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Get There: August 3, 2008 - August 9, 2008

Maryland Plans to Fix New Beltway Ramp

The Maryland State Highway Administration has announced a plan to ease congestion on its new ramp from the Capital Beltway to southbound Branch Avenue (Route 5). The ramp, centerpiece of a $52 million reconstruction of that busy interchange in Prince George's County, has troubled drivers since it opened last Friday. The ramp lanes will no longer merge here, before Branch Avenue. (Thomson) The fix: By Monday morning, both the inner and outer loop ramps will have their own lanes extending onto southbound Branch Avenue. At the point where drivers merge onto Branch Avenue, it will consist of two through lanes and two ramp lanes. All four lanes will continue beyond the end of the ramp for about a half mile, where the outside lane will drop off and merge left near Linda Lane. For that new setup to work, SHA will reduce southbound Branch Avenue from three through lanes to...

By Robert Thomson  |  August 8, 2008; 1:56 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Advisories , Commuting , Congestion , Construction , Driving  
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The Weekend and Beyond

Some travel tips for the weekend, and information about upcoming events: Metrorail Delays Switch replacement work on the Red Line at Friendship Heights and track maintenance on the Orange and Green lines will create delays as trains share a single track to get around the work zones. See the details here on Metro's Web site. Metro managers are developing plans to better organize the maintenance work and get more of it done on weeknights, but there's still likely to be weekend work involving projects that can't be cleaned up in time for morning rush hours. Switch replacements are an example. Bus Detours Some Saturday events in the District will force detours on a few Metrobus routes. See the details here. Redskins Game Saturday It's at 7 p.m. at FedEx Field in Landover, just off the Capital Beltway. Taking Metro to games is always a good idea, but note that this...

By Robert Thomson  |  August 8, 2008; 12:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Branch Avenue Blues

Dear Dr. Gridlock: On Aug. 1, the Maryland State Highway Administration opened a new flyover ramp from the inner loop of the Capital Beltway to southbound Branch Avenue (Route 5). The new ramp was supposed to ease congestion and eliminate the difficult merge at the Branch Avenue/Beltway interchange. Signs ahead say, "Form Single Lane" as ramp traffic merges. (Thomson) However, conditions have been made worse. To give you an overview of the problem: Originally the inner loop and outer loop ramps onto southbound Branch Avenue had separate merge points. There used to be a line which formed at the off ramp for Branch Avenue and spilled onto the shoulder of the inner loop. The queue for this ramp would be about 1/4 mile long. There would be no delay on the outer loop. Now with the new traffic pattern, both loops have the same merge point onto southbound Branch Avenue....

By Robert Thomson  |  August 8, 2008; 10:22 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Congestion , Construction , Driving  
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Virginia Extending Shoulder Use on I-66

Virginia's traffic is worsening, and if the state can't build its way out of congestion, it can get more use out of the road it already has: The Virginia Department of Transportation this month will extend the hours during which drivers can spread out and use the I-66 shoulder lanes between the Capital Beltway and Route 50. The plan will add an hour of shoulder use in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, starting Aug. 25. Right now, morning use eastbound ends at 10 a.m. and afternoon use westbound starts at 3 p.m. These will be the new times: 5:30 to 11 a.m. eastbound; 2 to 8 p.m. westbound. VDOT also plans to open the shoulder during traffic incidents or when lanes are closed for road work. HOV-2 hours will stay the same: Eastbound, 5:30 to 9:30 a.m.; westbound, 3 to 7 p.m. This section of I-66 outside...

By Robert Thomson  |  August 8, 2008; 6:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (37)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion , Driving , highways  
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Foggy Bottom Escalator Update

While roaming around the Orange Line on Wednesday morning, I stopped off at Foggy Bottom Station, Metro's eighth busiest, to check on crowding at the escalators. This was a problem one morning last week, when riders had a long wait on the mezzanine and then a long walk up a stopped escalator. Lining up at escalator. (Thomson) Foggy Bottom has three escalators in the bank, but on the morning of July 28, one was out of service, one was stopped and one was carrying passengers down, hence the crowding to get up. At about 8 a.m. Wednesday, it was no where near as bad as on July 28, when the crowding became the subject of a video. On Wednesday, one escalator was out of service, one was moving down and one was moving up. (The one under repair will be out till September.) The line to go up lengthened and...

By Robert Thomson  |  August 7, 2008; 1:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Metro  
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No More Metrobus Shuttles to FedEx Field

Dear Dr. Gridlock: Have you heard the story about the federal bureaucrat who derailed a long-running and extremely effective mass transit program that cut down traffic and saved energy for Redskins fans going to FedEx Field? Well, that's exactly what DOT has done by requiring the Metro station to FedEx Field bus transit scheme to be put out for competitive bid. I don't know all the details, but it appears to be a high form of federal nincompoopery that will affect not only Redskins fans but also anyone else trying to negotiate Prince George's County on a Game Day. Grayson Heffner North Potomac Yep. Couldn't have put it better. New U.S. Department of Transportation rules to encourage use of local charter bus services have knocked Metrobus out of the running for special events services. No more low-cost shuttles to the annual air show at Andrews Air Force Base. No more...

