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Get There: April 29, 2007 - May 5, 2007

D.C. Moves For Street Safety

At a forum last night on pedestrian safety, D.C. Council member Jim Graham talked about the transportation bill now before the council that expand and empower the District's force of traffic control officers. Their numbers would grow from 43 to 63 and they would have the authority to stop and ticket vehicles and pedestrians who violated traffic laws. Traffic control officer directs drivers and pedestrians. (Robert Thomson) Both the traffic control officers and the school crossing guards would become part of the District Department of Transportation. The officers now work for the Department of Public Works and the crossing guards are part of the D.C. police department. All of them would get raises. These are all good moves, suggesting that the District is committed to addressing concerns expressed by commuters and D.C. residents alike about traffic safety. Nothing, though, was as effective at getting the attention of the audience at...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 4, 2007; 7:55 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (45)
Categories:  Safety  
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District Floats Toll Ideas

Motorists already know that Maryland and Virginia are planning to impose congestion pricing on new highway lanes. Those programs on the intercounty connector, Capital Beltway and Interstate 95 have been welcomed by some commuters, who look forward to using a less congested lane, even if they have to pay a variable toll to keep traffic moving. And they've been opposed by others, like the I-95 sluggers, who think such plans will increase congestion and diminish safety. But all the plans so far use the toll money to finance the new lanes we couldn't afford to build with tax money. Congestion pricing is a traffic-control technique added onto the highway financing plan. What if tolling for traffic control became a standalone concept? Transportation experts across a broad spectrum are getting pretty fond of that idea, but it's a threshold that political leaders have been very reluctant to cross. These experts are...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 3, 2007; 7:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (55)
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Speed Camera Fines Begin Today

No more Mr. Nice Guy: As of today, Montgomery County will be fining motorists who drive more than 10 mph above the speed limit where the speed cameras are in place. The grace period during which only warnings were issued has ended. The City of Rockville also began its crackdown this week. Sticker on back of van announces speed camera operation. (Robert Thomson) Del. Bill Bronrott of Bethesda, who sponsored the legislation that allowed Montgomery County and several municipalities to begin the program, joined some of the police chiefs involved in it and road safety advocates today at Meadow Hall Elementary School on Rockville's Twinbrook Parkway. The parkway is one of the places where you'll find the cameras, loaded aboard vans marked with a red, white and blue "Safe Speed" logo. While the name "parkway" might call up visions of a wide commuter route, Twinbook at this point is a...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 2, 2007; 2:01 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
Categories:  Safety  
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Shortened Merge Jams GW Parkway

The worst traffic backup I've seen lately occurs on the northbound George Washington Parkway on the approach to the Beltway's inner loop. That's where the merge lane recently shrank to create a staging area for the Legion Bridge painting project. My little traffic patrol started Tuesday morning after I got a letter from an Arlington commuter who was startled and confused by how bad the parkway traffic had become on her morning trip toward the Beltway and Maryland. The Maryland State Highway Administration is painting the bridge, and the staging area has been created on the southeast side. The ramp from the parkway has been shortened and the inner loop's shoulder across the bridge is blocked off. I wanted to see for myself what effect that was having, but any trip of more than a couple of miles around here passes through several issue zones, and so the drive over...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 2, 2007; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Congestion  
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Driving Around and Driving Away

Need your help with a couple of sets of directions, with very different goals. The first letter comes from a commuter looking for a bailout route when a major highway is jammed. Every commuting motorist needs at least one bailout route. I've learned that some of you stick to your ways while some of you experiment frequently, looking to shave minutes, or to be ready with plans C, D and E, just in case you need them. Here's that commuter's letter. Dr. Gridlock: The "sink hole" repair near the Wilson Bridge on the Virginia side (South 95) created a 2 1/2 hour drive home on the inner loop of the Beltway for me. The radio suggested a "bail out" on Exit 4 to take the Sousa Bridge to get to Virginia but did not give enough details. I tried to figure out this route on the map but have not...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 1, 2007; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Getaway  
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Donating Metro Farecards

Several people wrote in after seeing my Sunday column in which I mentioned that Metro is considering a plan to collect low-value Farecards for donation to charities. Readers said they knew of some local charities that collect the cards. If you are aware of any others, send a note to me at and I'll wrap them into a list in an upcoming column. Dear Dr. Gridlock: Isn't there an organization that collects these cards for veterans who need to find jobs? It seems that the Post carried an article on this sometime last fall. Rita Lombard Columbia Good memory. On Nov. 22 last year, Metro columnist John Kelly wrote about Dave Mortlock of Arlington, a former Marine who helps fellow veterans get to job interviews and training courses by collecting donated Farecards and putting their value onto SmarTrip cards. He gives them to Ignatia House, a veterans assistance center...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 30, 2007; 8:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  
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