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Get There: April 5, 2009 - April 11, 2009

Md. Drivers Should Watch the Camera Program

The Maryland House of Delegates has joined the state Senate in passing the speed camera bill, which Gov. Martin O'Malley supports. See story by Rosalind Helderman. The pilot program in Montgomery County has worked quite well during the past two years, and this bill to extend the cameras statewide in school zones and road work zones seems quite reasonable in concept. But it may still need some fine tuning after people see how individual jurisdictions set up their operations. Specifically, are the cameras really in school zones and is the money from fines going to traffic safety programs? Lon Anderson of AAA Mid-Atlantic, a supporter of the legislation, raised those issues earlier this week. He says that if it turns out jurisdictions use the cameras to raise money for their general funds rather than to curb speeding, then there's always next year in the General Assembly....

By Robert Thomson  |  April 10, 2009; 5:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Driving  
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Red Line Trains Slow Near Friendship Heights

Dear Dr. Gridlock: All week, the Red Line trains have slowed to a near crawl from Bethesda to Friendship Heights. I've checked the Metro web site but it doesn't give any indication. My first guess is that it's because of the recent derailment at Bethesda. But, the slow down is considerably closer to Friendship Heights than Bethesda. Besides, they spent what seemed like days fixing the broken track. Any word from Metro as to the cause and how long we can expect it to continue? Curt Janota Montgomery County You know your trains. Yes, they have been running more slowly near Friendship Heights, because Metro discovered what spokesman Steven Taubenkibel describes as "a very minor defect in a location near the Friendship Heights station." It's not in the area where the rail defect caused two derailments by Bethsda Station and doesn't require an emergency fix and single tracking of trains....

By Robert Thomson  |  April 10, 2009; 4:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  
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Commuter Alert: Collapsed Plate on Conn. Ave. Fixed

D.C. officials have fixed a construction plate that collapsed into a hole dug for a utility project on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest after Porter Street....

By Washington Post Editors  |  April 10, 2009; 12:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Advisories  
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The Weekend and Beyond

Here are some suggestions about your travels this weekend and during the rest of April. Cherry Blossom Festival It ends this weekend. Metrorail has no track work scheduled for the weekend, because it wants to maintain the train schedule at such a crowded time. Riders will see some eight-car trains on the Red, Orange and Green lines from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to accommodate crowds. More Eight-Car Trains Coming Speaking of longer trains, watch for them starting Monday on the Red and Green lines. Metro is putting 20 more cars into service and that's where they'll show up. However, some of the 20 will be held in reserve in case other trains break down. Nationals Open Monday Those extra train cars are just in time for opening day at Nationals Park. The ball game against the Phillies starts at 3:05 p.m. Monday. Traffic at the stadium did not turn...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 10, 2009; 10:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Commuter Alert: Traffic Lights Out Near Mall

A power outage has knocked out multiple traffic lights along The Mall at 14th, 15th, and 16th streets and Constitution Avenue. Lights are also out at 14th Street and Madison Drive, and at 15th Street at Madison and Jefferson. Temporary stop signs are up....

By Washington Post Editors  |  April 10, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Metro Adding Cars on Red, Green Lines

That's 20 more altogether. Starting Monday, about half the trains on the Green Line will be eight-cars long during peak periods. That should help during baseball season -- the Nats home opener is Monday -- when the line brings fans to Navy Yard Station. The 20 cars are being used this way: Three trains each on the Red and Green lines become eight cars long. The rest of the new cars are held in reserve to form gap trains. They enter service when another train breaks down, or crowding requires an extra train on a line. It's not just that Metro now has taken delivery of all 184 cars in the 6000 series, the newest style in the 850-car fleet. The transit authority also upgraded its power stations so it would have the juice to power them....

By Robert Thomson  |  April 9, 2009; 12:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Metro  
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Roundabout Way to Safer Driving

What's the best way to move traffic through an intersection? It may not be the way we're used to, with red and green lights denying or approving access. As the signal moves through its cycle there are many precious seconds when the intersection isn't doing its job: No vehicles are in it. Kenny Robinson of the Virginia Department of Transportation says there's a better way to move vehicles through certain junctions. He's working on such a project in Loudoun County: Constructing four roundabouts along Routes 50 and 15 in the Gilbert's Corner area. In a couple of weeks, I'll feature this project on the Commuter page in the Sunday Washington Post Metro section. But for now, here's the basic idea: Unlike a traditional intersection, a roundabout is moving traffic all the time. If the setup is working well, traffic slows but doesn't form the long line of stopped vehicles that...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 9, 2009; 11:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Driving  
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Next Week: Major Delays at Night Near Wilson Bridge

