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Road Conditions Vary

Just drove from Gainesville to Silver Spring on I-66 and the Beltway. Watch out: Conditions on the road surface can vary dramatically in a very short distance.

You might be driving along quite happily in a misty rain when suddenly you'll notice little white pellets bouncing off the hood. You'll look at the roadway ahead and notice that it has turned from black to gray. That happened to me over very short stretches on I-66, but the biggest change occurred when I swung onto the Beltway and headed toward the Legion Bridge.

The Beltway was bad right away -- and crowded. That stretch from the bridge up around I-270 and along the merge with Rockville Pike traffic normally difficult but this was worse. It's partly what's falling from the sky, partly the surface temp and road treatment, partly the early dismissal of federal workers.

If you find yourself on a good stretch, don't get complacent. You won't have to wait very long before the drive gets much more interesting.

Still, highway conditions are much better than neighborhood conditions. Chances are good that after getting off the treated highways, you'll find yourself on white streets in your neighborhood. After you've almost made it home, don't let that sudden change catch you by surprise.

I got a comment almost immediately about the federal shutdown.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
OPM closed the whole Federal government at one time, 2 PM. The result, which if whomever made this decision had an IQ above 70 had thought about it s/he would have known, was jammed Metro platforms and trains, and long waits for trains which had room for people to get on.

In the past, on early closings, they have staggered it to avoid this. Why on earth they didn't do it this time I don't know. If they had told everyone to leave 3 hours earlier, we would still have had some congestion due to closing before rush hour schedules started, but it would have been manageable.

Staggered leaving times for the Federal government are absolutely essential in order to avoid having way too many people than transit and traffic systems can handle at one time.

William (Bill) Samuel
Silver Spring

By Robert Thomson  |  February 13, 2007; 2:46 PM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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