Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips: Bridge repairs and more Metro apologies

Robert Thomson
Columnist July 13, 2013
Setting priorities

The newly empowered Northern Virginia Transportation Authority plans to make decisions this month about a first round of spending on transportation projects that could amount to $200 million.

The money is likely to go to a variety of road, transit, biking and walking projects across the region, but some transportation advocates favor spending on just a few projects that would have the highest possible impact on congestion.

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

What priorities would you set for the spending? I’ve invited two members of the authority’s board, Martin Nohe of Prince William and Chris Zimmerman of Arlington, to answer your questions during my regular online discussion Monday at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.

Fixing bridges

A traveler asked me why rehabilitation of the New Hampshire Avenue bridge over Sligo Creek is taking so long. The Maryland State Highway Administration project, which includes replacing the bridge deck, just got started in the spring.

It’s scheduled to be done in spring 2014, which wouldn’t be a particularly lengthy time period for a job like this.

The work could get done faster if the state shut the bridge and detoured New Hampshire Avenue traffic. Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the highway administration, said the state has used that strategy on less heavily traveled roads, but New Hampshire Avenue is a major commuter route.

Instead, the engineers shift traffic, closing off one side of the bridge for workers while keeping the other part open for vehicles. That takes longer. It also leaves the workers with a tight work zone, so slow down and be careful.

Metro apologizes

Transit managers will consider this faint praise, but I want to note that they’re getting better at issuing apologies to riders. The riders, on the other hand, will say that the transit managers are getting too much practice.

In a June column, I noted that Metro’s apology to Red Line riders included the phrase, “we sincerely regret any inconvenience,” suggesting to the thousands who were disrupted by power problems and disabled trains that there was some doubt about it.

After the extensive delays on the Blue and Orange lines Wednesday, a Metro statement at least got the language right: “We understand that delays of an hour or more impact you and your families, and we apologize for the inconvenience.”

Dupont Circle escalators

At about 2 p.m. Tuesday, a traveler noticed this configuration for the bank of three very lengthy escalators on the Q Street NW side of Metro’s Dupont Circle station: one out for major repairs, one stopped and one going down.

He also noticed one older woman stopping to catch her breath as she walked up the stopped escalator. This one escalator was out of service only temporarily Tuesday. Still, given Metro’s concern for public safety as demonstrated by its prompt removal of the morning glories planted at Dupont Circle, it seems reasonable to expect that Metro would promptly set the one working escalator to go up or make other provisions to protect riders.

Cleveland Park plans

The District Department of Transportation has invited the public to share ideas for improving all forms of travel in Cleveland Park.

The session is scheduled for Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the community room at the Second District police station, 3320 Idaho Ave. NW.

Ramp closing

Next weekend, the Maryland State Highway Administration plans to again close the ramp from westbound Route 50 to southbound Route 301. The closing, to improve the ramp surface, is set to begin Friday at 9 p.m. and end Monday, July 22, at 5 a.m.

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

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