By Robert Thomson
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I live near the Telegraph Road-Interstate 495 interchange. I was wondering whether there are plans to include a bike path or pedestrian walkway under the Capital Beltway, or near it, in conjunction with the interchange construction there. As construction progresses, it is clear that there will be multiple bridges and raised roadways over Telegraph Road. Please tell me that there was some consideration of pedestrian and bike traffic in the plans.
There will be a pedestrian and bike path in the Telegraph Road interchange project. The path will take people along a ramp on the east side of the interchange, from Telegraph Road northbound directly to Eisenhower Avenue. It is scheduled to open late next year or in early 2010, said Alexander E. Lee, a spokesman for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project. The Telegraph Road construction is the last big phase of the bridge project, which involved not only the bridge but also four nearby interchanges in Virginia and Maryland.Hybrid or Scofflaw?
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
After reading the complaints about single drivers in the HOV lanes, I had to wonder how many of the complainers look at the type of vehicle to make sure it's not a hybrid. Many times I would watch car after car passing by in HOV lanes with single occupants, but many were hybrid cars, which are exempt on HOV lanes, at least in Virginia.
I know there are a lot of violators, but next time, make sure your ire is justified. I, for one, wish Virginia had not extended the hybrid HOV exemption. Yes, they are better then normal cars in fuel mileage, but I would think one regular 30-plus mpg car with two passengers would still be better then two hybrid cars with single drivers. A hybrid car going 70-plus mph isn't getting that much better mileage anyway.
I share your concern about the hybrids. The Virginia General Assembly is likely to continue extending the exemption year by year, but at least it will end on Interstate 95-395 if the HOT (high occupancy or toll) lanes project is completed.Pedestrian Safety
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Having served on the Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee for several years, I've concentrated on trying to make downtown Silver Spring (close to where I live) and downtown Bethesda (where I work) more pedestrian-friendly.
Universally dangerous to pedestrians are drivers who turn right illegally at intersections clearly marked with No Right Turn on Red signs. This happens frequently in both urban districts.
One of my pet danger zones is in the District in front of Union Station. For commuters or tourists, walking from the Red Line escalator at the station, by the Columbus Fountain, and across Massachusetts Avenue toward Capitol Hill is a hazardous trek along an illogical obstacle course.
As one of the gateways to our nation's capital, surely we can design a beautiful, direct and safe walkway that protects and respects those who make a conscious effort to use transit and walk with a lighter carbon footprint.
Linda S. Katz
I think at least we could repaint the crosswalks around Columbus Circle in front of Union Station and along First Street in front of the Capitol. This is prime walking territory, not only for locals but also for many visitors testing our streets for the first time.Tunnel Vision
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I was riding in a six-car Franconia-Springfield-bound Blue Line train in Car No. 4017 about 8:45 a.m. June 25, when the train stopped short of the platform at Smithsonian Station and opened its doors in the tunnel.
There is no reason this should be happening. Someone is going to get hurt.
Wesley D. Wilson
The only thing new about the distressing string of incidents is that this one involved a six-car rather than an eight-car train.
Metro's internal investigations indicate the operators forgot they had eight cars behind them, thinking they had the usual six. They stopped too short on the platform, so doors on the last car opened in the tunnel.
Metro managers have tried to correct this through various reminders to the operators about how long their trains are. The Transit Authority has not taken the further step of having all trains stop at the same point on the platform, so operators don't have to remember how long the trains are.
The June 25 incident was the first reported that involved a six-car train. Could the operator have thought it was a four-car train? This does not inspire confidence.
The operator was placed on leave pending the outcome of Metro's investigation, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said.
Wilson described the scene in Car 4017 this way: "The doors were open for about 15 seconds, so no one (including me) had the presence of mind to jump for the intercom, which would have been the smart thing to do in case someone had stepped out.
"The operator closed the doors and moved on up to the platform and resumed business as normal."
Passengers on the other trains where the doors opened said almost the same thing about their responses. And it's easy to picture: The train is stopped. You hear the sound of the doors opening as usual. And it only gradually sinks in that you're still in the tunnel.
Rarely do the passengers go to the train intercom. But, as Wilson suggested, somebody could get left behind in one of these incidents. And so far, there's no reason to believe it won't happen again. If it does, make sure somebody gets to the intercom to report what happened. Or should we lash ourselves together to ensure everyone's accounted for when the train reaches the platform?
Dr. Gridlock appears Thursdays in the Extras and Sundays in the Metro section. Send e-mails for publication firstname.lastname@example.org write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include your name, community and phone numbers.