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Get There: October 25, 2009 - October 31, 2009

See and be seen on Halloween

Here's a list of Halloween safety tips for everybody from the Maryland State Highway Administration. Drivers -- Stop for pedestrians. -- Obey the speed limit. Speeding only makes it more difficult to stop unexpectedly. -- Be especially cautious during peak trick-or-treating hours between 4 and 9 p.m. -- Enter and exit driveways slowly. -- Be alert for children darting across the street. -- Watch for children crossing between parked cars. -- When driving children to and from different activities, make sure all seat belts are fastened and let children out of the car on the curbside. -- Never drink and drive. Designate a sober driver. Pedestrians -- Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street. -- Cross at crosswalks or intersections. -- Be sure to see and be seen. Avoid dark clothing, wear bright colors and use reflective devices such as vests and blinking lights. -- Avoid costumes...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 30, 2009; 5:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Events , Safety  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Halloween, pedestrian safety  
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Vehicle inspections help motorists prepare for winter

With the rigors of winter weather right around the corner, officials from AAA descended Friday on a Largo shopping center to offer free vehicle inspections. "Winter is very tough on cars more than any other time of the year, and it is very dangerous to break down on the side of the road," said Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. The event was held in the parking lot of the organization's Largo branch to encourage motorists to prepare their vehicles for the season. AAA inspectors checked tires and brakes and examined oil pressure and engine belts while doing 40-point inspections on 85 cars. The site was one of 26 checkpoints the group set up during October. "This is great," said Charlotte Wolfolk, as her 2001 Ford van was inspected. "This is the second vehicle that I brought up here." Earlier in the day, the District's Departments of Transportation and Public...

By Michael Bolden  |  October 30, 2009; 2:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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The weekend and beyond

Happy Halloween. Here are some suggestions for a safe weekend and some advisories about what to expect afterward on the roads and rails. Halloween Rides Adults who have enjoyed Halloween a little too much should keep themselves off the roads, and the much-admired SoberRide program will help. From 10 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday, adults who have had too much to drink and shouldn't be driving can call 1-800-200-TAXI and get a free ride home, up to a $50 fare. Georgetown and Halloween There will be big crowds tonight (Friday) and Saturday nights. It will be difficult to drive around and to park. The buses, including the Circulator, are a good bet. The District Department of Transportation says it does not plan to close major roads, like M Street or Wisconsin Avenue, but many side streets will be restricted. In fact, there's a big list of them you can...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 30, 2009; 9:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, The Weekend and Beyond  
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District tests winter weather preparedness

If you see snow plows and salt trucks patrolling the streets this morning, you don't have to run for your galoshes. The District is just doing a dry run for the upcoming snow season. "No one else may be thinking about snow yet, but we are," said Department of Public Works Director William O. Howland, Jr. in a statement. "In fact we've been preparing since the end of last winter; the dry run is our dress rehearsal for the first storm of the season, which might not be that far off." The city's snow plows planned to assemble at RFK Stadium at 9 am and then spread out across the city using a snow emergency scenario to test drivers' responsiveness and their knowledge of routes and equipment. The test is a joint effort of the Department of Public Works and the District Department of Transportation. The agencies planned to activate...

By Michael Bolden  |  October 30, 2009; 9:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , Weather  
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Accident closes North Capitol and Missouri Avenue in Northeast

The District Department of Transportation reports that Missouri Avenue NE from Fort Totten to North Capitol Street and North Capitol Street from Gallatin to New Hampshire Avenue are closed while officials investigate a motor vehicle accident. DDOT advises motorists to avoid the area and take alternate routes including: Riggs Road Piney Branch Road New York Avenue Rhode Island Avenue Bladensburg Road Michigan Avenue to Irving Street to southbound N. Capitol Street Georgia Avenue 16th Street...

