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Get There: May 6, 2007 - May 12, 2007

Bridge Crash Highlights Safety Problem

The fatal crash Thursday on the Bay Bridge highlights a problem we've created for ourselves. Two-way traffic on one span is an accommodation to increasingly heavy volume, but it leaves motorists with no protection from the oncoming traffic a lane over. (Here's a link to a WJLA TV video of the crash scene.) It's one more case in which the rapid growth of the Washington region has far outstripped the travel system designed in the mid-20th century to support that growth. (Here's a link to a Maryland state task force report on the future of the Bay Bridge.) Drivers observe that same flaw in our system where shoulder lanes that should be available for breakdowns are converted into travel lanes for cars or buses. In Virginia, the latest planning for highway expansion -- the creating of the high occupancy or toll (HOT) lanes on Interstate 95/395 -- has raised concerns...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 11, 2007; 8:28 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Safety  
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Congestion Continues at Legion Bridge

This morning, after listening to a transportation expert in Tysons describe a wonderful future in which commutes would be safer and smoother thanks to smart use of technology, I plowed back into an old-fashioned traffic jam on the Capital Beltway. Brake lights on at parkway/Beltway merge south of Legion Bridge. (Robert Thomson) It was that backup stemming from the painting project at the American Legion Bridge. There have been some improvements, as I said in my Sunday Dr. Gridlock column. But the Beltway traffic was backed up across four lanes from Tysons up to the bridge. And I hate to think what the drivers were experiencing on the northbound George Washington Parkway who must deal with a merge lane into the Beltway that was shortened up to create a staging area for the project's workers. Both the Maryland State Highway Administration, which is in charge of the painting project, and...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 10, 2007; 10:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  Congestion  
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Something to Like About a Commute?

We use this space to talk about the difficulties of traveling around our region and how to ease those problems. Today, I'd like to ask you to turn that world upside down and talk about the upside of your commute. Maybe it's one particular view that you enjoy each day, maybe it's a point marking the symbolic transition from work to living environment, maybe it's a point where you open a book or tune in a favorite radio show. I think the obvious one for many of us would be that split second when we get our first site of home after a long day. But maybe there's a point on a long journey at the end of the day that tells you you're almost there and it's time to start easing down from the tensions of the commute. Here's one such moment: As a Red Line train passes the...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 9, 2007; 7:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (85)
Categories:  Commuting  
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D.C. Prepares for Bridge Shutdown

There's a lot of anxiety among commuters over the planned shutdown this summer of the Douglass Bridge, which brings them into downtown Washington from points south and east. Now the District has launched a program to help them find and finance alternative ways to reach work. Traffic heads across Frederick Douglass Bridge. (Mark Gail -- The Washington Post) Modeled after a program used during the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction, the District Department of Transportation's "Bridge Bucks" program will provide $50 per month toward transit fares and vanpool fees. By providing financial resources and personal advice on transit services, the program enables individual commuters to utilize alternative travel options that best work for their particular lifestyle - whether via rail, bus or vanpool. The launching of this program, designed to ease traffic congestion and travel times during the July and August shutdown of the South Capitol Street bridge over the Anacostia...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 8, 2007; 6:34 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Construction  
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Metro Deals With Brush Fire

During a Live Online discussion today, readers asked about a rail situation and a road situation, and we have some updates for you. One chatter told us this: "I was on the Blue Line train today that encountered the brush fire on the side of the tracks ... The operator was professional and stopped our train and tried to extinguish the fire. I'm glad we were going northbound because the fire was on the southbound tracks." Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel provided details about the incident: The incident started at 10:29 a.m. outside Van Dorn Street Station on the outbound Blue Line track. A Blue Line train operator on the inbound track reported the brush fire to the Operations Control Center, stopped the train and used a fire extinguisher to put it out. However, the brush was still smoldering. The control center told him to continue on with the train. Metro...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 7, 2007; 2:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Metro  
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Dulles Toll Cameras Questioned

Some drivers are raising concerns about the enforcement cameras on the Dulles Toll Road. The commonwealth started using them this year to snag motorists who went through the toll plazas without paying. Drivers who don't have E-ZPasses make two complaints: The cameras just don't work properly, photographing the vehicles' license plates for a violation notice when they've just paid; or they record them going through a lane that was supposed to have been staffed but wasn't, so they couldn't pay the toll and couldn't wait because other cars were right behind them. Who else has had this experience? Dear Dr. Gridlock: What does a driver do when a VDOT camera-enabled open toll lane malfunctions on Route 267? I use the Route 267 toll booths 40 times a month on my way to work in Reston. Sometimes a toll-booth's lane alarm is constantly ringing and the red-light continuously on even though...

By Robert Thomson  |  May 7, 2007; 7:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (53)
Categories:  highways  
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