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Get There: November 1, 2009 - November 7, 2009

Headaches on the horizon

Metrorail delays start tonight: Orange Line riders, as of 9:30 p.m. Friday you can start adding half an hour to your normal travel time between Cheverly and Stadium-Armory. Keep it that way till the train system closes at midnight Sunday. Blue and Yellow Line riders, you've got till Saturday to worry about the extra half hour it's likely to take between Braddock Road and Van Dorn Street and between Braddock Road and Huntington. That will be the situation from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Beltway lanes at I-66: Road warriors, you've got your own problems if your out late Friday. The two left lanes of I-495 South and the ramp from I-66 West to I-495 South will close Friday night from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. This is part of the HOT Lanes project....

By Robert Thomson  |  November 6, 2009; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the Horizon  
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Resourceful drivers save a life in Prince George's

Prince George's Fire and Emergency Services are giving kudos to two good Samaritans who helped save a woman from a burning car Thursday evening. After a collision near Wilson Bridge Drive and Indian Head Highway, the woman's car veered off the road and flames spread across the bottom of her vehicle. A FedEx driver, David Ramadhani of Bowie, ran to her rescue, using a fire extinguisher from his delivery truck to clear flames from her door. As the blaze continued, he and Michael Harry of Oxon Hill reached in the car, cut her seat belt using a utility knife and dragged her to safety. Units responding to the scene said the fire would have killed the woman before they could get to the car if she had not been removed....

By washingtonpost.com editors  |  November 6, 2009; 1:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Driving , Safety  
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Catoe comments on SmartBenefit changes

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe just finished his noontime chat on Metro's Web site, and it included this interesting comment about the planned changes in the SmartBenefits program. Catoe says he's heard plenty of rider questions about the changes, and "we need to rethink the changes that we are making." Arlington, VA: Good afternoon - I have a question regarding the upcoming changes to SmartBenefits. Do we know yet what will happen to the current balances on our SmarTrip cards? For instance, if I have a $100 balance on the card beginning Jan 1, what "purse" will that money go into?Thank you! Reply [from Catoe]: Hi Arlington. I see a few questions about SmartBenefits here in the queue. Over the past couple of weeks, we have heard a lot of comments from customers about this change in SmartBenefits. I've decided that we need to rethink the changes that we...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 6, 2009; 1:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, SmarTrip, SmartBenefits  
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WMATA: Recharge your SmarTrip at Giant stores

WMATA is expanding your ability to add money to your SmarTrip card, announcing 42 Giant stores in the Washington area will add the feature. Most of the participating Giant locations are in Virginia and Maryland. See the full list of more than 150 locations where you can add money to your SmarTrip. In addition to recharging at Giant, CVS and other retail participants, you can add SmarTrip fare at Metro stations and on Metrobuses....

By washingtonpost.com editors  |  November 6, 2009; 12:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  
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The weekend and beyond

Find the causes and cures for your weekend travel delays, then look ahead to what you could face on your weekday commutes. Metrorail weekend delays Orange Line riders between Cheverly and Stadium-Armory should add a half hour to their normal travel times from 9:30 tonight (Friday) through the rail system's midnight closing on Sunday. Blue and Yellow Line riders between Braddock Road and Van Dorn Street and between Braddock Road and Huntington should add half an hour to their normal trip times from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. During the maintenance disruption, the regular Blue and Yellow Line trains will operate to Huntington. Metro will operate a special Blue Line shuttle train between Franconia-Springfield and King Street. At King Street, riders can board Blue or Yellow Line trains to Largo or Fort Totten. If you would normally park at Franconia-Springfield or Van Dorn Street, Metro suggests you...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 6, 2009; 10:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, The Weekend and Beyond  
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Six Montgomery County bridges under repair