By Michael Bolden  |  October 30, 2009; 8:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion  | Tags: Advisories  
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ICC toll hearing: Public questions proposed rates

If some new mega-store were coming into the community and its impact had long been the subject of controversy, the store might offer some attractive, get-acquainted prices. Draw the doubters in. Get them to see how attractive the store is and what it can add to the commercial success of the community. The extreme alternative would be to peg the prices high to maximize revenue, then count on the convenience of the store to overcome the opposition and the sticker shock. People testifying at Thursday night's hearing on the Intercounty Connector tolls think the state of Maryland is going for the extreme alternative. We're talking about a highway so controversial it took half a century to get it built. Some people doubt it will be as useful as it is expensive. Others think its impact on local traffic will be the opposite of what's intended. Some say they didn't realize...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 30, 2009; 7:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  intercounty connector  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, tolls  
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I-66 shoulder opened overtime to ease congestion

During our noontime discussion on Monday, a reader asked this: Arlington, Va.: I was on I-66 East yesterday (Sunday) headed back into Washington from Fairfax and to my great surprise the green arrow lane was open. Do you know why? It was a special occasion. VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris says the shoulder lane was opened on Sunday from about 7 p.m. until 10:15 p.m. to help ease congestion. It was just volume, she said, not an accident or a lane closure for a road project. Normally, the shoulder lanes are open to traffic only during the peak periods on weekdays....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 29, 2009; 2:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Driving , highways  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, VDOT, shoulder use  
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The plight of pedestrians in parking lots

Parking lot outside Leisure World was backdrop for consciousness-raising. (Thomson) As Montgomery County looked over its accident stats, County Executive Isiah Leggett said this morning, it discovered that more than a fifth of pedestrian accidents are happening in parking lots. The county knows the numbers for the past three and a half years (324 pedestrian collisions in parking lots), and it knows that seniors and young adults are disproportionately involved, but it doesn't yet know why parking lots are so dangerous. Leggett thinks drivers have a different mind-set when they come off the street and enter a parking lot. Pedestrians, too, are presuming a level of personal safety that is not realistic, he said. Residents of Leisure World who were out doing their shopping said they understand the risks. Helenlouise C. Pettis, 77, said she was hit by backing up in a parking lot, and she wound up spending...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 29, 2009; 1:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Safety  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, pedestrian safety  
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Today's read: Silence of the toll haters

Small crowd at ICC toll hearing: About a dozen people testified Wednesday night at a public hearing on the proposed toll rates for the 18.8-mile highway under construction between Gaithersburg and Laurel. The proposed rates would be among the highest tolls charged in the country, but Maryland transportation officials say the proposed Intercounty Connector tolls are comparable to those on newer roads (Katherine Shaver) So where's the outrage? People have another change to show it tonight, at the final public hearing: 6 to 9 p.m. at Shady Grove Middle School, 8100 Midcounty Hwy., Gaithersburg. The Maryland Transportation Authority is accepting public comments until Nov. 23. Then the authority's board will vote Dec. 17....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 29, 2009; 12:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Construction , Driving  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Intercounty Connector  
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Student struck outside high school in Potomac

A student pedestrian outside Winston Churchill High School in Potomac was struck by a vehicle and taken to a local hospital Thursday morning, but the injuries are not considered life threatening, according to a dispatch supervisor in Montgomery County. The accident occurred about 7 a.m., and the driver who hit the student stayed at the scene, she said. -- Dan Morse...

By Mike McPhate  |  October 29, 2009; 8:09 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Driving , Safety  
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Headaches on the horizon

Wilson Bridge Project Closes Lanes Through Friday morning, one or both directions of the Capital Beltway in the Eisenhower Connector to Telegraph Road corridor may go down to a single lane overnight. During the same times, highway ramps may be closed. From 9 o'clock tonight to 5 a.m., the outer loop is scheduled to shrink to one lane from the Eisenhower Connector to east of Telegraph Road for overhead bridge work. From 9 tonight to 5 a.m. Thursday and then again during the same hours Thursday night, construction plans call for reducing Telegraph Road South to one lane between Duke Street and Huntington Avenue. The ramp from Telegraph Road South to the Outer Loop will be closed at the same time for a concrete bridge deck pour. Detour: Traffic heading for the outer loop from Telegraph Road South will be routed to Huntington Avenue East to Route 1 North and...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 28, 2009; 7:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , Construction , Driving  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the Horizon  
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MARC: Silver Spring elevators back

Brunswick Line riders in Silver Spring: MARC says this afternoon that the station's elevators are back in service, making it easier for riders to get from one side of the station to the other using the overpass....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 28, 2009; 2:54 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, MARC  
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Watch for changes on Route 28 near Dulles