Starting next week, there will be a nightly series of lane and ramp closures around the Telegraph Road interchange as workers place steel beams for a new bridge ramp over the Capital Beltway. Setup for the work may begin as early as 9 p.m. The Variable Speed Limit system will be in use. Watch the speed limit signs, because they will change according to the level of congestion around the work zone. The closer drivers come to obeying the posted speed limits, the quicker and more safely they'll get through the area. The system's technology also allows drivers to look at the Wilson Bridge Project Web site before starting their trips to see how bad the congestion is likely to be. Once they're out in the traffic, drivers can look at the message boards to see time estimates on the delays getting through that corridor. Here's more information about the...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 9, 2009; 8:46 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Driving  
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Metro May Stay Up for Frozen Four

Some hockey fans have been worried they'll be frozen out of Metro if the second game of the NCAA Frozen Four tournament goes late tonight at Verizon Center. But Metro says it's prepared to run trains late if the game ends late. One thing to keep in mind is that Red, Green and Yellow Line trains -- the ones that stop at Gallery Place -- are likely to be crowded this afternoon and this evening. The first game starts at 5 p.m. and the second probably will get started at about 8:30 p.m. The transit authority says that if the second game ends shortly before or after midnight, Metrorail will remain open until 1 a.m. The trains on all three lines will be either six or eight cars long. The station entrance at 7th and F streets NW is the one that tends to get the most crowded. The other...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 9, 2009; 7:24 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Events , Metro  
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Wilson Bridge Delays After Distraught Man Apprehended

Update, 4:39 p.m.: All police activity has been cleared from the bridge. Delays continue on the Inner Loop after Route 210. Southbound 295 is slow from Suitland Parkway onto the Inner Loop. Original post, 4:08 p.m.: Expect delays on the Inner Loop of the Capital Beltway at Wilson Bridge after a man who was threatening to jump was taken into custody by police. Lanes were shut down for about 30 minutes during the incident, police said....

By Mike McPhate  |  April 8, 2009; 4:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , Congestion , Driving , Wilson Bridge  
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Backward Bridge Sign Will Be Fixed

In case you are as observant as this letter writer, don't worry: The new Beltway sign for the Wilson Bridge will be fixed before it is put in place. Good Morning Dr Gridlock: Approaching the Wilson Bridge from Maryland, there are three overhead signs that clearly inform drivers of the impending split in traffic to Thru and Local lanes. As one approaches the split in traffic, a fourth sign is being prepared for overhead installation. This sign, unfortunately, has the information about the split reversed. The sign, if erected as is, will list the Thru lanes as Local and the Local lanes as Thru. Can you imagine the last minute confusion and dangerous last second lane shifting that might occur? Paul D. Gleason Upper Marlboro Johanna Jones, spokeswoman for the Wilson Bridge Project, says Gleason saw true: Thru and Local were reversed on the sign. Project managers spoke to the...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 8, 2009; 2:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Driving  
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Riders Protest Metrobus Cuts

Mary Ann Daly of Bethesda is upset about the proposed Metrobus cuts I outlined on Sunday's Commuter page in The Post. She shared with me the testimony she has submitted to the transit authority in advance of next week's public hearings: Metro's proposal to reduce bus service drastically comes at a time when the public needs an increase in service to minimize congestion, emissions, and transportation costs. Better service would result in increased ridership and system income. Increased ridership would decrease car use, thus congestion and pollution. For the line I take to work, WMATA's "FY 2010 Metrobus Service Reduction Package" has "D5 MacArthur Blvd. - Georgetown Discontinue all service. Alternate routes: D6." But the D5 doesn't just serve MacArthur Blvd and Georgetown. It's a rush-hour route between outer Massachusetts Ave. in Bethesda, Sangamore Road, and Farragut Square. The proposed "alternate" D6 doesn't go into Maryland. Any alternative for Sangamore...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 8, 2009; 12:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Metro , transit  
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Night Noise Part of HOT Lanes Project

