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The Year in Transportation

Here's a look at some of the transportation-related news, events, and projects that affected where you worked and commuted this year. Below, vote in our poll for the biggest story.

The Roundup

Happy New Year: The largest fare and fee increases in Metro's history went into effect on Sunday, Jan. 6. Subway riders paid as much as 75 cents more a trip. The rush-hour boarding charge increased 30 cents, and the fare for seniors and people with disabilities increased to half of the rush-hour fare, no matter the time of day. Bus fares went up a dime for those paying with cash but remained $1.25 for those using SmarTrip cards.

Gas prices reached a record national average of more than $4 a gallon in June. (Scott Olson/Getty)

Gas Prices Skyrocket, Plummet: Gas prices peaked over the summer as the national average topped $4 a gallon; the highest recorded average for the greater Washington region was $4.09 a gallon July 10, according to AAA. (By comparison, the highest recorded average nationally for regular unleaded gas was $4.11 on July 17.) Gas prices began to plummet not long after, with the Washington region averaging $1.66 a gallon last week.

District Cabs Go Metered: The city's long-running dispute over whether taxicabs should use a zone system or meters ended this summer; after June 1, it was illegal for the city's more than 6,000 cab drivers to use the old zone system. (Check out our taxi fare estimator).

Metro Sets a Record: On July 11, Metro had its highest ridership day ever -- 854,638 trips taken. That surpassed June 9, 2004, the date of Ronald Reagan's funeral, when ridership totaled 850,636.

Fans cheer at Nationals Stadium Sept. 15, 2008. (Toni L. Sandys/Washington Post)

Baseball + Commuters = Disaster? Nationals Park opened March 30 in the District. The new stadium held 81 home games (almost half of them on weeknights) and hosted the pope April 17, and yet the combination of commuters and Nats/Pope fans worked out.

New Transit Lines, Part I: The Purple Line remains controversial amid debates over what type of transit it will be (light rail or bus?) and where exactly to build it (the future of the Georgetown Branch Trail has become the most contentious issue in Montgomery County's debate about the line). There were four hearings last month on the state's draft "alternative analysis," with public comments still being accepted until Jan. 14 (visit for more information). Stay tuned: Maryland officials have said Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) will decide next year on the route and mode.

New Transit Lines, Part II: The Dulles rail project had quite a year, almost perishing before rising to the brink of final approval. To wit: Crews began utility relocation along Route 7 in Tysons Corner on Jan. 18 in advance of Metro's projected 2013 arrival, just days before federal officials said the government would not fund the Metro extension without drastic changes. This prompted 11 months of frantic activity that culminated this month in federal regulators approving the extension of Metro to Tysons and Dulles International Airport. With the Federal Transit Agency's approval of the first leg of the rail line, the project is practically guaranteed federal funding.

A view of Wilson Bridge as it neared completion in October. (Ricky Carioti/Washington Post)

Wilson Bridge Changes: The Woodrow Wilson Bridge opened four new "thru" lanes this month, which skip a couple of exits. If congestion develops, project managers can adjust the speed limit signs along the Beltway.

Random Bag Searches: Metro announced in October that it would begin random searches of backpacks, purses and other bags.

The Ice Storm (a.k.a. "Proof Mother Nature Doesn't Want You To Vote"): The Potomac Primary on Feb. 12 -- when the District, Maryland and Virginia held their presidential primaries -- was accompanied by an ice storm at rush hour that crippled the region. More than 300 traffic incidents occurred, about 50 injuries were reported in the region and many voters were stymied in their efforts to get to the polls.

-- By Mark Berman (with a hat tip to Robert Thomson, Lena Sun, Eric M. Weiss and Amy Gardner.)

Projects in Maryland

Courtesy of the Maryland State Highway Administration, here are some projects that finished this year -- and some that began in 2008. (Remember that many large projects began in 2007 and are still underway.)

Montgomery County
What: Route 355 (Rockville Pike)
What Is It? Interchange construction at Montrose/Randolph roads.

Anne Arundel County
What: Route 295 (Baltimore Washington Parkway)
What Is It? Widening and reconstruction from Interstate 695 (Baltimore Beltway) to Interstate 195

Prince George's County
What: Interstate 95/Interstate 495 (Capital Beltway)
What Was It? Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement. The seven-year project cost $2.4 billion.

Frederick County
What: Interstate 270
What was it? Bridge replacement over Dr. Perry Road.

Projects in Virginia

Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation, here are some projects that finished this year, as well as some that began in 2008. (Remember that many large projects that started pre-2008 are ongoing.)

What: Dulles Rail
What Is It? See above.

What: HOT Lanes
What Is It? Adding toll lanes to the Capital Beltway (I-495) between Springfield and a point past the Dulles Toll Road exit.

What: Route 29 over Broad Run at Buckland
What Was It? Tearing down and rebuilding the bridge over Broad Run in Buckland, using a modular bridge-building method to save time and ease congestion.

What: Little River Turnpike intersection improvements
What Was It? Intersection improvements that included traffic islands and turn lanes along Little River Turnpike in Annandale.


By Mike McPhate  |  December 31, 2008; 12:23 PM ET
Categories:  Events , Metro , Stadium , Transportation Politics , Wilson Bridge  
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