The new interchange at Route 28 and Frying Pan Road is scheduled to be completely open to traffic by Monday, the Virginia Department of Transportation says. The entire Route 28 project, years in the making, is now in its final phase of widenings and interchange improvements. This will represent one of the most significant road improvements in the region during the decade. But for now, just worry about staying alert through the Frying Pan Road interchange for various lane closures and flagging operations in anticipation of the full opening. This redirection of traffic should continue through 6 a.m. Thursday. Then starting Thursday, traffic on westbound Frying Pan Road will reach southbound Route 28 by the new interchange ramp. Also, from after this evening's rush hour through noon Monday, westbound Frying Pan Road traffic heading toward northbound Route 28 will be detoured to the Air & Space Parkway interchange and then...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 28, 2009; 1:24 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Construction , Driving  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Route 28, VDOT  
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Major Penn Line delays after fire at New Carrollton

Updated, 10:36 a.m.: Train 419 at Odenton is running 50 minutes late. Train 521 departed Baltimore 35-40 minutes late. Train 414 is still not out yet. Updated, 10:00 a.m.: There are currently two Marc trains suffering delays right now. Train 414 on the Penn Line is running an hour late, and is only making stops at New Carrolton, BWI and Baltimore. Penn train 417 is running about an hour late as well. As of now, it's just those two trains, with all other trains running as planned, according to Marc Jones, manager of broadcast operations for MTA. Updated, 8:14 a.m.: Service has resumed on the Amtrak line at the New Carrollton station after an earlier fire stopped all trains in both directions. However, there are delays of 40 to 90 minutes for Penn Line trains. The train that caught on fire remains disabled at the New Carrollton station, so other...

By Mike McPhate  |  October 28, 2009; 10:36 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Today's read: SmartBenefit program changes

Starting Jan. 1: Metro says a new system for adding transit benefits will comply with IRS rules. But riders are already upset about one change: At the end of each month, any unused transit or parking benefits in the new electronic purses will be credited back to employers. Metro said that employees who contribute a portion of their pretax salary to the SmartBenefits program should contact the employer to determine how the employer will handle the unused portion of their pretax contribution. (Lena H. Sun) Related development: Metro says long-awaited SmarTrip improvements that were to be in place by year's end -- including making bus and rail passes available on the cards -- won't happen till next fall so Metro can focus on the IRS rule....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 28, 2009; 9:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus, Metrorail, SmarTrip, SmartBenefits  
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Rain causes accidents, standing water on region's roads

The rain over the past day or so has soaked our region's roads going into this morning's commute. This, coupled with the usual congestion, could lead to a slow trek. Here's some of the places this might impact you -- and post your own experiences below! Virginia -- An accident on 395 north just after the Beltway and another one a mile beyond that. -- 66 East is backed up from Nutley Street for approximately 7 miles. -- 95 North heading towards the District is bad south of Lorton. -- Fog has been reported further outside the Beltway The District -- The Amtrak fire at New Carrollton. -- Accidents were reported at 1700 G St. and Sixth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. -- A disabled car on 395 southbound at 12th Street. -- Orange traffic cones were scattered by the wind and sent all over Rock Creek Parkway this morning,...

By Washington Post Editors  |  October 28, 2009; 8:26 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , Commuting , Congestion , Construction  
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Note to MARC riders in Silver Spring: elevators out

MARC says the elevators that help Brunswick Line riders get from one side of the platform to the other in Silver Spring have been vandalized and are out of service. MARC says it hopes to have them working again by Wednesday morning. Knocking out the elevators means that for some riders who can't use the stairs, it's going to be a long walk around the transit center construction site to get to the platform in the afternoon or get to the office in the morning....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 27, 2009; 3:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, MARC  
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These SmartBenefit changes are baffling

At least, to me. But some readers already are starting to comment on this. They saw announcements on other blogs, including UnsuckDCMetro and DCist. Here's the announcement on Metro's Web site they were reacting to. Today, Metro sent out more information about the changes, which take effect Jan. 1. The transit authority says the changes are necessary to help employers comply with new IRS rules requiring that transit benefits be disbursed and monitored separately from other value stored in their employees' SmarTrip cards. So transit benefits and parking benefits need to be stored in two distinct electronic accounts in a central location. The card itself will store only value directly added by the employee, Metro says. The good-sounding part for riders is that they won't have to line up each month at the vending machines to add the SmartBenefits value to their SmarTrip cards. That will happen automatically as they...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 27, 2009; 1:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus, Metrorail, SmarTrip, SmartBenefits  
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Car strikes Metrobus in Northeast Washington

UPDATE (2:15 p.m.): Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said the accident occurred when the driver of the automobile attempted to make a U-turn in front of the bus, which was carrying 18 passengers. One passenger on the bus was treated at the scene, Taubenkibel said. The driver was cited by D.C. police, he said. A Metrobus was struck by an automobile shortly after noon Tuesday in Northeast Washington6, and one customer on the bus may have non life-threatening injuries, according to preliminary information, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said. The accident occurred at 12:09 p.m. at Eastern Avenue and Newton Streets in Northeast Washington, he said. The bus was traveling the B2 route heading to Anacostia, he said. - Lena H. Sun...

