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Walking, Driving and Vacationing ...

Those were among the topics we were into during an online discussion today that got cut short by some problems with our technology. I promised to switch over to the blog and address some of your questions and comments here.

Long-Distance Travel
Alexandria, Va.: Dr. Gridlock, do you have any sense for whether the I-95 Express Toll Lane project north of Baltimore is making a big mess of the traffic? I'm driving to Maine next week and am debating whether to go the I-95/N.J. Turnpike route or whether to go up to Harrisburg and then take I-81 to either I-78 or I-84. I don't much care about the tolls, I'm just wondering about the traffic.

Dr. Gridlock: I've had no troubles getting through that express lanes zone north of Baltimore and have received no complaints about it from readers. The spot where readers and I do share a bad experience is going through Delaware on I-95 and then 295 to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. As a state transportation spokesman pointed out to me, it's not only the main line for East Coast travelers, it's also the Main Street for New Castle County.

Construction makes the normal congestion much worse. This year, the delays seem concentrated on the eastern side of Delaware, near the bridge.

I like the Harrisburg option, despite some congestion around that city. The Grid Spouse hates it, because it's a less direct route to northern New Jersey.

Readers and I agree that the route for your summertime travel usually doesn't matter as much as what time you'll leave. Also, on a long trip like yours up to Maine, you almost always run into somebody's congestion. Depending on your route, it could be around Danbury or Hartford, Conn., or Worcester or Boston, Mass.

Washington, D.C.: Okay. I know by saying this I'm going to jinx my future trips, but as a constant traveler up 95 to N.J., especially during the summer months to the shore, Delaware has not been a problem at all. In the past, Delaware was a hellish experience to drive through, often resulting in an extra 45 min. to an hour of my trip. Do you have any idea as to why it's been so smooth this summer? Whatever they're doing, I hope they keep it up because I'm no longer cursing the state as I drive to Jersey (or back to D.C.)

Dr. Gridlock: I envy your good experience and hope it continues. Here's some news about the construction in Delaware from the state department of transportation.

I-66 Congestion
I've heard from several people lately about congestion on the interstate. This continues that theme from the online discussion that began with a traveler curious about why traffic seemed so heavy on 66, even as we enter vacation season.

Arlington, Va.: The problem on I-66 in that with only two lanes, it's impossible to pass during peak hours (weekends and morning/afternoon rush). Often, a single driver can tie up traffic for a mile or two. I'm a reverse commuter, and driving through Arlington neighborhoods, or on the GW Parkway, is normally easier than taking I-66.

Traffic, I-66 and rain: I live off the Sycamore St. exit, and I've noticed that when it rains or a thunderstorm threatens, traffic is off-the-charts-bad. Perhaps people leave early, or there are fewer Metro riders (people opt for their own cars when rain is forecast). The cheaters are present, but there are often 2 per car, as well, so it's just heavy traffic. Often I have to bail at Glebe Rd. and take local roads to my destination. Since we had such a rainy June, I'm not surprised that traffic has been so bad.

66 Solution: It's not going to happen, but 66 REALLY needs to be three lanes each direction all the way into/out of the city and onramps need a good 1/4 mile of merge space ... and NO full lane should ever become an exit lane (Washington Blvd). These lane drops and adds are terrible with today's volume.


Clifton, Va.: I take I66 to Ballston from 7100 and I leave at 530 a.m. and am on I66 by 5:37. I have not noticed any increase in traffic in the mornings. If anything, there is a slight decrease because there is less traffic inbound made up of construction workers etc. I am in my parking garage at 5:55 a.m.

Vienna, Va.: In my experience, people aren't shifting off of 123 or Rt 50 to get to Fairfax Co. I'm not buying it. Route 50 West is as busy as ever.

Dr. Gridlock: What's been your experience on the roads so far this summer? Have you shifted routes because there's now less traffic on the route you'd prefer to take?

Bus Warning
Fairfax, Va.: I was walking down Connecticut Avenue last week and passed a stopped Metrobus. I couldn't help but notice the (very small) sticker advising of the DC law prohibiting right turns in front of a stopped bus. It's located on the right rear of the bus (i.e., the curb side). I then looked for the sticker on other buses and noticed that it's always on the right side.
What dunce at WMATA came up with this one? If they want to advise drivers that it's illegal to turn right in front of the bus, then the sticker needs to be (a) large enough to see and (b) more importantly, located on the LEFT side of the bus, because the driver is going to pass the bus on the left in order to make the turn!

Dr. Gridlock: It is a very small sign, and would be hard to spot among the other messages no matter which side of the bus it's on. The D.C. pedestrian safety law says that you can't swing around a stopped bus and turn in front of it.

I'm not sure what Metro should do about the sign, but if a driver is coming up in the left lane and a bus is stopped momentarily in the right lane, then it shouldn't take a sign to tell the driver that it's a bad idea to turn in front of the bus.


By Robert Thomson  |  July 7, 2008; 2:31 PM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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Next: Final Sessions on D.C. Pedestrian Plan

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