Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips: Soul-sucking commutes, Metro delays

Robert Thomson
Columnist May 11, 2013
The commuting life

A question submitted to my online chat Monday came from a person planning to relocate to the D.C. area. “Looking at commute from Gainesville to the Arlington Key Bridge area,” the questioner said. “Would be leaving Gainesville at 6 a.m. and Key Bridge at 6 p.m. Can you give me an idea of these commutes via auto, rail, or combination?”

Most popular answer submitted: “Don’t do it.”

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

One commenter elaborated this way: “After 12 1/2 years of commuting from Bristow to Tysons, I can attest that it is soul-sucking and frustrating. In the past three weeks, my commute almost doubled. Today, it’s back to normal. I don’t know why. I’ll never know.

“It’s a roll of the dice every time that I head out — will this be an hour drive, or three? And every year it does get a little worse, as more people move out here and beyond.”

If undaunted by that, the new commuter’s best bet might be to drive on Interstate 66 to Vienna and board the Orange Line.

Metrorail on weekends

Metro is working on four rail lines this weekend, but the major project is on the Orange Line, where buses replace trains between Vienna and Ballston through Sunday night. The Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations are closed.

Next weekend, Metro plans two major projects. On the Green Line, buses will replace trains between West Hyattsville and Greenbelt. The Greenbelt, College Park and Prince George’s Plaza stations will be closed.

On the Orange Line, buses will replace trains between Clarendon and East Falls Church. The Virginia Square and Ballston stations will be closed.

Meeting on new transit

The District Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration are hosting a public meeting May 23 to discuss possibilities for what they call a “premium transit service” between Union Station and Georgetown.

Premium transit means something more than Metrobus or the D.C. Circulator, both of which have routes along that corridor. It could be express buses, bus rapid transit or streetcars. But if it doesn’t turn out to be a streetcar line, that would be weird.

The District needs a western streetcar line to connect at Union Station with the H Street/Benning Road line scheduled to open late this year.

The meeting is set for 6 to 8 p.m. at the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square.

Route 4 bridges

The roadwork season is picking up. In Maryland, the State Highway Administration is starting a three-mile reconstruction along Route 4 (Pennsylvania Avenue) that includes replacement of the two old bridges over Route 223 (Woodyard Road) near Joint Base Andrews.

When the job is done, the westbound bridge will have two lanes, an acceleration lane for northbound Route 223 traffic and a four-foot-wide inside shoulder. The new bridge will have two lanes, a 10-foot outside shoulder and a 24-foot inside shoulder.

Watch for single-lane closings between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights.

This summer, crews will close the ramp from northbound Route 223 to eastbound Route 4 and create a detour. The entire project is scheduled to be done in fall 2015.

New Hampshire Avenue

In Takoma Park, the State Highway Administration is going to replace the bridge deck where New Hampshire Avenue crosses Sligo Creek. This one should be done in late 2014.

Crews are installing a temporary pedestrian bridge to maintain access to Sligo Creek Park during the project. The travel lanes on New Hampshire Avenue will be shifted. All the lanes will be open during rush hours, but drivers may find lanes closed during off-peak hours.

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

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