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Get There: October 18, 2009 - October 24, 2009

Is this train jerky, or is it just me?

Katherine Shaver's story about people who get queasy aboard Metro trains leaves some readers saying: This is a train, not a library. But many people who read this blog have complained about all the stopping and starting as trains enter stations under manual control. Part of the problem is that the trains were meant to operate automatically, with electronics controlling the stopping and starting. But since the June 22 crash on the Red Line, the trains have been under the control of their operators. Metro told Shaver that another issue is the new combination of rail cars that places the oldest cars -- the least crash-resistant -- in the center of the trains throughout the system. Mixing them up like this can put the braking systems slightly out of sync, Metro said. The complaints I receive about train operations have fallen off dramatically since the Red Line got back to...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 23, 2009; 1:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Metro , Safety  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail, Red Line crash  
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The weekend and beyond

The big event of the weekend is the Sunday marathon, but you'll also want to know about Metro maintenance delays and upcoming roadwork across the region. [I post this guide every Friday, so if you think there's a big traffic or transit event I'm not including, let me know.] Marine Corps Marathon The annual marathon starts at 8 a.m. Sunday, but many important streets, roadways and bridges will be blocked from 4 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and congestion is likely to ripple out from the marathon area. Police reserve the right to expand the list as needed. The run starts at Arlington Cemetery, crosses into the District, then returns to Arlington for a finish at the Iwo Jima memorial. Here's a printable map of the course. Metrorail is going to open two hours early, at 5 a.m. on Sunday. Metrobuses that normally use the Pentagon Transit Center will be relocated...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 23, 2009; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, The Weekend and Beyond  
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DC to start project at New York/Florida avenues

Among the difficult points on a difficult commute in the New York Avenue corridor, the zone where New York Avenue, Florida Avenue, Eckington Place and First Street blend stands out. It's got a bad case of the slows for people coming from all directions. Next week, the District Department of Transportation is scheduled to start a $3.8 million project designed to fix circulation and traffic safety problems in that Northeast Washington area. It's one of five New York Avenue corridor projects that should ultimately help the commute. But meanwhile, the overall construction impact is likely to be significant. The District has a new Web site for information about the overall plan: www.fixingnewyorkave.com The work scheduled to start next week is scheduled to last eight months. It includes resurfacing of streets, realignment of the curbs, upgrading of street lighting and traffic signals, new landscaping, rebuilding sidewalks, pedestrian islands and medians. New...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 23, 2009; 8:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion , Construction , Driving  | Tags: DDOT, District Department of Transportation, Dr. Gridlock, New York Avenue  
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Today's read: Metro to test safety software

Crash avoidance system: Metro has developed software that it hopes can be a backup for the system that is supposed to prevent train crashes. After the June 22 Red Line crash, federal investigators said the transit authority's system was inadequate and needed a backup. (Lena H. Sun) General Manager John B. Catoe said Wednesday night that he had no estimate on when the train system might return to automatic control. Since the crash, trains have been under the control of their operators, rather than moved by the automated system as they were designed to do. That sometimes makes for a rougher ride, but Catoe continues to believe it's safer for now. He said the National Transportation Safety Board still has not determined the cause of the crash. But it is known that train controls failed to prevent it. Meanwhile, Metro continues daily checks on its track circuitry....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 23, 2009; 8:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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Headaches on the horizon

Metro Weekend Delays They start Friday night on the Red and Orange lines. Red Line riders between Friendship Heights and Van Ness should add at least half an hour to their normal travel time from 9:30 p.m. Friday to the train system's midnight closing on Sunday. Orange Line riders between East Falls Church and Ballston should add at least 20 minutes to trips during the same time period. Tysons Ramp Closing Crews working on the Dulles Rail project will close the exit ramp from the eastbound Dulles Connector Road (Route 267) to northbound Dolley Madison Boulevard (Route 123) between midnight tonight and 5 a.m. Friday. The workers will be setting barriers along the shoulder of Route 123 to prepare for construction of the elevated rail line. Detour: Take the ramp to southbound Route 123 and use the traffic signal to get onto the northbound lanes of 123....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 22, 2009; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , Construction , Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the Horizon  
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Twelfth Street NW reopens

UPDATE (5:40 p.m.): Twelfth Street NW has reopened and traffic is returning to normal. Police officials said the suspicious package was a flowerpot placed on a sidewalk. Twelfth Street NW between Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues is closed this afternoon, while authorities investigate a report of a suspicious package, The Post's Clarence Williams reports from the scene. The closure is causing backups and delays in the area, and motorists should avoid that stretch of road. The investigation began about 4:40 p.m....

