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Pain Now, Gain Later

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, April 22, 2007

D ear Dr. Gridlock:

I am wondering about the construction on Kenilworth Avenue at Route 50. I am a commuter from the Annapolis area and travel that road daily. I hope what they are doing will relieve congestion exiting onto Route 50.

Diane Lucado

Edgewater

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The state of Maryland is replacing the bridge over Route 50 where the Baltimore-Washington Parkway turns into Kenilworth Avenue. In the morning heading south (6:30 a.m.), this has slowed up traffic by about five minutes. The evenings heading north (anytime after 3:30) are a ruddy disaster.

Traffic on Route 295 is backed up past Pennsylvania Avenue, and it can take more than an hour to get to the squeeze point. The exit to Route 50 is now a hard right turn that causes trucks and buses to swing into the middle lane to access the ramp.

Melissa Daston

West Laurel

I think the gain will be worth the pain, but it will be awhile.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is replacing the bridges built in 1956 and attempting to improve safety and reduce congestion at this busy interchange, spokesman Chuck Gischlar said.

For the safety of motorists and construction workers, the ramp from eastbound Route 50 to southbound Kenilworth Avenue has been closed, and traffic is being detoured around the loop system of the interchange. The ramp will be closed until roughly the end of summer.

The bridges will be replaced with slightly wider structures to accommodate a full shoulder on the northbound bridge and to provide a dedicated acceleration lane for eastbound Route 50 traffic merging onto southbound Kenilworth. This acceleration lane will greatly reduce congestion, Gischlar said.

The project is to be done in fall 2008.

Well-Timed Help

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I would like to express my profound appreciation for the roadside assistance given to me the afternoon of Feb. 1 by Virginia Department of Transportation employee Bernard Marquis. Mr. Marquis and his truck appeared three minutes after I had to stop on the American Legion Bridge because a large piece of metal debris had wedged itself under my car.

Mr. Marquis jacked up the front of the car and yanked the piece away. His fast action not only rescued me but saved countless drivers that afternoon from what would clearly have been a major slowdown. Courteous, professional and kind, Mr. Marquis brought great credit to VDOT.

Mildred Patterson

Arlington County

By the way, take care crossing the bridge during the year-long painting and cleaning project that Maryland highway crews began last month.

An Unexplained Evacuation

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

While waiting for a train at Pentagon City around 9:15 a.m. April 10, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that, due to an emergency, the station was to be evacuated: "Please leave by the nearest exit." Since I like to board at the back of a northbound train to facilitate my transfer at Gallery Place, that meant walking the length of the platform to reach the exit.

While I was making the trek, a Blue Line train pulled up to the station and discharged passengers. Since this became my new "closest exit," I and a few others hopped on and took off. Apparently, the Yellow Line train that followed a few minutes later also stopped.

What bothers me about this is that if it were a real emergency, shouldn't the train operator have been informed so that he could stop at Crystal City or at best just keep motoring through the station? Have you heard anything that would indicate what went on?

Chris Mrstik

Arlington County

This was one of those uninspiring moments in incident management. Many train riders were left confused by the insufficient follow-up on the initial announcement.

Metro workers were doing maintenance at Pentagon City when a fire alarm was mistakenly tripped. That set off an automated announcement in the station, directing passengers to evacuate.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said the station manager tried to tell customers it was a false alarm but couldn't communicate with everyone who had heard the announcement.

"We sincerely apologize to those customers who were affected by this incident," Taubenkibel said.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in the Extras and Sunday in the Metro section. You can e-mail questions and comments todrgridlock@washpost.com. Include your name, home community and phone number.

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