago from a private consortium to turn I-81 into a quad-carriageway with separate carriageways for cars and trucks (similar to the New Jersey Turnpike from Exit 8A to Exit 14, except that the truck lanes would have been "no cars"). The plan would have been paid for by tolling the truck lanes. I believe a major reason why it was dropped was that the non-compete clause would have potentially barred the Commonwealth from improving US-29, I-95, and I-85, as well as rail service, because all those routes could be seen as "competing" with I-81.

The problem with I-81 isn't really the trucks per se so much as it is that there are too many trucks with not enough space. Inevitably trucks have to use the left lane to pass (slowing traffic) and other slower drivers who would normally be in the right lane instead use the left lane in their own efforts to pass the slow trucks (thus also slowing traffic).

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 8, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

@95
The Telegraph and Eisenhower interchanges are still a total mess at the moment. Let's see what they look like when they are finished. My worry is that you would have to build another huge set of ramps to separate the downstate express/local from the NOVA express/local drivers. Since inner loop traffic approaching the mixing bowl doesn't back up much (unless the backups extend from Springfield) I don't think the outer loop situation at the express/local split will be any worse.

@ceefer11
Just say no to an outer beltway. We've got enough sprawl as it is. An outer beltway would just encourage it. Fortunately there is no viable plan for it anyway. There is no where in NOVA to put it and environmentalists will prevent it from being built in Maryland.

@pilampinto
I'd be wary of extending Metro too far down 66. Vienna to downtown is already interminable. I think VRE has to be the answer for those further out West.

Posted by: slar | February 8, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I-66 must be widened. This is the most congested highway in Virginia by miles. I-66 is stop and go from Manassas to DC during rush hour. I-66 east is stop and go in Fairfax on Saturday afternoons. I-66 is stop and go westbound from Ballston to the beltway on Saturdays. The orange line also needs to be widened to at least Centreville or maybe Manassas (Nutley street is another huge chokepoint because the orange line needs to be extended).

I'm hopeful 2 reversible HOT lanes and a permanent fourth lane will be built between the beltway and Manassas after the EIS is completed. I'd like to see the orange line extended but I'm also realistic.

BTW, light rail is proposed between Dulles and Manassas in the constrained long range plan, but i'm skeptical because route 28 have very low density.

Posted by: vance11671 | February 8, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

the route 28/I-66 interchange needs to be improved as well. The traffic signal at braddock road and route 28 needs to be removed so that traffic doesn't back up onto I-66. a 4th HOV lane would be nice too as well as a larger ramp.

Posted by: vance11671 | February 8, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

We also need some common sense in our local officals.

I-66 was closed today because of a funeral procession at 930 AM during the rush hour. This is nothing short of STUPID. The funeral procession couldn't have gone down route 29 or braddock road instead of shutting down a major highway during rush hour? It certainly would have been less disruptive. But then again that would make too much sense.

Posted by: vance11671 | February 8, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

One more thing.

On minor holiday like President's Day, Columbus Day, MLK Day, etc. when HOV is canceled on I-66 that's great news except that they also close the shoulder lane on I-66 in Faifax. So instead of an easy commute home, VDOT has manufactured a commute just as bad as any other day.

Posted by: vance11671 | February 8, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I-66 needs to be wide enough that nobody has to drive in the shoulder. It's inconsistent and dangerous.

Definitely need an outer Beltway. There is no good reason for all traffic between New York and Florida to have to pass through Southeast DC.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 8, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

1995hoo...we gotta grab a beer together sometime and commiserate over the terrible way Virginia handles transportation. You've got some great ideas there, including one (the express/local carriageway on I-95) which I've pondered in the past.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Metrorail expansions as the rest of the world does. You can't build more lanes you way out of it.

Create another line to run the 395 corridor and out towards Lincolnia and on towards Fairfax and extend Springfields line out towards Belvour and onto Dale City.

These changes would take thousands of commuters off of the roads.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | February 8, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

@ceefer66 - The issue with an outer beltway isn't so much the road haters, as it is with taxes. All the truck traffic that travels up I-95 gets taxed. Build an eastern outer beltway, and that truck traffic, and thus tax revenue, gets routed through Maryland. Maybe that could be dealt with with tolls, but I don't know. I do wish there was a solution to that problem, because...

