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Drivers adjusting to new pavement marks, new highway links

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Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Drivers making the trek east or west on Interstate 66 between the Capital Beltway and Fair Oaks (near Route 50) are now confronted with surface line and color markings that are novel and unexplained.

The new lines, which separate the high-occupancy vehicle lane from the normal traffic lanes, include wider-than-normal single white lines, followed by double white lines and punctuated by broken white lines. I assume the single solid white lines are designed to warn you that the double white lines are coming, and that the double lines are meant to prohibit cars from entering or exiting the HOV lanes, which is allowed only where the lines are broken.

But, assuming this is true, is it okay to cross the solid lines during non-HOV periods? The second, even more confusing surface feature is the red coloring applied to portions of the far-right lanes, but not continuously. These are the shoulder lanes open to traffic at only specific times and controlled by the red X and green arrow indicators. Not sure what the red is for or why it exists on some stretches but not others.

Rick Vaughan, Oak Hill

DG: As the Virginia Department of Transportation finishes up the most-welcome paving project on I-66 west of the Beltway, it has put down some new safety markings. I think they’re a good idea, but many drivers have written in to say they find them confusing.

A solid white line on pavement has a variety of meanings. One is to discourage lane changes. A double solid white line indicates an area where lane changes are prohibited. Based on a safety study of I-66, the VDOT added the double solid lines along portions of the HOV lane where lane changes can be particularly dangerous. Don’t cross them.

There are areas where the lines are dashed, indicating it’s safe to change lanes.

The red clay coloring on the right shoulder is something else entirely. The VDOT put it down to help drivers differentiate between the regular travel lanes and these part-time lanes. They are open to all traffic during the most congested time of day. Eastbound, that’s 5:30 to 11 a.m. Westbound, it’s 2 to 8 p.m. Off peak, those lanes are the shoulders.

VDOT officials say that signs will tell drivers not to cross the solid white lines. For the red clay lanes, the overhead green arrows and red X’s indicate when the lanes are open or closed.

RAMP GETS RAVE REVIEW

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I can now report that use of the new ramp from D.C. 295 South to the 11th Street bridge is, in my opinion, the preferred route when driving to Capitol Hill. This means that the new ramp is more than just a new way to get to the outbound 14th Street bridge and thereby to southbound Interstate 395 in Virginia.

Following the signs to I-395 North, one can exit at D Street SW and use D Street to reach close-in Southeast neighborhoods and destinations, such as the retail area on Pennsylvania Avenue SE or the area around the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and the House and Senate office buildings.

If one is tolerant of the unsynchronized red lights on D Street, it’s a better choice than using the Whitney Young [East Capitol Street] Bridge and the local streets in Northeast, such as East Capitol Street, C Street NE, Constitution Avenue NE and North Carolina Avenue.

Those streets also have their share of red lights, a 25 mph speed limit, a 15 mph speed limit when children are present and the possibility of being caught by mobile or permanently installed speed cameras.

Just another reason to appreciate the new inbound ramp and look forward to the forthcoming opening of the new outbound ramp.

Alan L. Seltzer, Beltsville

DG: I hope many more drivers will discover this terrific new travel option. The ramp opened during the summer. Drivers who for decades bemoaned the lack of such a connection between D.C. highways might not believe it really happened.

To expand slightly on Seltzer’s good description, the ramp sets up an alternative for Maryland drivers who take New York Avenue into the District to reach downtown destinations or to connect with I-395 toward the 14th Street bridge.

It might also prove useful for drivers heading to Nationals Park from east of the District.

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