By Michael Bolden  |  October 22, 2009; 5:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Advisories , Congestion  
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Metro adding service for Monday night football

The Morgan Boulevard Metrorail station will be open beyond the regular midnight close Monday night to take fans home from the football game at FedEx Field. No other stations will be open for people to enter, but if you're on one of those Blue Line trains from Morgan Boulevard, you will be able to transfer to other trains on your way home. The last Blue Line train from Morgan Boulevard in the direction of Franconia-Springfield will leave at 12:27 a.m. But if the game goes into OT, Metro says it will keep operating to get people home. There will be extra trains anyway to handle the crowds at Morgan Boulevard, which is the closest station to FedEx Field. The stadium is a little less than a mile north of the station. Drivers who park at Morgan Boulevard, which has 635 spaces, or at Largo, which has 2,200, will have to...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 22, 2009; 1:51 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Events , Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, FedEx Field, Redskins  
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Metro urged to avoid service cuts, find more money

The most obvious place to make big cuts in the transit authority budget is in MetroAccess, the service for disabled riders. It's the most heavily subsidized of Metro's services, its growth is out of control, and the transit authority exceeds the service requirements set in federal law. Yes, it's obvious. Until riders who are in wheelchairs, who are blind or who are frail begin to tell their stories about how MetroAccess connects them with the world. Without it, they'd be shut in their homes. They'd certainly have to quit their jobs and severely limit their social contacts. Then you start to visualize people like Ann Pimley of Fairfax sitting at home when they would otherwise be out making a big contribution to their community, and you wonder if you'll be thinking about that every time you save a dime on your fare card. "People have made life decisions based on...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 22, 2009; 8:49 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Metro , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metro budget, Metrobus, Metrorail  
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Today's read: How much support for tolls?

Panel wants to study public support for tolls: The Washington area's governments are turning to tolls as a way to fund new road projects, such as the Intercounty Connector in Maryland and the high-occupancy toll lanes under construction on the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia. But proposals to charge motorists for using existing roads have been controversial. (Katherine Shaver) I can save them some money on this study: If it means no increase in the gas tax, people will support the imposition of tolls, as long as the roads they drive aren't the ones getting tolled....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 22, 2009; 7:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Driving  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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Headaches on the horizon

VDOT map shows the closed ramp and the detour onto Route 123 north from Route 267. Ramp Closing in Tysons Crews working on the Dulles Rail project will close the exit ramp from the eastbound Dulles Connector Road (Route 267) to northbound Dolley Madison Boulevard (Route 123) between midnight Thursday night and 5 a.m. Friday. The workers will be setting barriers along the shoulder of Route 123 to prepare for construction of the elevated rail line. Detour: Take the ramp to southbound Route 123 and use the traffic signal to get onto the northbound lanes of 123....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 21, 2009; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the Horizon  
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Metro leaders talk with Northern Virginians tonight

Tonight's forum to explore concerns about Metro's future is sponsored by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, of which Chris Zimmerman is chairman. He's also a member of the Metro board and of the Arlington County Council. The session is at George Mason High School, 7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. It starts with an open house at 6:30 p.m., followed by a meeting at 7 p.m. in which Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. will outline Metro's money needs and some possible solutions. Then there will be a discussion. Metro board member Catherine Hudgins, also a Fairfax County supervisor, will be there too. Drivers, it's best to park near Entrance 15. The nearest Metrorail stations is West Falls Church. Here's a map of the high school location: View Larger Map...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 21, 2009; 2:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metro budget  
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Maryland highway lights under repair

During our weekly online discussion on Monday, a reader asked this: "Why does it take so long for the light bulbs to be replaced in street lights? Specifically, the ramp to go to 295 from Indian Head Hwy (210 North). All the lights are out!" It wasn't a bunch of burnt out bulbs, says David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. An electrical control cabinet in that area was struck a few weeks ago during a crash. The damage knocked out some of the overhead lights. The cabinet is being replaced, Buck says....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 21, 2009; 10:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Driving , highways  | Tags: Capital Beltway, Dr. Gridlock, Wilson Bridge project  
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DC launching round of talks on streetcars

Travelers along Benning Road NE have been asking about the installation of streetcar tracks in the construction zone. One commenter during my online discussion Monday wondered about this: "I don't understand why DC is putting street cars in the middle of Benning Road. It covers maybe 6 blocks. ... Is there a plan to further expand street car service? I'm also concerned about safety. The cars are in the middle of 4 (or 6) lanes of highway. How are people supposed to get on and off the cars without causing huge traffic disruptions?" Have I got a forum for you. The District Department of Transportation has set up a series of discussions across the city to talk about its ambitious plans for a network of streetcars. Whether we'll all be around to ride these things might be among your questions. The first project, a 1.5 mile line in Anacostia, is...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 21, 2009; 9:18 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, streetcars  
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Today's read: Dulles toll could rise in January

