Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips

Robert Thomson
Columnist November 26, 2011
Virginia Ave. meeting

The District Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration have invited the public to attend a second meeting to discuss plans to rehabilitate the Virginia Avenue Tunnel between Second and 11th streets SE.

CSX Transportation wants to replace the tunnel, which is more than a century old and has become one of the biggest railroad choke points along the East Coast. But the plan involves closing blocks of Virginia Avenue near the Southeast-Southwest Freeway for a lengthy period while the work is done.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

Several design concepts have been developed, and they will be outlined at the meeting, scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday inside Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol St. SE. Navy Yard on the Green Line is the nearest Metrorail station. Free parking will be available in Lot C, at First and N streets SE, adjacent to he stadium. The session will begin with an open house, followed by a formal presentation at 7.

Beltway/Telegraph Rd.

After taking time off for Thanksgiving, the highway projects in the D.C. region will resume this week. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, which is rebuilding the Capital Beltway and the Telegraph Road interchange near the bridge in Virginia, is planning some lane closings on the Beltway.

From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights, the two right lanes of the Beltway’s outer loop will be closed between the Eisenhower Avenue Connector and Telegraph Road for roadway construction. Project officials say they expect significant backups, so motorists should consider alternate routes.

During the same hours, the left lane of the inner loop is scheduled to close from Telegraph Road to the Eisenhower Avenue Connector to remove a barrier.

timing of toll charges

Drivers can travel the Intercounty Connector for free until tolling resumes Dec. 5, but anticipating that, a traveler asked how the tolling system calculates the charge, based on time of day.

I explained in the Intercounty Connector user’s guide on this page last week that the connector has three time periods in its toll rates: The highest charge is for peak periods, 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays. The lowest is the overnight rate, 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. In between is the off-peak rate, which covers other times.

But, the traveler wanted to know, if a driver enters the highway at Shady Grove at 5:50 a.m. and drives all the way east to Interstate 95, reaching it at about 6:10 a.m., is the driver charged the peak rate or the off-peak rate?

The Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the connector, says the charge is based on the start time, not the end time.

aldie calming

Another traffic calming project is underway along Route 50 in Loudoun County, where the Virginia Department of Transportation installed roundabouts to improve traffic flow and safety.

Planners say the new work, in Aldie, will transform the highway into a village street. Drivers coming into Aldie on Route 50 will be slowed not only by the 25-mph speed limit signs but also by traffic calming and safety methods that include raised crosswalks, medians planted with trees and a series of pavers spaced to get drivers’ attention.

Highway departments all over the region are using such methods to engineer reductions in speed and protect pedestrians.

National Tree lighting

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree, the annual holiday event that darkens the spirits of homebound commuters each December, is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday on the Ellipse, south of the White House.

The tree is beautiful, and the event is fun for families. The timing is ridiculous. It jams traffic for many blocks just as rush hour is beginning.

For more transportation news, visit washingtonpost.com/transportation.

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