2009's good, bad: Transportation experts make their calls.

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, January 3, 2010

Two groups concerned about transportation in the Washington region have offered their evaluations of 2009. How do they match up with your personal list of progress and decline?

The first comes in from John B. Townsend II, manager of public and governmental affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic, and starts with the worst developments.

Metro meltdown: Metro was off to a banner year when President Obama's inauguration resulted in a ridership record. But the June 22 crash and reports of safety flaws spooked public confidence. By year's end, Metro's managers were being castigated for lapses in safety by longtime supporter Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.).

Rest stops closed: The Virginia Department of Transportation shuttered many rest areas as a result of a continuing transportation funding crisis.

E-Z come, E-Z go: The Maryland Transportation Authority added a $1.50 per month maintenance fee on E-ZPass accounts.

Distracted driving: A 2009 survey by Fluor-Transurban, the builder of the high-occupancy toll lanes in Northern Virginia, and AAA Mid-Atlantic found that 56 percent of drivers on the Capital Beltway are distracted by some form of cellphone use.

Automated moneymaking: The District and Montgomery County collected nearly $52 million in fines from automated speed cameras during their 2009 fiscal years. As tax revenues plummeted, jurisdictions expanded automated traffic enforcement to help balance budgets. Some Maryland communities intend to adopt speed cameras under a state law that took effect in October.

Safety inspections end: Killing the vehicle inspection program will save the District only $400,000 annually. At a time when many motorists are delaying maintenance to save money, the move will likely increase the number of poorly maintained vehicles on city streets.

Here's AAA Mid-Atlantic's best local developments of 2009:

Anti-texting laws: Virginia and Maryland enacted laws making it illegal to text while driving. The District already had such a law.

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