By Michael Bolden  |  October 27, 2009; 12:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Metrobus  
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Census survey: It's a long, lonely commute

The Census Bureau's 2006-2008 American Community Survey shows that despite more than a decade of efforts to get commuters in the Washington region to carpool, take transit or live close enough to walk to work, most people continue to drive, drive alone and drive a long way to work. The study of that three-year span says our region had 2,221,629 workers over 16. Of them, 1,415,834 drove alone to work, while 363,334 took public transportation. The number said to be carpooling was put at 237,724. (This is a survey, not an actual count. That's just once a decade. You can see the full details for our region here.) Nationwide, the percentage of workers who drove alone to work ranged from 50.4 percent in the New York metropolis to 87.3 percent in the Jackson, Tenn., and Monroe, Mich., areas. We come in at 63.7 percent. Public transportation is the choice of...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 27, 2009; 10:53 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion , Driving , Metro , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock  
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Today's read: cash for carpools

New carpoolers can earn $2 a day: The three-month program sponsored by Commuter Connections will reward commuters who currently travel alone along any stretch of the Capital Beltway from Bethesda to Tysons Corner; the Beltway from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Interstate 270; and Interstate 395 from the District across the 14th Street bridge into Northern Virginia. If enough people sign up, the program could be extended to other roads. (Lisa Rein) We've had similar programs in the Washington region, but they've been associated with specific traffic management plans to get people around disruptive construction projects, such as the rebuilding of the Wilson Bridge or the Frederick Douglass Bridge. Is the money incentive strong enough to push more people into carpools? Our most successful effort is the one that sprang up naturally among commuters who wanted to take advantage of the HOV-3 lanes on I-95/395. In fact, the sluggers are a...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 27, 2009; 9:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Driving  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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MARC to start security checks on baggage

Think the MARC trains are slow now? The Maryland Transit Administration says it's going to start random security screenings at stations on Friday. The MTA announcement says the screenings can involve checks of luggage, packages or other carry-on items. "While every effort will be made to conduct the security checks in a timely fashion, customers should be prepared that extra time may be required to board their train," the announcement says. The checks will be done by MTA police along with security and canine teams from the Maryland Transportation Authority and the Transit Security Administration. The announcement does not describe any current threat or raised security concern that would require imposing this additional burden on local travelers. A year ago, Metro transit police were authorized to conduct random searches of people's property as they entered stations, but so far they have not done so....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 27, 2009; 8:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, MARC  
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Headaches on the horizon

Lane Shifts For I-95 Widening Tonight through Thursday morning, some lanes will be closed on southbound I-95 between the Fairfax County Parkway and Route 123 to prepare for lane shifts that are part of the highway widening and sound wall construction in that area. The closing hours will be 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. The lane shifts will limit use of the shoulder on the southbound side for 10 months. There will be one emergency pull off every mile on the right and left sides. Meanwhile, on I-95 northbound, there will be lane closings for milling and paving overnight tonight through Thursday....

By Robert Thomson  |  October 26, 2009; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the Horizon  
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The week ahead for traffic, transit

George Washington Parkway Traffic delays are likely on the northbound side of the parkway after the morning rush. Lanes will be closed on that side between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Little River Inlet Bridge for emergency repair of an expansion joint. One lane will always be open, but at any time during the work, the left or right lane at the bridge could be shut. Construction signs and variable message boards will point drivers in the right direction. New York Avenue Work Construction is scheduled to start today at the intersection of First Street, Florida Avenue, New York Avenue and Eckington Place. The project, which will take eight months, is designed to improve circulation and decrease accidents at this major road junction. Work on First Street will be done from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Work hours on the avenues are 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. There...

By Robert Thomson  |  October 26, 2009; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, The Week Ahead  
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