Drivers should be alert for lane closings as the Maryland State Highway Administration cleans and paints these six bridges: -- I-495 (Capital Beltway) bridge over Kensington Parkway in Kensington -- Route 185 (Connecticut Avenue) bridge over Rock Creek in Kensington -- Route 410 (East-West Highway) bridge over Rock Creek in Chevy Chase -- I-495 (Capital Beltway) bridge over Seven Locks Road in Potomac -- Bridge carrying the southbound I-270 ramp to I-495 inner loop in Bethesda -- Bridge carrying the southbound I-270 ramp to southbound Route 355 (Wisconsin Avenue) in Bethesda. Work already has begun on the I-495 bridge over Kensington Parkway and the Route 410 bridge over Rock Creek, the SHA says. They should be done by mid-November, and the work will shift to the I-495 bridge over Seven Locks Road and the Route 185 bridge over Rock Creek. On the Route 185 and 410 bridges, the SHA will...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 6, 2009; 9:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Congestion , Construction , Driving  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Maryland State Highway Administration  
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Metrorail extension will close Tysons service roads

Click on Dulles Rail project map for larger image of upcoming changes to Route 7. This is the start of big changes along Route 7 for Tysons commuters. Beginning Monday, the service road of eastbound Route 7 between Pike 7 Plaza and the Koons GM car dealership will start to close permanently. Crews working on the Metrorail extension are closing portions of the service road one at a time until this entire stretch is gone. Over the next year, the service roads on both sides will be closed and the through lanes shifted. The mid-block turning lanes will be closed. A wider median will be created to accommodate the elevated rail line and two stations along Route 7 between Route 123 and the Dulles Toll Road. During the phase out of the service roads, drivers on Route 7 still will be able to reach the businesses along the road,...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 6, 2009; 9:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Construction , Driving , Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Tysons  
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Delays on Pennsylvania Avenue inbound

A multiple-vehicle accident in the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Silver Hill Road in the District Heights area, involving a federal protective officer's vehicle, has snarled inbound traffic, according to Prince George's County Police spokesman Henry Tippett. Tippett said he didn't know what happened, how many cars were involved, which agency the federal police officer works for or that person's condition. "Evidently they're handling their own," he said. The accident happened at 8:09 a.m. Traffic is being detoured around the accident scene....

By James Hohmann  |  November 6, 2009; 8:55 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Spokeswoman: All but a few Montgomery stop lights running normally

Montgomery County roads are finally moving smoothly, as all but a "handful" of traffic lights have been fixed, an official said this morning. "It's going really well," said county spokeswoman Esther Bowring, just before 8 a.m. She added that there are fewer than 10 lights that still aren't working correctly, mainly in the Briggs Chaney Road area. "Maybe they're just responding erratically to the computer commands," Bowring said, noting that engineers continue to run tests on the lights. She said there may be some backups, but that's nothing out of the norm. "It's hard to know because there's always normal backups and delays and congestion, even if the system is working pretty reliably," she said....

By James Hohmann  |  November 6, 2009; 8:06 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Tags: Montgomery County  
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Today's read: Montgomery lights back

Leggett wants computer fixed faster: As computer experts wrestled with the balky computer that controls traffic signal timing, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said he planned to expedite a $35 million program to replace the computer system. Begun two years ago, the replacement was planned to take six years. (Ashley Halsey III) The traffic signals didn't go out, they just were giving green for a shorter time than they should during rush hour. But it was a nightmare for commuters. VRE ouster of Amtrak approved: As of July 1, Amtrak is out as operator of the service and Keolis Rail Services America, the U.S. subsidiary of a company based in France, is in. VRE said it selected Keolis because its proposal was the most cost-effective and offered the best customer service plan. (Jennifer Buske) Light rail plan bolstered by study: A change in the transit route proposed for the I-270...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 6, 2009; 7:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Congestion , Driving , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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Headaches on the horizon

Maryland Beltway paving: The paving project between the American Legion Bridge and Interstate 270 is concentrating on the Capital Beltway ramps this week. There will be ramp closings from 8 to 10 o'clock tonight. Montgomery traffic signals: Montgomery County says it expects your morning rush hour will be near normal after two days of signal problems. Still, Ride-On buses will be free all day Friday. Beltway at I-66: VDOT will close the Capital Beltway, I-495 south lanes at I-66 from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. next Monday through Thursday nights while crews install steel beams for a new bridge at I-66 East over the beltway. This was originally scheduled to start last Friday, but has been rescheduled, VDOT said. In preparation for next week's work, two left lanes of I-495 South and the ramp from I-66 west to I-495 south will close tonight and Friday nights (Nov. 5 and 6)...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 5, 2009; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the horizon  
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Breakthrough in Montgomery County traffic signal problem

