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Get There: June 15, 2008 - June 21, 2008

Despite Troubles, Rail Ridership Surges

Despite its difficulties with derailments, disruptions and delays this month, Metrorail continues to set new marks for ridership. Thursday was another such milestone, becoming the eighth highest ridership date with 819,979 trips taken. That was 33,519 more than on the comparable day last year. As with the other high ridership days this week, there was no special event, such as a baseball or football game, to drive up the numbers. Thursday was the annual Dump the Pump Day, when transit advocates encourage people to leave their cars at home, but the string of high ridership dates this week suggests there's more going on. Also, because it was Dump the Pump Day, Metro had a contest to guess the ridership, and more than 3,500 people entered. The winner, who will get a $100 SmarTrip card, was 10 off from the actual total....

By Robert Thomson  |  June 20, 2008; 12:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Metro  
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The Weekend and Beyond

Some developments affecting your travels this weekend and in the future: Some Free Fares If you're going to the Columbia Pike Blues Festival on Saturday, go by Metrobus. It's free on routes 16B, 16G and 16J to the festival, which goes from noon to 9 p.m. Arlington County wants people to attend and to take transit, so it's subsidizing the free rides. Bus transfers won't be issued except to riders boarding at Metrorail stations with a rail transfer or a SmarTrip card who need to make a subsequent bus-to-bus transfer. In that case, the driver will issue a free transfer, and the customer will not be required to pay the 35 or 45 cent rail-to-bus transfer charge. Metrobus Detours Some weekend events in the District and Arlington, including the blues festival, will require bus detours. You can see the events and the detours listed here on Metro's Web site. Metro...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 20, 2008; 11:41 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Work Advancing on New Md. Highway

On Sunday night, the Maryland State Highway Administration will begin installing a dozen 140-foot-long concrete beams over Shady Grove Road for a bridge that is part of a new highway across the Maryland suburbs. Construction on this portion of the intercounty connector will occur weeknights between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, then again on Sunday through Wednesday, June 29 to July 2, then Tuesday through Thursday, July 8 to 10 and Sunday through Thursday, July 13 to 17. The work will require periodic 15-minute shutdowns of Shady Grove Road between 11:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. just south of Tupelo and Epsilon Drives. Double lane closures will occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., Sunday through Thursday nights, through July 17. This will affect traffic on Shady Grove Road from north of Mill Run Drive to the Shady Grove Road/Interstate 370 interchange, but all the side streets, driveways...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 20, 2008; 10:25 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Construction  
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Virginia Road Work Plans Are Halted

Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board yesterday approved a six-year spending plan that cuts hundreds of road projects statewide and transfers $2.75 billion from new projects to the state's near-empty maintenance fund. Click the map below to see a sampling of key projects that will be delayed or eliminated....

By Mike McPhate  |  June 20, 2008; 10:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Construction  
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2 Metro Lots Closed This Weekend

Last Sunday's Dr. Gridlock column included a letter from a participant in the Race for the Cure who discovered only on arriving at Van Dorn Station that the lot was closed for paving. So I wanted to highlight the maintenance jobs coming up this weekend. New Carrollton The station's surface parking lot No. 2 will be closed Saturday and Sunday. Metro says the work should have a minimal impact, because only 357 of the 3,519 parking spaces will be off limits. The main parking garage and surface lots 3 and 4 will be open. Tenleytown On Saturday, the Kiss-and-Ride Lot at Fort Drive NW will close to prepare for resurfacing. The street will remain open to Metrobus traffic. On Saturday, June 28, the Kiss-and Ride Lot will be closed for asphalt paving and Metrobus service will be detoured until the job is done. The street is scheduled to reopen that...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 20, 2008; 6:21 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Metro  
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Kaine Presents New Transportation Plan

