Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips: Express lanes should get commuters out of cars

Columnist January 12, 2013
Bus commuters wanted

About 93 percent of the vehicles using the new Capital Beltway express lanes are paying tolls to do so. I hope that percentage will come down in 2013, as more commuters form carpools or take advantage of the new bus routes, such as the Express Connector service that the Fairfax County Department of Transportation plans to begin Monday.

The 495 Express Lanes can’t really be a success unless they fully serve transit users as well as solo drivers. Omniride already has launched a commuter bus service, Tysons Express, to link Woodbridge and Tysons via the express lanes on the west side of the Beltway.

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

Initially, Fairfax’s rush hour service will connect Burke and various destinations in Tysons. The first bus is scheduled to leave the Burke Centre VRE station at 5:35 a.m. weekdays. The last morning run leaves at 9. The weekday trips from Tysons Corner Center to the Burke station will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 7 p.m.

The one-way fare will be $3.65 using a SmarTrip card or $4 in cash, but the trips will be free through Jan. 25.

Highway workers killed

Luis Tadeo, 42, of Bowie and Victor D. Jackson, 41, of the District were killed Wednesday morning when a driver veered into a construction zone on Route 40 in Northeast, Md., police and highway officials said.

The crash is under investigation but should serve as a reminder for all drivers that they need to go carefully through work zones, which remain active even in the winter. Tadeo and Jackson were part of a storm water management project.

These work zones are dangerous places, and most of those killed in such incidents nationwide are drivers and their passengers.

Metro track work

Metrorail riders face disruptions on parts of the Blue, Red and Green lines this weekend, but they will get a break next weekend. A holiday like Martin Luther King Jr. Day normally would signal an intense program of track work, to take advantage of the relatively light local travel over a three-day weekend. Last year, for example, the Orange and Blue lines were split for the holiday weekend to make room for maintenance.

But Monday is also Inauguration Day, when demand will be extra heavy, and Metro is not planning any major work.

Mark Center work

This coming week, the left turn lane on Seminary Road (Route 420) west to Mark Center Avenue will be temporarily closed for the construction of two concrete medians and installation of storm drain piping. This is part of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s program to ease traffic congestion around Mark Center stemming from the transfer of workers as part of the base realignment program.

The turn lane will be closed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and also each of those nights from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Next Friday and Saturday nights, the lane will be closed from 9:30 p.m. to 9 a.m., and then next Sunday night from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Longest commutes

When we compare long commutes, it’s usually about distance traveled. But a Northern Virginia commuter named Betsy Strader asked me whether anyone could top her length of time commuting along a route that includes the same highway.

Since July 1967, she has followed various paths to and from work that always included a portion of Interstate 66. At some times, part of the trip included stretches on Route 7, or Route 50, or Gallows Road or the Capital Beltway, but the one constant was the interstate. “I can’t seem to get off 66,” she said.

Write in and tell us if you can even come close to matching her.

“If you asked me what the signs say along 66, I would not be able to tell you,” Strader said. “I guess I am on autopilot or I just don’t pay attention” — but she noted she has a very safe driving record.

For more transportation news, go to washingtonpost.com/transportation.

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