As Montgomery County commuters suffered through their fourth nightmarish rush hour Thursday, county officials said computer experts finally had isolated the central computer problem that caused the traffic signal system to meltdown. "Engineers have isolated the problem and have been successful in reestablishing the connection between the computer and the traffic signals, with the result that most of the intersection signals are now responding to our commands," said County Executive Isiah Leggett. County traffic engineers and outside consultants had been vexed by the problem for 40 hours, unable to manage the county's more than 750 traffic signals, whose daily timing patterns normally are changed throughout the day to accommodate the ebb and flow of traffic. A few signals still were balking at commands from the revived central computer, Leggett said, but most were responding. "We will continue to monitor it throughout the evening and overnight but we anticipate that tomorrow...

By Michael Bolden  |  November 5, 2009; 6:11 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Montgomery County commuters: Share your traffic light issues and advice

As Montgomery County officials try to fix the mess of traffic lights that is causing confusion and chaos for commuters, we're asking for your help. What intersections are creating the biggest back-ups? Have any advice for fellow travelers on side streets or alternate routes that are functioning properly? Extra points if you have a stopwatch and can time the lights that are creating gridlock. Share your advice, observations and notes below or, if you have Twitter, use a #gridlocktip tag in your tweet. (See #gridlocktips on Twitter)....

By washingtonpost.com editors  |  November 5, 2009; 4:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion , Driving  | Tags: Montgomery County  
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DC starting big project on Pennsylvania Ave. SE

I told you in a previous posting to get ready for a string of road projects that would affect travel on the eastern side of the District. Today, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced another of them. The $30 million Pennsylvania Avenue Great Streets project will extend from just west of 27th Street SE to Southern Avenue. The work, which includes installation of a median, streetscape, utility upgrades, new curbs and gutters, paving and landscaping, will take about two years. Here's a map of the work zone. Traffic impact Pennsylvania Avenue is a major commuter route into downtown Washington as well as a neighborhood connector, and it has two commercial centers around Branch and Alabama avenues, so the planned daytime construction work is likely to disrupt traffic. Drivers now travel a 30 mph avenue that ranges from a four-lane section between Southern Avenue and Carpenter Street to a five-lane section between...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 5, 2009; 3:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion , Construction , Driving  | Tags: District Department of Transportation, Dr. Gridlock, Great Streets, Pennsylvania Ave.  
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Montgomery County traffic mess may continue

Montgomery County officials said Thursday they are struggling to restore synchronization to 750 traffic signals throughout the county and are bracing for an outage that could last into next week. The computer that regulated the flow of traffic crashed completely about 3 a.m. Wednesday. According to Montgomery County spokeswoman Esther Bowring workers have isolated the location of the problem but have not been able to find a solution. At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and Department of Transportation officials said crews will begin manually transferring synchronization information to traffic signals along major commuting routes, with the goal of having 100 signals complete by Monday and another 100 by the middle of next week. One official described the problem as being similar to getting a dial tone on your phone but being unable to complete a call. Officials said consultants have been brought in to assist...

By Michael Bolden  |  November 5, 2009; 2:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion  
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Metrobus upgrading Route 7 service

Upcoming enhancements to the Leesburg Pike Line should get the attention of Tysons Corner commuters looking for transit service to their jobs in that congested area. The line, consisting of the 28A and 28B buses, has one of the highest Metrobus riderships in Northern Virginia, with about 5,000 daily passengers. But as is so often the case with a high ridership line, the buses are often late and crowded. The transit authority points out that the line connects high-density residential and commercial neighborhoods including Old Town Alexandra, Southern Towers, Baileys Crossroads, Seven Corners and Tysons Corner. The changes Metrobus is making follow a now-familiar pattern of separating buses into local and limited-stop services, modifying the routes, increasing supervision and adjusting the schedules in light of traffic realities. This is what the plan will do: -- Convert 10 (five morning and five evening) peak period, peak direction 28B short trips between...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 5, 2009; 2:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus  
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Montgomery commuters should expect delays

THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED [SEE BELOW] Montgomery County's system that regulates traffic lights during rush hour is still out of order, and drivers should expect a repeat of the traffic delays that turned both morning and evening rush hour into a traffic nightmare on Wednesday. County technicians worked through the night without finding a solution to the problem with a computerized system that normally changes timing on 750 county traffic lights to accommodate rush hour traffic. Montgomery County officials said they will offer free rides all day Thursday on Ride On buses, to ease the inconvenience for commuters. The system, which county spokeswoman Esther Bowring described yesterday as "unique" in the Washington region, is based on a decades-old computer that sends signals to traffic lights all over the county, telling lights how long to stay green. It also synchronizes them to promote the flow of traffic. That happens automatically,...