The particular situation described by this Northern Virginia resident is over now, but it illustrates one of the continuing issues involved in construction of the High Occupancy/Toll lanes along the Capital Beltway. Dear Dr. Gridlock:  I have not slept at night from exactly 12:05 to 3 a.m. in the past 4 weeks due to the removal of the Braddock Road and I-495 bridge. The machine they are using to demolish it shakes the ground so violently items are falling off my walls. The noise is so loud, the ear plugs and three fans cannot cover it up. Dr. Gridlock as you probably already know, thousands of people are being impacted by this, just how much can VDOT do with total disregard of the public? RJ Jewell North Springfield Project managers tell me they go door to door to tell residents when demolition of the Beltway bridges is going to require...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 8, 2009; 11:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Driving  
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Repaving on K Street NW This Month

The work, which also includes sidewalk repair, is between 12th and 18th streets in the middle of Washington. There will be some lane closures, though the milling and paving will be done at night. The scheduled completion date is May 15. Look for parking restriction signs, which should be posted at least 72 hours in advance, the District Department of Transportation says. Here's a map of that area. View Larger Map...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 8, 2009; 9:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Driving  
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Watch for Springtime Work Zones

Some of the big projects across the Washington region are moving into highly visible phases as the weather warms. Along Route 123 and Route 7 in Tysons, drivers will see more of the HOT lanes and the Metrorail extension projects. In Maryland, work is well underway on the Intercounty Connector, and Interstate 95 traffic seems to slow as it enters the slight lane shifts in that work area. In the District, drivers are slowed to a crawl by the reconstruction of Benning Road. Everywhere, crews are out filling potholes and rebuilding sidewalks. The smaller jobs often leave the workers more vulnerable to traffic, because they aren't protected by concrete barriers. The District Department of Transportation, noting that this is National Work Zone Awareness Week, says drivers will soon see signs on the main roads and bridges into the District and on approaches to road projects to make sure they know...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 8, 2009; 8:14 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Driving  
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Advisory: Farragut West Metro Station Entrance Reopened

The 17th and I Street entrance of the Farragut West Metro Station has been reopened after authorities dealt with a report of a suspicious package....

By Washington Post Editors  |  April 8, 2009; 7:58 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Advisories  
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The Long and Short of Metro's Train Stops

The cherry blossom festival and lots of sports events put large crowds on Metro trains this weekend. It turned out to be the third highest Saturday and fourth highest Sunday ridership in the transit authority's history. There will be more to come as the Nationals start their home season at Nationals Park next Monday. We had a lengthy discussion about Metro train cars and platforms that I couldn't complete in Monday's online discussion. Here are a couple of comments I didn't get to publish yesterday, followed by my responses: Silver Spring, Md.: Where on the platform should a 4, 6 or 8 car train stop? If we rely solely on the operator, cars will sometimes get stopped in the tunnel. If only we had automatic controls that would stop the train in the right place! (We do, but it's turned off. LOL!) I love it when WMATA "solves" a problem...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 7, 2009; 8:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Metro  
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Many Concerned About Speed Cameras

And not just about getting caught. I said in Sunday's Dr. Gridlock column that if the rest of Maryland gets the kind of program now operated by Montgomery County, drivers could feel confident in the integrity of the program. Lon Anderson of AAA Mid-Atlantic who is often speaking up on behalf of travelers in our region called to say that he supports the idea of expanding the program statewide to school zones and road work sites, but has some concerns. Anderson separates camera programs into two categories: The ones that are concerned with safety and the ones that are concerned with raising money. He supports the former and condemns the latter. Montgomery County is a decent example of the former, while Chevy Chase and the District would represent the latter, he says. Marylanders need to pay attention to the bill working its way through the General Assembly. Anderson says it...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 6, 2009; 4:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Safety , Transportation Politics  
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Live Discussion at Noon

Please join me at a new time today, noon, for an online chat about our local transportation issues. Use this link to reach the live discussion and this one if you'd like to submit a comment or question in advance. Is the speed camera program a revenue generator? It certainly is a letter generator. I wrote a column on Sunday saying that I was impressed with the Montgomery County program after seeing the way its leaders responded to a $40 citation sent out in error last year. Also, I've watched traffic slow down before and after the speed camera in front of the school on Wayne Avenue, citing that as evidence of behavior modification. Got a lot of letters about that. Here's one. Dear Dr. Gridlock: Twenty years ago while approaching Georgetown, Delaware I received my first and only speeding ticket issued by a police officer. In the last few...

By Robert Thomson  |  April 6, 2009; 10:06 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Advisories  
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