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Highway Signs in Maryland Cause Confusion

Many people have asked me about the variable message boards they see along the Maryland highways that say "Bus Only Into DC" on Inauguration Day.

That's just not true. Now, leaving your car at home on Tuesday is an outstanding idea. You'll be doing yourself and others a great service. Take a bus to a Metrorail station, or a bus to a bus. Don't drive.

But the fact is, Maryland and the District have not closed their borders to cars. If they thought that was a good idea, they should have done it.

Putting up those signs just confuses drivers. It may confuse some into doing the right thing, and planning an alternative way of getting to central Washington. But others, it's just going to confuse.

At no point, has a publicly announced plan stated that the roads leading from Maryland into the District would be open only to buses. Authorities have said that, at any time, they could close off a roadway or a ramp if they think travel conditions have become unsafe.

David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, told me this was the logic behind the display on the variable message signs:

The District has set aside 10,000 parking spaces for buses, he said in an e-mail. "There are zero spaces reserved for other vehicles. The messaging on our VMS needs to be very strong. The reality is, as a result of the widespread road closures in the District, and the fact Virginia has restricted their river crossing to buses/taxis/limos, etc., people cannot entertain the possibility of driving into the District from Maryland."

Transit must be the first, second and third option, he said. The American Legion and Wilson bridges are going to see tens of thousands of extra vehicles tomorrow. Driving on the Capital Beltway is going to be very difficult.

I think that prediction for Tuesday is right on, and that's what people should pay attention to, not misleading signs.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 19, 2009; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  Inauguration  
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