By Ashley Halsey  |  November 5, 2009; 5:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion  
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Headaches on the horizon

Metro's nightly delays: During November, riders should add at least 20 minutes to a half an hour onto normal trip times Sundays through Thursdays between 9:30 p.m. and the midnight closing on the Red, Blue, Orange and Yellow lines. (There's no track work scheduled for Thanksgiving, Nov. 26.) Here's a more specific breakdown. Red Line: Between Medical Center and Grosvenor, add at least 20 minutes. Blue Line: Between Stadium-Armory and Addison Road, add at least half an hour. Yellow Line: Between Huntington and Braddock Road, add at least half an hour. Orange Line: Between Cheverly and New Carrollton, add at least 20 minutes, but this project will affect travelers only later this month, Nov. 22-25 and Nov. 30. Beltway at I-66: VDOT will close the Capital Beltway, I-495 south lanes at I-66 from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. next Monday through Thursday nights while crews install steel beams for a...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 4, 2009; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the Horizon  
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Montgomery traffic signals still out of sync

This problem with the traffic signals is likely to slow traffic in Montgomery County this afternoon and evening just as it did during the morning rush. See the full story by Ashley Halsey III. The traffic signals work. The problem is with a traffic computer, that still has the signals operating only on their off-peak cycles, when traffic patterns are very different. The result is congestion on the main routes used by commuters. This is part of a statement from Tim Firestine, the county's chief administrative officer: "To provide relief while repairs are ongoing, County engineers are manually retiming signals at some of the most congested intersections. "Montgomery County's central traffic signal computer went down at about 3 a.m. this morning. This affects Montgomery County's ability - almost unique in the Metro region - to adjust traffic signals from a centralized location. "All traffic signals continue to operate safely and...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 4, 2009; 3:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Montgomery County, traffic signals  
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Metro services gradually returning

Here's what still isn't working as of mid-afternoon: -- You can't buy fares with debit cards. -- The NextBus system is out. -- SmartBenefits transactions are not functioning. --The e-alert system is not sending out messages. Metro says that the communications services knocked out early this morning began returning at 8:30 a.m. --First, the Metro Web site came back online. -- Metro's Customer Call Center began to receive calls by about 9 a.m., the transit authority said. -- Reservation and dispatch systems for MetroAccess returned at about 10 a.m, as did the MetroAccess call center and online reservation system. -- Vehicle radios came back into service at about 10 a.m. -- The public address system in rail stations returned at 10:30 a.m. Metrobus fareboxes were functioning, but some bus operators had difficulty logging onto them this morning. In those cases, riders could board for free. Metro said there weren't many...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 4, 2009; 2:56 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Plenty of road work coming to DC's eastern side

At one point or another during the next several years, drivers on the eastern side of the District will navigate these: Five projects along the New York Avenue corridor, reconstruction of the Eastern Avenue bridge over Kenilworth Avenue, the rehabilitation of Pennsylvania Avenue between 27th Street and Southern Avenue and construction of a new 11th Street Bridge. Blame the stim. Many of these projects are on track because the District went after the available federal money for projects considered "shovel ready." The D.C. government did a good job collecting the economic-recovery money, so now it has to spend it. I'll be talking a lot more about the specific projects in upcoming postings on Get There and in my Dr. Gridlock columns in The Post, but I'd like to make two points here. One is that the broad impact of these projects will require transportation managers in DC, Maryland and Virginia...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 4, 2009; 1:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Congestion , Construction , Driving  | Tags: District Department of Transportation, Dr. Gridlock, New York Avenue  
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UPDATE: Traffic snarled in Montgomery County