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who has called the General Assembly into special session beginning Monday, today unveiled the transportation plan he will present to the legislature. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Transportation Board met today in Richmond to gut the state's six-year plan for road, rail, biker and pedestrian improvements. The economy and a Virginia State Supreme Court decision earlier this year mean Virginia will have less money than it thought for these programs. [Here's a link to The Post story on the day's developments, including an interactive map showing delays and cuts.] Kaine has been touring the state holding town hall style meetings to discuss his ideas, but this afternoon's public announcement showed the plan as the legislators will see it. This is what he says it will do, and how it would be financed: Goals -- Cut the highway maintenance deficit. -- Increase local road construction funding and restore...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 19, 2008; 3:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Transit Advocates Say, 'Dump the Pump'

Today is the third annual Dump the Pump Day, and this may be the easiest sell yet for transit advocates. The American Public Transportation Association and local transit agencies across the country are urging people to leave their cars at home today and try an alternative route to work. An online calculator lets you see how much you would save. Around here, we've had some unfortunate experiences with that lately. Metrorail, the second largest rail transit system in the nation, had a ghastly first half of June, particularly on the Orange Line. Despite that, Metro has been setting ridership records this spring. On Tuesday, Metrorail recorded the ninth highest weekday ridership in its 32 year history, with 812,686 trips taken. Then Wednesday entered the books as the sixth highest ridership day, with 823,516 trips. That was 28,308 more than the comparable day last year, Metro says. It pushed Tuesday's ranking...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 19, 2008; 7:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  transit  
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Big Delays on Bay Bridge

5 p.m. UPDATE: Eastbound span reopens. Traffic delays continue. All lanes of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge's eastbound span, which had been completely closed because of a crash involving four vehicles, are now open again. At this hour, three lanes of the bridge are operating eastbound and two lane are operating westbound. But the traffic is still backed up. Eastbound congestion starts around Exit 22, which is nine miles before the toll plaza. Westbound delays start around Exit 40, which is 3.5 miles from the bridge. You can see live traffic camera views here....

By Robert Thomson  |  June 18, 2008; 4:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  
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RC Parkway Trail Closed for Construction

The hiker-biker trail along Rock Creek Parkway is closed for three days from Pennsylvania Avenue to the P Street ramp, in one of the final steps of the parkway reconstruction project. When it reopens on Saturday, the National Park Service says, that will complete major construction on the trail. For now, there are detour signs to direct walkers, hikers and bikers around the construction. The parkway reconstruction project, which began in April 2007, should be done by July, according to the Federal Highway Administration, which is doing the work for the park service. The original schedule called for completion in the spring, but the work affecting travelers is largely done now. The greatest delays for motorists occurred last year, and there was a time when drivers filled my mailbag with complaints about the parkway project. But that has not been the case in 2008. There still may be some short...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 18, 2008; 8:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Engineering Solutions for Pedestrians

Followup on posting about the recent crosswalk enhancement on Brentwood Road NE: New Brentwood Road crosswalk. (Thomson) Background: Brentwood is a four-lane, heavily traveled roadway between a Home Depot and a small shopping center containing a Department of Motor Vehicles office. It's a difficult crossing for pedestrians. The new crosswalk installed by the District Department of Transportation to enhance pedestrian safety is quite visible, and has prominent signs alerting drivers that they must stop for pedestrians. A walker can hit a red button that sets amber lights flashing on both sides of the road. (The amber lights are below the words "in CROSSWALKS" in the picture.) I found traffic stopped most of the time, but had one bracing experience in which a truck didn't even slow down after I hit the button and walked out. Update: George Branyan, the District's pedestrian program coordinator, said this design isn't perfect, but is...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 18, 2008; 6:09 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Safety  
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Traffic Delays in Falls Church

Crews are repairing a 12-inch water main break at the intersection of Routes 7 and 29 in the City of Falls Church. It happened about 10:20 a.m., when a truck hit a fire hydrant, which in turn broke the water main. Eastbound Route 7 and southbound Route 29 are down to single lanes and city police are directing traffic. Falls Church expects the repairs will take until about 9 p.m....

