A traveler wrote in with this question for today’s online chat:

Common sense on road work

Yesterday morning (Sunday) at around 10 a.m., I was caught in a horrible traffic jam heading north on Georgia Avenue (MD 97) between Olney and Brookeville, where the road is just one lane each way. The reason? They were taking up the striping in the middle of the road. Did this have to be done during the day?

Maybe, but for many miles, we were just going slowly behind the work until they finally started alternating traffic around them. This caused at least a 30-minute delay for us and I suspect the backup was miles (plural) long. There weren’t any signs until we had already been caught in the jam for many minutes and we had no idea what was up. We called WTOP and they had no idea. We can do better than this, right?

DG: I was unable to address this one during the chat because of a computer problem, but I do have a response from David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

He wrote in an e-mail that SHA’s contractor was working on MD 97 between Queen Elizabeth Drive (just north of MD 108) and MD 650 (New Hampshire Avenue) on Sunday morning. “We recently paved the road and as we always do during paving operation, we put down temporary tape until the paint truck comes in at a later time to put down the permanent lines,” Buck said.

Unlike paving, which can be done at night, re-striping is nearly always done during daylight hours, he said. While the temporary tape can be pulled up in the dark, the precise maneuvering of the paint truck is a delicate operation and requires the light of day for the paint truck get it right the first time. The state highway crews were working Sunday on this three mile section of MD 97. The goal on the weekends is to be off the road by 10 a.m.

Unfortunately, Buck said, it took a bit longer since it was such a long stretch of road and they did not clear the area until closer to 10:45 a.m. creating the delays.

“SHA apologizes to the motorists on MD 97 yesterday,” Buck said. “We have made it clear to our contractors of the need to be off the road on the weekends by 10 a.m., unless there is an emergency or some type of equipment breakdown.”