UPDATE 3:09 p.m.: With rush hour looming, technicians in Montgomery County have yet to resolve a computer malfunction that resulted in massive traffic back ups during this morning's commute. It seems likely that as dusk falls, commuters will face the same sea of red brake lights that greeted them at dawn, a county spokeswoman said. -- A malfunction of the system which shifts traffic lights into rush-hour mode this morning has left traffic snarled all over the county, with backups continuing long after rush-hour's end. Problem areas reported by commuters include Rockville Pike, Old Georgetown Road south at the I-270 Spur, and the spur itself. River Road was a better route, one commuter reported, but there were still significant delays. Normally, the timing cycling for lights at major intersections changes each rush hour to extend the time each light is green, allowing more time for traffic to flow south during...

By Ashley Halsey  |  November 4, 2009; 10:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion  
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New bus services in Tysons are very timely

PRTC image shows Tysons Express bus stops on morning route, starting Monday. For traffic managers, the road and rail construction in Tysons Corner represents a different kind of challenge. On most recent projects -- the Wilson Bridge, the Springfield interchange, the Potomac and Anacostia bridge rehabs -- their task has been to help people find ways around the construction. In Tysons, where more than 100,000 people report to work each weekday, the planners have to help most of them go through the construction. And the work -- the HOT lanes, the Metrorail extension, the private reconstruction -- is going to take years. This month, commuters will encounter the most recent examples of the traffic management plan, with the launch of two new bus services. Tysons Express The first commuter bus service with a direct route from Woodbridge to Tysons starts Monday. The new buses, operated by PRTC's OmniRide and...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 4, 2009; 10:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Commuting , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Tysons  
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Many Metro problems during morning rush

[12:30 p.m. update: Metro is rushing to repair problems that crippled the farebox system on some buses, silenced subway public announcements, froze the transit agency's Web site and blocked some riders from using debit cards. -- Ashley Halsey III] Metro's communications system fritzed out this morning. These were the results: -- The e-mail alert system, the public address system, the Next Bus system and the call centers went down. -- The many bus fareboxes don't work, so passengers on those buses were riding free. -- At the fare vending machines, debit cards weren't working, but credit cards were. -- The online reservation system for Metro Access wasn't working. The control center could not communicate with bus or Metro Access drivers....

By Robert Thomson  |  November 4, 2009; 8:24 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Advisories , Metro  
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State shouldn't take the rap on this crossing

I had the following exchange with a reader during our online chat Monday. Silver Spring, Md.: Who is responsible for the roads over railroad crossings? There is a terrible bumpy one in Forest Glen near the National Park Seminary (Capitol View Ave., MD-391). I've been over much smoother crossings in small towns around the country, and can't believe this is the best that can be done in the U.S. Capital area. Would it be a state responsibility, or CSX? Robert Thomson: "Any numbered road like that, MD 391, would be under the jurisdiction of the State Highway Administration." True enough about the road numbering system used by the state, but David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, wrote in to point out that the rail crossing in question is over Linden Lane, not a state route. And Capitol View Avenue is MD 192, not 391. The rail crossing...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 4, 2009; 8:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Driving  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Maryland State Highway Administration  
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Today's read: Prince George's approves cameras

Program to start in January: The county will begin placing cameras in 50 school zones over the following 18 months, and after a 30-day grace period, drivers will be mailed a $40 fine if caught by the devices, officials said. The county is taking advantage of the new Maryland law that allows local jurisdictions to install enforcement cameras in school zones. (Jonathan Mummolo) Meanwhile, the state has extended the grace period for the other part of the new enforcement program, the speed cameras in highway work zones....

By Robert Thomson  |  November 4, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Safety  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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Headaches on the horizon

Overnight at Telegraph Road: The Wilson Bridge construction project is planning for alternating lane closures in each direction of Telegraph Road between Huntington Avenue and Duke Street nightly through Thursday. Workers need the space for overhead bridge painting. Telegraph Road will not be completely closed, but traffic movement will be restricted at times from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. to one lane in each direction. That's very likely to result in traffic congestion and it would be best to avoid the area. Beltway at I-66: VDOT will close the Capital Beltway's outer loop at I-66 from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night through Thursday so workers can install steel beams for a new bridge at I-66 East over the Beltway. This is part of the HOT Lanes project. One lane will close at 9:30 p.m. By 11 p.m., traffic will be detoured onto I-66 West, then to Exit 62...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 3, 2009; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Headaches on the Horizon  
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Talking Thanksgiving travel, 2009 edition

