Work is progressing on two of the largest state highway projects in Anne Arundel County:
(1) A new interchange at the junction of Routes 2 and 50 will provide easier access for vehicles traveling to and from the two roadways in the fast-growing Parole area.
The $13 million project also provides improved connections at the confluence of nearby Routes 2 and 450 and Jennifer Road.
Construction started in spring of 2003 and should be finished by the end of this year. The project is running a few months behind schedule because of inclement weather.
(2) New bridges on Rowe Boulevard over College Creek and Weems Creek, leading to the statehouse, are on schedule. This project involves the replacement of the crumbling College Creek Bridge and redecking of the Weems Creek Bridge. Both are about 50 years old.
The state has sought extensive community involvement and pursued an extraordinarily long (two years) design phase to be sure the bridges are aesthetically appropriate for the major entrance to the state capital. "The bridges will look fabulous," says Dave Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.
You can view artwork of the finished bridges by logging on to www.marylandroads.com and typing "Rowe Boulevard" in the search bar.
The new bridge work will include bike lanes in both directions, connecting to existing bike paths. It is good to see consideration of bike lanes in road projects. With rising gasoline prices, more and more motorists are looking for alternative transportation modes.
This $30 million project began in April of 2004 and should be completed by the end of next summer.
Unfinished Sound Walls
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
What is the status of sound walls being erected along Route 29 in the Ellicott City area? After considerable activity, progress seems to have come to a standstill, and the project is only partially completed.
I suspect some sort of contract dispute or financial difficulties on the part of the contractor. There are at least two expensive cranes that have been idle for over two weeks.
No contract problems; construction has been slowed by the abnormally heavy October rains, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.
There are two sound wall projects along Route 29 in the Ellicott City area:
* Along southbound Route 29, between Frederick Road and south of Route 103, the state is constructing sound barriers for about a mile and a half to help protect the High View and St. John's Manor subdivisions. That project should be completed by the end of the year, weather permitting, with final landscaping done next spring.
* Along northbound Route 29, between Route 175 and Diamondback Drive, the state is putting up sound walls on a smaller scale, for less than half a mile. That project should be done by the end of November, weather permitting.
The cost of the first project is $6.5 million, and the second is $1.4 million. The state pays for 80 percent of these noise projects, with Howard County contributing 20 percent.
For more information about sound walls and how to get them in your community, log on to www.marylandroads.com and click on "Improving Our Community," then click on "Sound Barriers."
The Blue-Bubble Exemption
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Two days ago, I was motoring at 9 a.m. on eastbound Interstate 66. HOV-2 regulations were still in effect. From Manassas to Nutley Street, I was in front of a four-door Ford with a male driver inside, one or two extra aerials on the car and a blue, bubble-shaped light on the dashboard.
Was this a policeman in a unmarked car? I would wager that it was. He was in the HOV lane, all by himself, all the way to Nutley. If he is a police officer, is he exempt?
The use of blue lights is supposed to be restricted to law enforcement. Fire equipment and ambulances use red emergency lights. Because unmarked police vehicles come in all forms (Prince William has used sports cars), I'd assume that was a police vehicle. And if so, yes, law enforcement is exempt from Virginia HOV restrictions, whether on or off duty.
If any of you are aware of a vendor who sells blue lights to the public, I'd like to know about it.
A Transient Population
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
After regularly reading the advice in your column to live where you work, I finally must comment. How many homeowners -- journalists and politicians excluded -- have had the same job location for 10 years? How many of those are completely confident they will work at the same location for the next 10 years? And how many spouses of those have had, and expect to continue to have, the same job location? And are both working at the same location?
To Terence Heron, who wondered "why are people living in Rockville and above and driving to near Dulles to work" [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 13], could it be that the Rockville job location closed and moved employees to Dulles? A similar situation happened to my family.
Do you know of sufficient housing in Tysons Corner whose prices are commensurate with the salaries of the sales associates employed at the local malls and stores?
It is difficult to live close to one's workplace, for many of the reasons you cite.
A Commute-Free Solution
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I have a solution to traffic in Tysons Corner: Erect the largest building known to mankind for residential use. Make it 2,000feet tall. Put an elementary, middle and high school in it. Build covered walkways to Tysons Corner shopping and the cluster of office buildings off International Drive. What would you need a car for?
Cost? Probably $2 billion. But 30,000 people would be able to afford to live right by work, instead of 75 miles away. Can $2 billion worth of highway or Metro improvements do that?
I'll give you a good mark for creative thinking. However, people will still want at least one parking place for themselves, plus sufficient parking for visitors. That would be quite a parking facility. Further, there remains the question of where the folks who work at the lowest-paying jobs at Tysons would live. They probably could not afford this structure.
Beyond that, wouldn't the foundation for such a building obliterate Tysons Corner altogether?
Up, not out, makes sense only if the existing transportation system isn't already overloaded.
What do you folks think?
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in The Extra and Sunday in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at email@example.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.