Dulles Toll Road Increase: Members of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board will act at committee meetings today on a staff recommendation that backs higher rates. The full board is likely to take up the increases Nov. 4. They could go into effect in January. The plan would increase tolls from 75 cents to $1.50 at the main gate and from 50 to 75 cents at ramps by 2012.(Sholnn Freeman)...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 21, 2009; 7:56 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Commuting , Driving  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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Headaches on the horizon

Beltway Shutdown Tuesday Night You night owls should stay away from the southwestern part of the Capital Beltway in Virginia. The inner loop is scheduled to be closed about a quarter mile before and after Gallows Road (Exit 51). The three left lanes on the outer loop will be closed during the same hours. Workers again will be lifting steel beams into place for a new bridge at Gallows Road that is part of the HOT lanes project. The inner loop lane closings are scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m. All lanes will shut from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Detour: From the inner loop, up the Gallows Road exit ramp through the traffic signal at the top of the ramp and back to the Beltway. Telegraph Road Closing of northbound and southbound Telegraph Road, which had been scheduled for tonight, has been rescheduled for Wednesday from 11 p.m. to...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 20, 2009; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the Horizon  
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Traffic alert: Brentwood Road closed

A construction crew working near Brentwood Road NE struck an underground gas line, forcing the temporary closing of the road from Rhode Island Avenue to Saratoga Avenue, the District Department of Transportation says. It's likely to remain closed into the afternoon rush. The section of road closed is a short stretch, but it Brentwood is a commuter link between Rhode Island Avenue and New York Avenue as well as an access route for the neighborhood. Saratoga Avenue can serve as a detour to and from Rhode Island Avenue, or drivers in the neighborhood can go south across the 9th Street Bridge to reach New York Avenue, DDOT says. Here's a map of that area: View Larger Map...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 20, 2009; 3:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , Congestion , Driving  
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Interesting case on driver rights and public safety

I think this story of a Virginia court case will be of interest to travelers who would like to see more of a law enforcement response to phone calls reporting bad driving behavior. The story by Robert Barnes describes the response of Chief Justice John Roberts to the decision by his fellow Supremes against reviewing the 2005 case. it began when Richmond police pulled over a driver whom they suspected of driving drunk. The suspicion was based on an anonymous tip. The driver failed a sobriety test, according to court papers, and was later convicted of drunk driving. The Virginia Supreme Court overturned the conviction, ruling that police did not have reasonable cause to stop him because they had not seen him driving erratically. Travelers have written to my column urging police to either set up tip lines for drivers to call or to act more aggressively on calls from...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 20, 2009; 3:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Driving , Safety  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, law enforcement  
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New Maryland highway construction to close lanes

Here's the latest sign of the emerging Intercounty Connector: Starting in the very early hours of Monday morning, all lanes of Route 29 between Fairland Road and Briggs Chaney Road will be subject to short but complete shutdown. These 15-minute closings can occur Mondays through Fridays between midnight and 5 a.m. To prepare for the night's work, crews may close one lane between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and two lanes between 7 p.m. and midnight. The overnight closings will occur periodically through spring so that workers can set steel for the Intercounty Connector Bridge over Route 29. Consider Old Columbia Pike, to the west of Route 29, or I-95, to the east as alternatives during the shutdowns. On Route 29, look for the portable message boards to warn about these closings....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 20, 2009; 12:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Construction , intercounty connector  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Intercounty Connector  
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Many streets to close for Sunday marathon

The annual Marine Corps Marathon is this Sunday. Anytime we have an athletic event on a Saturday, I hear from plenty of drivers about the traffic disruptions. That was the case with last Saturday's Bike DC event. But the Sunday ones, like the Marine marathon seem much easier for people to handle. Still, many important streets and roadways will be blocked from 4 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, and congestion is likely to ripple out from the marathon area. Police reserve the right to expand the list as needed. The run starts at 8 a.m. in Arlington, crosses into the District, then returns to Arlington. Metrorail is going to open two hours early, at 5 a.m. on Sunday. Metrobuses that normally use the Pentagon Transit Center will be relocated to the Pentagon City Metrorail station between 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. So if you normally travel to the Pentagon Metrorail...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 20, 2009; 11:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Events  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Marine Corps Marathon  
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Today's Read: Metro looking for support, acceptance

Public dialogue starts: Metro riders took advantage of a public forum Monday night to vent to General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. and Metro board Chairman Jim Graham about unreliable buses and trains and even poorer customer service. (Lena H. Sun) There's another one of these Wednesday evening in Northern Virginia, at George Mason High School, 7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. The program, sponsored by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, will begin at 6:30 p.m....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 20, 2009; 10:59 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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Want to say something about ICC tolls?

