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Get There: July 8, 2007 - July 14, 2007

Northern Virginia Gets Some Authority

After a long public hearing that explored nearly every political division that has allowed traffic congestion to maintain a stranglehold on the Washington suburbs, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority voted rather quickly to begin prying the region loose. In about a half hour, the 14 voting members of the panel approved seven new taxes and fees that the authority will raise more than $300 million annually for road, transit and other transportation improvements. The closest vote was the first, to create a grantor's tax of 40 cents per $100 on the sale price of a property, payable by the seller of the property. The vote was 11-3, but that wasn't the only crucial number. Contained within that ratio was the vote of 7-2 among the authority members who represent the Northern Virginia jurisdictions whose residents will pay the tax. Equally important was the figure 86.4. That was the percentage of...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 13, 2007; 8:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Vehicle Fire Blocks Route 32 in Columbia

According to Maptuit traffic reports, westbound lanes of Route 32 at or near the intersection with U.S. 29 (Columbia Pike) are blocked by a vehicle fire. Use caution and seek alternate routes....

By Bob Greiner  |  July 12, 2007; 5:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Congestion  
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Big Decision Tonight in Virginia

This could go down as a big day in the history of efforts to ease traffic congestion in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. Starting at 6 p.m., the newly empowered Northern Virginia Transportation Authority will meet to hear public comments on its plans to impose new taxes and fees and spend the money it raises on improvements to the road and rail network. For those who sit in traffic or on crowded rail cars every work day, this has been a long time coming. Serious political activity at the state level started about eight years and two governors ago. Then in 2002, the transportation authority was formed to spend the money that would have been raised for transportation through a sales tax increase -- if the voters of Northern Virginia had approved it. After the defeat of the transportation tax referendum, the transportation authority languished in relative obscurity until Gov....

By Robert Thomson  |  July 12, 2007; 5:17 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Timing the Commute

Here's a good question from a commuter looking for a way around the traffic generated by the two-month shutdown of the District's Douglass Bridge. We've talked a lot the past few days about routes, but what about alternative times? Dear Dr. Gridlock: Does the back-up on I-295 dissipate significantly after the end of "normal" rush hour? If the northbound trip were made at 9:30 a.m. or so, would it be reasonably close to "normal"? (Same question for the southbound trip at 6:30 or 7:00 p.m.) This information would be most helpful to those of us who might be able to alter our work hours a bit for part or all of the next several weeks. Nan Reiner (Trying valiantly to get from Southeast Alexandria to North Capitol Street and back.) I haven't driven on I-295 after 9 a.m. since the bridge closed, but from what I could see of the...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 11, 2007; 11:44 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Alert: Lane Shift near Wilson Bridge

Motorists on the Beltway's inner loop will see a new traffic pattern this morning as they approach the Wilson Bridge from the Maryland side. As part of the reconstruction of the interchanges and bridge approaches, the lanes have been shifted about 60 feet to the right for a stretch of about three-quarters of a mile from just past Exit 4 (Route 414/St. Barnabas Road) to Exit 3 (Route 210). Then they shift back to the left into their old alignment. Crews were scheduled to work overnight until about 5 o'clock this morning to finish the pavement markings and move barriers. By the time the Wilson Bridge project is completed, the Beltway lanes will have been reconfigured to separate local and long-distance travelers. Those of you who drive along those new lanes today will be driving on what ultimately will become the new inner loop local lanes. While you're there, workers...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 11, 2007; 4:43 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Wilson Bridge  
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Metro Parking Filling Up Early

The recent shutdown of the District's Douglass Bridge is having an impact on transit as well as traffic. Metro says that drivers wanting to use the Green Line filled up the Anacostia garage by 7 a.m. today. That's very unusual. When I was there on Friday morning, the day the shutdown began, the roof of the parking structure was practically empty. Anacostia was one of the park and ride spots recommended by the District officials who planned the shutdown because it normally has that kind of extra capacity. Parking at Largo, on the eastern end of the Blue Line, also was full by 7 a.m. today. "We're 99 percent sure it's the impact of the Douglass Bridge," said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel. Many people who pay extra for reserved parking arrived at the stations on the eastern side of the system to find that all the reserved spots were gone,...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 10, 2007; 4:24 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (26)
Categories:  Construction  
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More Summertime Blues on Roads Today

If there is a summertime decrease in traffic volume, it was hard to find this morning. Cars still were backed up from the 11th Street Bridge all the way down I-295 toward the Beltway. Pennsylvania Avenue and East Capitol Street in the District were jammed. So were the Baltimore Washington Parkway heading south between the Beltway and the District and the outer loop of the Beltway between Greenbelt and Georgia Avenue. Those were just the roads I saw. Others could add to the list. I was out early trying to see if there's a clear pattern to the congestion stemming from the Douglass Bridge shutdown. The heart of the congestion continues to be the merge where I-295 traffic meets cars from the Suitland Parkway. That's unlikely to change until the restoration project on the South Capitol Street bridge is completed in two months and the bridge reopens. Click for District...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 10, 2007; 9:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Construction  
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Douglass Bridge: Why Call it Rush Hour?

Drivers this morning experienced the full, daunting impact of closing a major commuter route into Washington. Though the two-month shutdown of the Douglass Bridge at South Capitol Street began Friday, that commute seems like a mere tune up now. Click on image to see DDOT map of bridge detours. (Robert Thomson) Inbound traffic on Interstate 295 was backed up from the 11th Street Bridge down to the Beltway. Traffic also was heavy on Suitland Parkway, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Branch Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and East Capitol Street over the Anacostia River. The only inbound route I saw between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. that was not heavy, was Benning Road, and that was the last track I followed, at crossing the river at about 8:45 a.m. It's difficult to say if today's experience is going to be typical. Many drivers were off last week, so they were dealing with...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 9, 2007; 10:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Construction  
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Two Roads Diverged in a Wood ...

While I'm planning to focus later today on the morning commute into Washington from the east, because of the Douglass Bridge shutdown, I want to ask you about something Rich wrote on the blog Friday. As an aside, during an exchange about best routes around the bridge congestion, he said " ... I just like to go a different way sometimes because I get tired of I-395 ... " It made me wonder about the times in commuting when we occasionally follow a different path for no other reason than that it is different. The view might not be any better, but different. The traffic might be no easier, but maybe the turns and straights are different enough to provide some variety. Or maybe you drive some days and take the train on others because some days you want to read and some days you want to listen to the...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 9, 2007; 5:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Driving  
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