Traffic fixes always end somewhere
By Robert Thomson,
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Maryland spent millions putting in cloverleafs at all the intersections from Columbia to Silver Spring on Route 29, and never did a thing to fix the bottleneck at New Hampshire Avenue and Route 29, where traffic narrows down to two lanes and then opens up again.
That bottleneck should have been addressed from the start.
— Kay Miller, Laurel
Many of our multimillion-dollar road improvements offer commuters the chance to reach the next bottleneck more quickly. We may someday see that when traffic from Virginia’s high-occupancy toll lanes reaches the American Legion Bridge into Maryland or Interstate 395 heading toward the District.
To relieve pressure on Route 29’s commuters, the Maryland State Highway Administration rebuilt intersections into interchanges along the northern part in the D.C. suburbs. It helped many travelers, turning upper Route 29 into I-95 Lite. But the bottleneck then moved farther south, to that lane narrowing at New Hampshire Avenue.
However, the problem doesn’t stop once southbound drivers get the third lane back. The traffic encounters several lights, including the ones for busy University Boulevard. Motorists move slowly all the way into downtown Silver Spring.
More improvements are slated for Route 29, or are already underway, but there’s no grand fix in the works. The state doesn’t have the money to do everything at once, and there are other bad spots in the area that also need attention. They include trouble spots elsewhere on Route 29.
One of the priority projects near completion in Montgomery County might help: the Intercounty Connector. A lot of Route 29’s traffic already is drawn off by east-west links like Randolph and Fairland roads. The connector, just north of Fairland, may divert more.
Meanwhile, there’s planning and engineering money in the long-range state budget for five other interchanges on Route 29, but no construction money. Those interchanges would be at Fairland Road, Stewart Lane, Tech Road, Greencastle Road and Blackburn Road — all above New Hampshire Avenue. So far, the county hasn’t submitted a priority list to the state that requests money for a Route 29 widening at New Hampshire Avenue.
If that seems unreasonable in light of the heavy traffic, consider how bad conditions are at some spots already on Montgomery County’s priority list for action. The list includes construction of an interchange at Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road, one of the worst bottlenecks in the county. It affects both north-south and east-west commuters every day.
Also on the list is reconstruction of the intersection at Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road. It’s among the intersections that are crucial in handling traffic generated by the federal base realignment program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. We have more needs than money for commuter relief.
Distress — and relief —at L’Enfant Plaza
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I sat down on a bench at L’Enfant Plaza while waiting for my Green Line train. My purse shoulder strap must have fallen down, and when I got up to board the train, my big red purse was left behind. As we travelled, I realized my tote bag was still on my shoulder, but not my purse.
I got off at the next station, ran across the platform and boarded a train back toward L’Enfant.
When we reached the station, I raced to the escalator and across the bridge to reach the platform where I had boarded. As I passed one of the WMATA staff standing on the bridge, I hollered, “I left my red purse on a bench.”
I learned later his name was Darrell Burrell. Well, Burrell raced past me and beat me down the escalator, running along the platform looking for the red purse.
It was gone.
I would have quit and gone home, but Burrell said, “Let’s go over to the kiosk.”
And there in the kiosk stood Harold Short, grinning and clutching my red purse. He said it had been turned in by a passenger. I put my head down on the shoulders of these two men and hugged them, and started to tear up.
Wish I could thank the honest citizen who turned in my purse so promptly, but I can commend these two WMATA employees for fast and honest reaction to help a senior passenger in great distress. Chivalry is alive in Washington, D.C.
— Jeanne Oleson, University Park
Thanks to Burrell, a rail training instructor, and to Short, a station manager, and to an unknown rider.
Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or