By Robert Thomson  |  August 7, 2008; 10:36 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  Events , Metro  
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Orange Line Travelogue

As Dr. Gridlock, I don't commute. Soon as I put the key in the ignition or pay the fare, I'm at work. Part of my job, as the Dear Abbey of Traffic, is to share your pain out there. Orange Line, Wednesday, 6:52 a.m.: Got on board a downtown-bound train at West Falls Church. Things were going well at that point. I'd parked on the second level in the garage, taking one of about 2,000 all-day spaces at the station. ($4.50 per day, payable by SmarTrip card only.) Just two stops from the start of the line, the train car already was filling with standees. And we could hear a platform announcement about delays ahead, because of a switch problem at Foggy Bottom. This wouldn't prove to be a major delay, but it did add 10 minutes to the scheduled 28 minute trip to Federal Center SW. During the trip,...

By Robert Thomson  |  August 7, 2008; 7:42 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion , Metro  
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A Short Hiatus

Starting at noon today, we'll be taking a break from posting here and turning off comments for approximately 24 hours. This is to allow for scheduled software upgrades and other maintenance. We appreciate your readership and feedback, and look forward to hearing from you again tomorrow....

By Washington Post Editors  |  August 5, 2008; 9:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Weekend Detours on Route 29 in Prince William

Sumerduck, Va.: I saw one of those flashing signs that said the intersection of Rt 15 and 29 in Gainesville would be closed starting 8/9. What does that mean exactly -- that we can't get onto 15 there? Where can I find out information on this? Also saw signs saying roundabouts are coming. Ugh! Thanks. Here's the answer to that question I couldn't get to during Monday's online discussion. Southbound Route 29 in western Prince William County will be closed on three weekends in August and September so the Virginia Department of Transportation can install a new deck on the bridge over Broad Run in Buckland. The bridge is about a half-mile southwest of Route 15 near the Fauquier County line. The detour around the work could add as much as a half hour to travel times for southbound motorists. But northbound traffic on Route 29 is not affected by...

By Robert Thomson  |  August 5, 2008; 6:26 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Advisories , Construction , Weekend Work  
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Gas Prices Changing Driver Behavior?

A new study from the University of Michigan suggests that the decline in traffic deaths nationwide might be more than simply a function of the fact that people are driving less. Drivers also may be changing their behavior, says Michael Sivak, research professor and head of the Human Factors Division at the university's Transportation Research Institute. His study finds that numerical declines in gasoline sales and miles driven may not fully account for the reduction in crash fatalities. The decline in traffic deaths has outpaced the drop in gas sales and number of miles driven since at least last year, Sivak finds. And the change was especially noticeable in early spring. Nationwide gas sales decreased about 3 percent in March and 1 percent in April and estimated miles driven fell about 4 percent and 2 percent in those months. But motor vehicle deaths declined 22 percent in March and 18...

By Robert Thomson  |  August 4, 2008; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Driving  
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Temporary Closures in Foggy Bottom

Around the big construction site off Washington Circle and near Foggy Bottom Station: Construction plans at the 2200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW site of the old George Washington Hospital call for controlled blasting on some weekdays starting this month. This is not unusual in excavations, but precautions are taken to ensure safety. Effect on travelers: Sidewalks will be closed for brief periods before and during each blast.Temporary street closures may also occur immediately preceding a blast depending on its location. You can read more details about the construction here....

By Robert Thomson  |  August 4, 2008; 8:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Detours Start on Two Commuter Routes

Drivers will find detours in place today on the E Street Expressway in the District and the Clara Barton Parkway in Montgomery County where ramps are closed for repair. E Street Expressway The District Department of Transportation is beginning repairs to the ramp leading from the expressway to westbound I-66 on Monday. The repairs are scheduled to take about three weeks. All the bridge joints will be replaced and the deck will be reconditioned with a concrete overlay. Detour: Follow directions to the northbound Potomac River Freeway, then go left onto 27th Street NW, then make an immediate left onto southbound Potomac River Freeway, then get onto westbound I-66. Clara Barton Parkway Maryland's State Highway Administration is closing and repairing the bridge that takes westbound traffic from the parkway onto the southbound Capital Beltway heading for Virginia. Drivers will use a detour for about 10 weeks. The diversion should add...

By Robert Thomson  |  August 4, 2008; 5:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Advisories  
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