So far, the Maryland Transportation Authority, the agency in charge of the state's toll roads, has held one public information session. There's another one coming up on Wednesday, then next week, the authority will hold two public hearings at which you can testify about the proposed rates for the Intercounty Connector, which the authority plans to set in December. Here's the schedule: Wednesday, 6 to 9 p.m., public information session, John F. Kennedy High School Cafeteria, 1901 Randolph Road, Silver Spring. Arrive any time between 6 and 9 to look at displays and speak to transportation authority staffers. This isn't the one where you can testify on the record. There's no formal presentation. The basic details about the proposed tolling rates are available through this link. Oct. 28, 6 to 9 p.m., public hearing, High Point High School, 3601 Powder Mill Road, Beltsville. Oct. 29, 6 to 9 p.m., Shady...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 20, 2009; 10:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  intercounty connector  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, ICC, Intercounty Connector, tolls  
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DC alerting drivers about NY Avenue work

The District Department of Transportation has launched a radio advertising campaign to warn drivers about upcoming work along New York Avenue between the Maryland line and Florida Avenue NE. Two projects already are underway, but three others will be starting soon. Two of those are particularly noteworthy: reconstruction of the New York Avenue Bridge over the railroad tracks and the redesign of the New York Avenue/Florida Avenue intersection. DDOT says it expects the effects on traffic will reach a peak next spring and continue into summer 2011. So just as we've seen with so many other high-impact projects in this decade, planners are urging drivers to consider alternative routes or take transit, unless they're retiring very soon. I'm sure we'll talk a lot more about this one, and I'll plan on doing a Commuter page soon to give you more details, but here are a couple of attention-getting highlights. DDOT...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 20, 2009; 8:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion , Construction , Driving  | Tags: District Department of Transportation, Dr. Gridlock, New York Avenue  
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Headaches on the horizon

Beltway Shutdown Postponed The Beltway's inner loop will be closed overnight Tuesday and Wednesday about a quarter mile before and after Gallows Road (Exit 51). Meanwhile, the three left lanes on the outer loop will be closed during the same hours. This originally was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, but tonight's work was postponed. Workers will be lifting steel beams into place for a new bridge at Gallows Road. This is part of the HOT lanes project. The inner loop lane closings will start at 9:30 p.m. each night. All lanes will shut from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Detour: From the inner loop, up the Gallows Road exit ramp through the traffic signal at the top of the ramp and back to the Beltway. South Dakota Avenue After the morning rush Tuesday through Thursday, the District Department of Transportation will close some lanes on the South Dakota Avenue Bridge...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 19, 2009; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , Construction , Driving  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the Horizon  
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Today's read: The Beltway's danger zone

Commuter Page Feature: The stretch of Interstate 495 that rolls through Prince George's County makes up less than a third of the Capital Beltway, but in the past three years it has accounted for 70 percent of its traffic fatalities. (Ashley Halsey III) Halsey's story appeared on Sunday's Commuter page in The Post along with this graphic and map. He noted that the Beltway in Prince George's is not the most heavily traveled portion. It carries10,000 to 30,000 fewer vehicles a day than some segments in Montgomery County. But it is the part where long-distance drivers are most likely to blend with our local traffic. Dr. Gridlock: I got a letter from a reader talking about the relationship between speed cameras and human behavior. It takes us a long time to adjust, she said, but she made the adjustment. Join me at noon for our weekly discussion of all our...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 19, 2009; 10:11 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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The week ahead for traffic, transit

There are some new traffic patterns at busy spots, as well as some new advisories about road work. I-66 Overnight The left lane of I-66 will be closed in each direction for up to four nights this week from just east of the Great Falls Street overpass to the Dulles Connector Road (Route 267) flyover. Crews working on the Dulles Rail project have begun clearing trees in the median between the roadway and the Orange Line tracks, but last week's rain slowed them down. The work is scheduled for midnight to 5 a.m. Construction Trucks on I-66 You may see construction trucks for the Dulles Rail project on I-66, including the stretch between the Beltway and Route 29 (Lee Highway). Dulles Toll Road Work Construction crews on the Dulles Rail project will close the right lanes of three short segments of the Dulles Toll Road. The closures will be located...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 19, 2009; 8:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, The Week Ahead  
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