Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips

Robert Thomson
Columnist December 3, 2011
No more free ride

This weekend is your last chance to drive Maryland’s Intercounty Connector between Interstate-370 and Interstate-95 while it’s still free. The Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the highway, is testing its toll equipment and allowing drivers to check out the road before tolling resumes after midnight Sunday.

As of Monday, driving from one end of the connector to the other will cost $4 at peak periods (6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays), $3.20 off-peak and $1.60 overnight (11 p.m. to 5 a.m.).

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

Owners of vehicles without an E-ZPass will receive a bill in the mail charging them a video toll rate. The charge generally will be 150 percent of the E-ZPass toll rate, but there is a minimum video surcharge of $1.

Getting E-ZPass

If you want to get a Maryland E-ZPass — and there’s no requirement that your E-ZPass come from Maryland to use the Intercounty Connector — go to ezpassmd.com or to the E-ZPass stop-in centers at the Beltsville and Gaithersburg Motor Vehicle Administration offices. They’re open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

Next weekend, the Beltsville office will have special Saturday hours, 8:30 a.m. to noon. The address is 11760 Baltimore Ave. The Gaithersburg office is at 15 Metropolitan Grove Rd.

Dulles Toll Road meeting

On Jan. 1, the toll at the main plaza on the Dulles Toll Road is going to rise by 25 cents.

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates the highway, plans to host a public information session about the toll road’s finances, operations and planned improvements.

The session is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. in the South Lakes High School cafeteria, 11400 South Lakes Dr., Reston.

Foggy Bottom escalators

Post Metro reporter Dana Hedgpeth and I went over to Metro’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday to mark completion of the third of three new escalators between 23rd Street NW and the mezzanine at Foggy Bottom station.

To the left, as you look at the station entrance, an area remains behind wooden boards, where the staircase will emerge early next year. Also still to come is a canopy over the entrance.

I asked Metro Deputy General Manager Dave Kubicek if he was worried about the escalators getting done before the new canopy to protect them. Kubicek is very enthusiastic about these new escalators, the first in 15 years to be installed in an existing station. He said they’re very tough compared to previous editions. (When you ride them, you’ll sense this, too.) They shouldn’t have a problem running several more months without the canopy.

D.C. streetcar meeting

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and the District Department of Transportation’s streetcar team have scheduled a meeting to update the public on plans for the the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line.

The meeting is set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. The closest Metrorail stop is at Union Station. The center also can be reached via Metrobus Routes X2, X8, X9. (X9 service ends at 6:30 p.m.)

11th Street Bridge

Two new spans are scheduled to open soon to replace the old ones on the 11th Street Bridge over the Anacostia River. But one of the biggest benefits of this District Department of Transportation project won’t happen just then.

These spans, which could open later this month or in January, ultimately will have ramps connecting the Southeast-Southwest Freeway with the Anacostia Freeway, providing a seamless connection for commuters and closing a missing link in the highway system. But first, traffic needs to be shifted from the old spans to the new ones, so that work can continue on the ramps and other elements of this major project.

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

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