@slar - doing nothing is not the solution. People are moving to this area. Sprawl isn't caused by roads being built, it's caused by people moving into this rather unique area. Washington DC has a law that says no building can be taller than the Capitol. So what you don't have in the city are high-rise apartment buildings. Thus more people have to live in the suburbs. Plus suburbs then get to build all the tall buildings, enticing more people and businesses to them. You wind up with people needing to drive from suburb to suburb on a road system designed to take everyone into the city. Gridlock. So building more roads that take people from suburb to suburb may not be ideal, but it has to be part of a comprehensive approach to solving this region's traffic woes.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

@mikefromArlington - the problem isn't JUST commuters. As noted above, it's all the through traffic from points south to points north, and vice versa. This is the traffic that clogs I-95 on the weekends as bad as any rush hour. An outer beltway is absolutely needed.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Here are my own rather modest suggestions, mostly for the I-95 corridor in Virginia:

1. Add a third HOV lane. NO HOT LANES! HOV lanes will be free to use during non-commute hours. HOT lanes (eventually) will not.

2. Flyover from HOV to Lorton Rd. This eliminates traffic having to cross from the HOV to the Lorton Rd. exit. This is a cause of congestion in the area.

3. Reconstruction of the I-95/Rt. 123 interchange. This would include longer southbound entrance ramps (short merge areas contribute to congestion) and reconfiguring the HOV flyover so it enters/exits from the commuter lot.

4. Make Rt. 123 limited access from Occoquan River to Fairfax County Parkway. Eliminate all stoplights and only have turns where residences are located along the road. Construct access roads for shopping centers.

5. Add fourth lanes in each direction on I-95 from Rt. 123 to past Fredericksburg. (I believe this is one of the above suggestions.)

6. Reconfigure the Prince William Parkway and Dale Blvd/Rippon Landing exits in each direction so that there is only one entrance and exit each direction. Traffic entering southbound from PWPkwy won't enter the main I-95 traffic until south of Dale Blvd. Traffic entering northbound from Dale Blvd. won't enter the main I-95 traffic until north of PW Pkwy.

7. Flyover from HOV to the Rt. 234 commuter lot, utilizing the existing road to the east of I-95 that runs parallel to I-95. Commuter lot should be further expanded. Commuter lot traffic should exit onto Rt. 1 at the traffic light for Wayside Dr. (the Bottom Dollar shopping center). This would eliminate the traffic crossing from HOV to exit at 234, and left turns into/out of the commuter lot in the afternoon from/to 234. This would help ease congestion on I-95 as well.

8. Flyover ramp at the end of the HOV lanes to take traffic exiting into the main lanes and have it enter on the right, rather than into the higher speed left hand lanes. This would help ease congestion.

9. Extend HOV to Fredericksburg.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

@gilmoredaniel

I'm not advocating doing nothing. I am convinced I95 must be widened between Springfield and Fredericksburg and that other spot improvements are critical as well.

That said, the height restrictions in DC are a red herring. There are plenty of places in DC and the inner suburbs that are ripe for increased density. We went out of our way to avoid centralizing around transportation corridors for decades. It is time to reverse that trend.

Posted by: slar | February 8, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

1)Don't think you can extend the Yellow line past Huntigton now that all the condos/townhomes have been built on the North Kings Highway side (which required the third garage because the surface parking was taken away). Blue line following the CSX tracks down to Potomac Mills might make sense.

2)Even if you build the HOT lanes down 95, you still need a fourth lane from route 123 south to Spotsylvania / exit 126. The reversible lanes are great - if you are going in that direction. Currently you can forget about driving on 95 South in Fairax county on Saturday and Sunday afternoons after they switch the current HOV lanes to northbound. By the way when's that fourth lane over the Occaquon River going to be finished?

Posted by: wlevey | February 8, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

TRIP is on a "trip" if they think we could afford the cost or the community impact of that many additional lanes and when does it end? Induced development and induced travel on newly widened highways would be inevitable. Moreover, our nation is broke and we are unprepared for higher energy prices.

