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Weekend driving challenges remain

Update 2:50 p.m.: Beware of temporary lane closures around the region as snow crews try to return local roads to normal. The District, for example, has tweeted warnings about M Street in Georgetown and Connecticut Avenue in the last 24 hours.

Original post: It feels good to be mobile again, doesn't it? Well, not so fast. There are still a few obstacles in your path.

Disappearing right lanes: The sudden disappearance of the right lane in a snowbank isn't the worst thing. The worst thing is when it half disappears. Drivers in on multi-lane roads have time to react when they see a snow-covered lane ahead, as long as they're going slowly enough. But many drivers can't gauge whether they have enough travel room when the lane is partially covered in snow.

Life in the middle: If you're on a main road with three lanes, you're often best off driving in the middle lane. It's a pretty sure bet that somewhere along your route, that right lane is going to become a snowbank. Your challenge will be knowing when to move right to make a right turn. In some areas, that won't happen. You'll make the right turn from the center lane.

It's not just you: Okay, you're a safe driver, so what's the problem? Other drivers are going to swerve into your lane, especially from the right side. Drivers aren't any more likely to signal now than they are under normal conditions.

Visibility: Your two greatest assets this weekend are a full reservoir of window washer fluid to maintain a clear view despite lots of road spay, and supple neck muscles so you can constantly turn your head to see what's coming at you from the right and left.

Road hazards: The most likely reason for a traffic jam is the presence of heavy-duty snow clearing equipment on the far right or left side of the roadway. On either side of the road, watch for pedestrians. They will either be walking where there is no sidewalk or they'll be standing in travel lane in front of a bus stop that is inaccessible because of snow cover. At intersections, walkers also may burst into view suddenly from behind snowbanks.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 14, 2010; 12:23 PM ET
Categories:  Driving , Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snowstorm  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The weekend and beyond
Next: D.C. snow emergency begins at 9 a.m.


Dear Dr. Gridlock,
As a handicapped person, I moved to the city in hopes of being able to use public transportation to remain independent. To my dismay, I now see suburban bus systems such as Ride On returning to service while Metrobus remains pretty much non-existent since last week's snow on all but a few major thoroughfares. What is most frustrating is looking at WMATA's website and seeing almost all bus routes operating and being told the same when calling WMATA. However, I and a multitude of others have been waiting for D buses to and from Dupont Circle to GU, Sibley etc and hours later realizing no bus will ever come. Is it too much to ask of WMATA to post REAL info on whether buses are or not operating instead of falsely misrepresenting the capabilities of their system? Why must freezing customers wait at bustops for hours because WMATA has no system of informing customers accurately whether buses are running or not? Please help me, Dr. Gridlock, by publishing this problem in the POST or directing me and others to how we can productively address this problem. Thank you, Citylover

Posted by: Citylover | February 13, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Haven't seen or heard a plow in McLean yet today. Haven't seen any evidence of any plowing either.

Posted by: wiredog | February 13, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I finally got out today. District's main avenues like Connecticut still have snow piled up in the curb lanes. MoCo snow crews working to free curb lanes on Wisconsin/ Rockville Pike. Mucho potholes all over the place, and most side streets have only one lane for two-way traffic. Gulp.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 13, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

At 3pm today I am supposed to drive from Exit 5 on 695 (Baltimore Beltway) west down I-95 to 495 (DC Beltway) west to University Blvd going towards DC for about 1 mile. Is there any way to find out whether these various roads are relatively clear. Thanks

Posted by: Observer10 | February 14, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I second citylover's complaint about the inaccuracy of WMATA's bus litings. So much more attention is given to the subway, while hundreds of us need at least semi-accurae info about buses. I've waited for listed buses that are not running, and gotten onto ones not listed at all. And have seen buses detouring through my neighborhood, while WMATA claimed there were no short-term detours. Do they actually know which bus is on the road? Do they talk to the drivers? On Friday I had one bus driver assure me "all" buses were running, and another one tell me he has no idea.

Posted by: busgirl1 | February 14, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Has Metro given any indication what level of service they'll have on the rails on Monday? Unfortunately it's not a holiday for all of us....

Posted by: jkuchen | February 14, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Also is there any word on whether Metro will be running a holiday or 'normal' schedule tomorrow? I am working and would like to know what to expect. I also agree that Metro has not posted accurate bus information, which in addition to the issues with the orange line kept me out of work on Friday.

Posted by: aablue18 | February 14, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

DC Snow Emergency goes back into effect at 9AM tomorrow (Monday)! This will catch some by surprise, I bet.

Right now, there are hundreds of front end loaders and dumptrucks outside my window removing snow from the curb lanes on Connecticut Ave. Yay...evening/weekend/daytime parking spaces will be back, and commuters will have all 6 lanes come Tuesday.

Posted by: thetan | February 14, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I see the plows on the traffic camera at Macomb & Connecticut. A happy sight.

Unfortunately, I reverse-commute on Connecticut during rush hours, so I'm hoping they also clear the east curb lane, the one I need in the am.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 14, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for cautioning drivers on the need to watch for pedestrians forced into the street by unshoveled walks or hidden from view by the snow walls left by plowing. I thought the situation would be better by Sunday, but I was forced to walk in the street for a long block yesterday around the Founders Square construction site in Arlington, where the sidewalks are still untouched (unless you count the snow heaped on the sidewalk when the driveway was ploughed). The center lanes are clean, and traffic is moving rapidly, so this was frightening and risky.

Posted by: eyeofthebeholder | February 15, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Every sidewalk in DC and the suburbs should be clear--The taxpayers had 270,000 feds sitting on their xss last week getting paid for doing nothing --just like every week-- My fed neighbor just brought me a bottle of scotch- to thank me for his vacation-He was in Flordia on vacation last week and the government GAVE him ALL his leave hours back because John Berry said it was too dangerous to work in DC--

Posted by: syoung29 | February 15, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

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