By Robert Thomson  |  June 17, 2008; 12:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Virginia Likely to Delay, Cut Projects

On Thursday, the Virginia panel that presides over transportation projects is likely to delay a lot of them, or drop them from the six-year schedule. This will hurt most travelers in the state, whether they drive, take transit, pedal or walk. The Commonwealth Transportation Board will meet in Richmond to vote on the draft six-year improvement program presented by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Here's a list of the delays and cuts likely in Northern Virginia. These are among the road projects on the list to be delayed: -- Widening of the Route 7 bypass in Leesburg. -- An interchange at the junction of Routes 1 and 123 in Prince William. -- An interchange at Route 28 and Wellington Road in to eliminate the at-grade rail crossing in Manassas. These are among the road projects that would be cut: -- Reconstruction of the Beltway/Interstate 66 interchange. -- Widening the Beltway...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 17, 2008; 6:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Kung Fu Recycling on the Metro

Metro has created an amusing public service announcement extolling the virtues of recycling. In the straight-to-YouTube video "Littering Rabbit, Recycling Dragon," a Kung Fu master confronts his long lost brother on a Metro train. An argument ensues over whether leaving a newspaper on a train is a sort of gift to fellow passengers who might appreciate the freebie, or just plain littering. You can guess which side the Kung Fu master, and eventually his brother, takes....

By Mike McPhate  |  June 16, 2008; 3:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  
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Two Continents, Two Driving Styles

I thought that you would enjoy this inter-continental comparison of driving styles, and that it might provoke a discussion of what's gotten into us on the roads. Dear Dr. Gridlock: I've just returned from two weeks of working in Nairobi, Kenya. As many people know, the traffic congestion there is so awful that it is captured in one word: "Jams." Gridlock seems the norm, with cars/trucks/buses of all kinds crowding onto roads unable to handle them all. And yet ... a certain courtliness and grace exists there. Unlike the D.C. area, Kenyan drivers have developed various hand gestures (none of which seem to involve just one finger) to signal other drivers to merge in front of them or to allow them to merge. Unlike here, Kenyan drivers don't wear deathmasks of frustration or anger. In fact, several times our cabdriver received advice from other drivers on alternative routes or how...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 16, 2008; 11:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Driving  
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The Commuter: What Needs Fixing

This week's Commuter offers a guide to avoiding construction backups this summer, with a spotlight on Maryland's Bay Bridge Preservation Project....

By Mike McPhate  |  June 16, 2008; 11:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Construction  
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Analyzing Metro's Performance II

This continues a discussion begun early Friday about emergencies on Metrorail -- but they keep piling up. Less than 24 hours after a Metro board committee finished venting at transit authority management about the previous week's incidents, riders confronted fresh problems during the Friday morning rush. The widespread power outage and the two fires challenged Metro operations and communications in ways that earlier incidents -- the heat kink in the rails, the derailment and the storm damage -- did not. The Friday morning problems evolved over several hours and affected many stations on many lines. I'd like the hear rider comments on Metro's Friday morning response, now that people have had a weekend to think about it. My two cents on communications: Metro did a good job getting timely and detailed information out to radio, TV and the press, so we could relay that information to the public. The media...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 16, 2008; 6:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Metro  
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The Weekend and Beyond

Some things to know about getting around this weekend and later this month. District Events There are many street activities in Washington this weekend that could slow your travels. Karyn LeBlanc, spokeswoman for the District Department of Transportation, put out a list that includes: Capital Pride Festival, Pennsylvania Avenue NW, between 3rd and 7th Streets; 6th Street NW, between Constitution Avenue and C Street; Constitution Avenue between Pennsylvania Avenue and 3rd Street; 4th Street NW, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Madison. With the exception of 4th Street, streets will be closed from 12:01 a.m. Saturday until midnight Sunday. (Here's a link to our map of the Capital Pride events.) The 233rd Annual Army Birthday Ball, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Army Birthday Ball has an eight motor coach shuttle operation and lots of VIPs. L Street from 7th to 9th streets NW will be closed from 3 p.m...

By Robert Thomson  |  June 15, 2008; 9:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Advisories  
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