We have to get at the underlying cause of our significant traffic -- a combined land use, community design, affordable housing, and jobs/housing location problem. To be sure, major transit extensions won't make sense either if not tied to better land use including transit-oriented development.

So before picking and choosing transportation projects, I would want to know where we could grow with balanced jobs/housing/services within communities where local street networks, walking/biking and transit are available and effective options, and then to select a transportation system that will support more efficient patterns of development.

This needs to be the approach to transportation planning by our elected officials rather than simply throwing money at the problem.

Posted by: csgstewart | February 8, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

There needs to be another bridge connecting Montgomery to Fairfax, north of the American Legion Bridge. Connecting I370 (and the new ICC) with the Fairfax Pkwy or Rte 28 in VA would be a logical choice, but a lot of well-connected people with river-front houses will never let it happen.

Posted by: Steve20817 | February 8, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

@slar - not a red herring at all. The height restriction defines how we commute in this area. The suburbs pick up the slack in office space that would otherwise be in the city. The effect of this is that many people live in one suburb while working in another. That means people trying to transit from suburb to suburb on metro or else driving. Someone who lives in Germantown and works in Fairfax is screwed unless he wants to spend 4 hours a day on busses/metro/marc/car. That's absurd. Until you have an integrated express transit system from suburb to suburb, the best option is more and better roads.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

There needs to be another bridge connecting Montgomery to Fairfax, north of the American Legion Bridge. Connecting I370 (and the new ICC) with the Fairfax Pkwy or Rte 28 in VA would be a logical choice, but a lot of well-connected people with river-front houses will never let it happen.

Posted by: Steve20817 | February 8, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

@slar - not a red herring at all. The height restriction defines how we commute in this area. The suburbs pick up the slack in office space that would otherwise be in the city. The effect of this is that many people live in one suburb while working in another. That means people trying to transit from suburb to suburb on metro or else driving. Someone who lives in Germantown and works in Fairfax is screwed unless he wants to spend 4 hours a day on busses/metro/marc/car. That's absurd. Until you have an integrated express transit system from suburb to suburb, the best option is more and better roads.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

@slar - not a red herring at all. The height restriction defines how we commute in this area. The suburbs pick up the slack in office space that would otherwise be in the city. The effect of this is that many people live in one suburb while working in another. That means people trying to transit from suburb to suburb on metro or else driving. Someone who lives in Germantown and works in Fairfax is screwed unless he wants to spend 4 hours a day on busses/metro/marc/car. That's absurd. Until you have an integrated express transit system from suburb to suburb, the best option is more and better roads.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

@slar - not a red herring at all. The height restriction defines how we commute in this area. The suburbs pick up the slack in office space that would otherwise be in the city. The effect of this is that many people live in one suburb while working in another. That means people trying to transit from suburb to suburb on metro or else driving. Someone who lives in Germantown and works in Fairfax is screwed unless he wants to spend 4 hours a day on busses/metro/marc/car. That's absurd. Until you have an integrated express transit system from suburb to suburb, the best option is more and better roads.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

@slar - not a red herring at all. The height restriction defines how we commute in this area. The suburbs pick up the slack in office space that would otherwise be in the city. The effect of this is that many people live in one suburb while working in another. That means people trying to transit from suburb to suburb on metro or else driving. Someone who lives in Germantown and works in Fairfax is screwed unless he wants to spend 4 hours a day on busses/metro/marc/car. That's absurd. Until you have an integrated express transit system from suburb to suburb, the best option is more and better roads.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

@slar - not a red herring at all. The height restriction defines how we commute in this area. The suburbs pick up the slack in office space that would otherwise be in the city. The effect of this is that many people live in one suburb while working in another. That means people trying to transit from suburb to suburb on metro or else driving. Someone who lives in Germantown and works in Fairfax is screwed unless he wants to spend 4 hours a day on busses/metro/marc/car. That's absurd. Until you have an integrated express transit system from suburb to suburb, the best option is more and better roads.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Someone in Germantown with a job in Fairfax either needs to move or get another job. You can't build a sustainable road network in a circular pattern. It just can't be done. Even if MD would agree to a new Potomac crossing, it wouldn't help this guy. Rather than encouraging this nonsense, we need to encourage people to move back to patterns that make sense. A business corridor from Dulles to Alexandria would do that.