Each November, I pull together the most recent information from highway departments and from travelers into blog and newspaper advice for the holiday getaway. One of the questions that came in during our Monday online chat got me started on this year's edition. Silver Spring, Md.: "Too soon to ask about Thanksgiving? I'm headed, as always, for the Penn. Turnpike. Top of the Beltway to 270 to 70 to Breezewood. But here's the thing: 70 is a bear all the way to Hagerstown on getaway days. Don't know what the big deal is about Hagerstown (I used to think it was the Premium Outlets, but the traffic issue persists even when they must be closed), but there it is. So when, do you think, is the best time to split? It's a question of +/- going to work on Wednesday; if I do, I'll be set free a little early,...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 3, 2009; 11:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Getaway , holiday travel  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock  
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Today's read: Metro struggling with money gap

Finds funds for this year: But what about next? That's when the real worries kick in. Last spring, when Metro's leaders were setting up the current budget, they made some pretty optimistic assumptions about this year's revenues. Things like ridership numbers had to come in strong. So far, they haven't. Lena H. Sun says in her story that Metro officials attribute ridership declines to growing D.C. unemployment, which rose from 10.6 percent in July to 11.4 percent in September; slower service and fewer trains on the Red Line immediately after the crash; and extensive track work. The Red Line did not return to normal service until Oct. 7. Extensive track work during the Labor Day weekend closed the Pentagon City, Crystal City and Reagan National Airport stations. Metro's leaders already know they face bigger problems in the budget the staff will draft and present late this year. Board members are...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 3, 2009; 8:34 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Metro  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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Speed camera grace period extended

Maryland is being more generous than I would be: The State Highway Administration announced today that it is extending its warnings-only period for speeders in the highway work zones by at least two weeks. "We are extending the warning phase because our goal isn't to 'catch' speeders, but to give citizens an opportunity to change dangerous driving behaviors before [state police and Maryland Transportation authority police] begin issuing citations," SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said in the statement announcing the extension. Pedersen is a nationally know safety advocate and supporter of the automated enforcement program for work zone safety. But I say, start sending out those $40 tickets. Lately, I've driven many times through one of the camera zones, the one on I-95 where the junction with the Intercounty Connector is under construction. There, the lanes narrow and the highway gets a little bit bendy. The lane markings aren't completely...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 2, 2009; 2:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Safety , highways  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Maryland State Highway Administration, work zones  
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Today's read: inching along I-95

And what we can do about it: A traveler wrote to me about a frustrating weekend trips up and down I-95 in Virginia. This letter was on my mind because of the Virginia elections Tuesday. I replied in my Sunday column by saying that the next governor and General Assembly should build the high-occupancy toll lanes, raise the gas tax by 10 cents and then peg biannual increases to an index, such as the consumer price index, to finance further congestion relief and tie land-use plans more closely to transportation plans. These are among the reader responses you can find along with the column: -- "A truly dumb article. It states a few facts that people who live in this area already know. Nothing new, no suggestions. Did Dr. Gridlock actually get paid for this?" -- "High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes will take something that was fast, effective and free,...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 2, 2009; 10:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Congestion , Driving , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Today's Read  
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The week ahead for traffic, transit

Welcome back to the week. Here are some of the things to watch for during your travels. Old Chain Bridge Road Today and Tuesday, Old Chain Bridge Road between Seneca Avenue and Hallcrest Drive near the Dulles Connector Road bridge in McLean will go down to a single lane between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Flaggers will direct traffic. The work is part of the Metrorail extension through Tysons. Metro weeknight delays Metro today released its plan for night time track work during November. Use this link to see the full list. But basically, riders should add at least 20 minutes to a half an hour onto normal trip times from Sunday through Thursday nights between 9:30 p.m. and the midnight closing on the Red, Blue, Orange and Yellow lines. There won't be any night time track work on Thanksgiving, Nov. 26. Route 301 bridge At about 9 a.m. Tuesday,...

By Robert Thomson  |  November 2, 2009; 7:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories , Construction , Driving , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, The Week Ahead  
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