Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Simple question: Why can't the Dulles Access Road be available to high-occupancy vehicles in addition to airport traffic, thereby freeing other roads from some of the ever-increasing traffic of Loudoun County and beyond?
It's frustrating commuting back and forth and seeing just a trickle of cars on the access road while everyone else, including HOV users, is stuck in gridlock.
Having the access road open to HOV traffic should make HOV enforcement easier.
How many times do you see drivers with only one occupant move in and out of the HOV lane to make detection difficult, thus creating hazardous situations?
A solo driver on the access road would have a difficult time escaping detection.
The least that can be done is to make the access road available to all drivers when there's an accident or when the weather is bad.
Bottom line: The Dulles Toll Road is overcrowded, and the access road is underutilized. It's just that simple.
I feel your pain at having to commute in from Loudoun County. You might not like this answer, though.
The feds were there first. They built the access road so people could get out to Dulles International Airport with minimum congestion. It works. Now that Loudoun has been developed in a reckless way, commuters want a part of the access road. That won't happen. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will not allow commuters to use the access road and impinge on airport traffic. I support that.
If Metrorail to Dulles becomes a reality, you could see rail to the airport and on to Loudoun County by 2015, but that seems optimistic.
Loudoun commuters might be better served focusing on the land-use decisions of the county Board of Supervisors, which seems content to approve more development even though the transportation infrastructure isn't in place to handle that growth.
P.S. If the Virginia State Police request it, the access road can be used to divert traffic from accident scenes.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
My family just got back from a trip to southwest New York, and our E-ZPass probably saved us 45 minutes of waiting in long lines at the toll booths.
Up north, we noticed a greater promotion of E-ZPass.
Every fast-food restaurant we went to had applications for E-ZPass. One restaurant even had a vending machine for the pass. At another fast-food restaurant, a small office for E-ZPass purchases was being built.
In our area, the only E-ZPass promotion I have noticed is a highway advertisement with an 800 number, which most people probably can't write down as they are whizzing past in their cars.
If E-ZPass were advertised more in this area, maybe more people would sign up for it, and lines at the Dulles Toll Road booths, especially the main toll booth, would dwindle.
I agree. However, Virginia was years behind Maryland in adopting E-ZPass and is slow to market the system. It stands to reason that if everyone had a pass, the Virginia Department of Transportation could save money on toll collection, and more customers could move more quickly through toll facilities.
VDOT is thinking about making E-ZPass available at transportation centers (such as the one at the Ballston Metro station) and at some retail outlets, according to Ryan Hall, a VDOT spokesman.
Some suggestions for transportation officials: Put the applications at Department of Motor Vehicles branches, libraries, gas stations and other heavily traveled locations. Or see if you can attach them to correspondence that the state regularly sends out, such as state income tax booklets, DMV renewal forms and county auto tax forms. Eventually, VDOT will catch up. I hope.
To enroll, log on to www.ezpassva.com or call 877-762-7824.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
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