Posted by: slar | February 8, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

VA needs to make certain roads one-way depending on the time of day. Similar to the Rock Creek Parkway, designate some key roads to be going one way in the morning rush, the other way in the evening rush, and bi-directional during off-peak times.

Certainly it would need to be well planned and managed, but I can't imagine the cost being substantial.

A good candidate would be Columbia Pike. Bottlenecks due to frequent bus stops and turning vehicles would reduce. Could also help reduce vehicles at the I-395/Seminary interchange(which needs all the help it can get) by rerouting Pentagon/DC bound traffic from Fairfax, Annandale, and Springfield away from 395.

Posted by: life_in_the_slow_lane | February 8, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

@slar - I used to live in Ashburn and work in Gaithersburg. That sounds pretty bad, until you realize the following: My wife at the time worked in Leesburg. We bought our house when I worked near Dulles. The job in Gaithersburg paid 3x what I was making so I was a fool not to take it. Suddenly I'm making a "horseshoe commute" on the toll road and I-270 every day. Was I supposed to move up there? That would have made my ex have to drive the same route the other way. Not to mention going through the hassles of selling and buying new places.

See, real life isn't nearly as simplistic as "get a different job" or "move closer to work". Real life has real issues, and people make decisions on where to live on a variety of circumstances.

BTW, I'm now living in Dumfries and working in Silver Spring. I don't drive at all. Instead I use PRTC, Metro, slugging, and telecommuting. They're all great solutions. But really, in the morning, I can cut a half hour off my commute time by driving. (In the afternoon I would add an hour to that time, which is why I don't do it.) And yes, I am considering a move closer to work.

Posted by: gilmoredaniel | February 8, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Also, what Steve20817 said. Another Potomac bridge to reduce the number of artificial bottlenecks.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 8, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

@wlevey There's a Yellow Line tunnel south of Huntington that alredy goes under the condos/townhouses you mention, most of the way to Penn Daw. Got an E-mail confirmation on this from WMATA earlier in the week.

Posted by: ajfroggie | February 8, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse

@gilmoredaniel
I know the feeling - my job has moved 5 times in 7 years and never closer to my current home.

I'm trying to strike some balance here. On one side of the coin, you have urbanists that are horrified by building and widening of any road. The problem is that realities prevent people from giving up their cars.

On the other side you've got people who seem to think we can build our way out of congestion. No you can't. To the urbanists' credit, most new roads fail to reduce congestion, just cause patterns to change. However, I do think that carefully targeted widening and similar operations can do a lot of good.

The most important issue is cost. None of this stuff is cheap and VA's coffers aren't bottomless. We need to make sure we get the most bang for the buck.

Posted by: slar | February 8, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

"On one side of the coin, you have urbanists that are horrified by building and widening of any road."

I believe it was Channel 9's Ken Beatrice who used to refer to such people as BANANAs. BANANAs go beyond NIMBYs, as the latter don't necessarily oppose things as long as their little piece of paradise is unaffected.

"BANANA" in this context means "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody."

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 8, 2011 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Lower taxes on titling and registering motorcycles to encourage treir use. Fewer motorists driving Hybrid SUVs, driving solo while using the HOV lanes might help the traffic situation also.

Posted by: phog | February 8, 2011 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Lower taxes on titling and registering motorcycles to encourage their use. Fewer motorists driving Hybrid SUVs (solo) while using the HOV lanes might help the traffic situation also.

Posted by: phog | February 8, 2011 11:01 PM | Report abuse

The #1 improvement on my list is another western bridge between MD and VA, preferably at the top of 28 in NoVA. Leesburg to Tysons is too long of a stretch. There are bottlenecks at the Beltway bridges that don't need to be there.

Light rail along 7 between Tysons and Leesburg sounds good. Would help a lot of people move around. Most of it is already a business corridor; would have to be careful of runoff/pollution/contamination near Colvin Run Mill and what used to be known as the Pet-a-Pet Farm.

Good public transportation within Tysons isn't something I'd use often but plenty of people could benefit from that.

Someone else's suggestion to put rail between Dulles and Manassas, south along 28, wouldn't affect me at all but sounds like a good idea.

Posted by: ariellem | February 9, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

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