The Washington Post

Virginia opens Web site to explain those orange cones

The Virginia Department of Transportation has launched a new Web site that gathers much of the information travelers seek about the state’s road work and makes it available on clickable maps.

Orange barrels on I-95 I-95 drivers have seen plenty of construction, but it’s difficult to locate the 95 Express Lanes project on new map. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

This is the link: This is a helpful effort to create a one-stop-shopping center for travel information in Virginia. As with other information sites created by transportation agencies, the success of this one will depend on how it’s modified based on user feedback and on whether the information stays current. (Presenting information about all projects often creates a challenging maintenance task.)

These are some of the information categories that will most interest travelers:

Much of this information is available on individual sites — the 511 system, for example — but if you bookmark the new page, you will find all the pages collected, and you will have access to the projects and paving maps.

The pavement page is an interesting feature. It color codes the condition of roadways across Virgina, based on the state’s description of the road surface quality (excellent, good, fair, poor, very poor). Click to zoom the map down to the county level, and you will see roads scheduled to be paved.

The projects page is an ambitious effort to map VDOT projects that are planned, in design, advertised for construction bids, or recently completed. The first statewide view is overwhelming. Use the filter menu on the left to create a view that’s more specific to your interests. You could, for example, pick interstate highway projects in Fairfax County that are in construction.

Filtering the map will provide a more manageable view, but you might still encounter some difficulties. I ought to be able to find the 95 Express Lanes project on the map of I-95 between the Capital Beltway and Stafford County. I-95 drivers know that’s definitely in the “Construction Started” category. But all I can find along that part of I-95 is a green line marking a “Design Underway” project. Click on the green line, and you’ll see this refers to preliminary engineering for a parking management information system.

That’s another thing. The information that pops up is mostly in engineer/bureaucrat speak, as it is in the long-range capital budget. So if you use this page, you will know something is going on, but not exactly what. How much does it help the average traveler to know that “Allocation information is based on the final SYIP plus any subsequent amendments or transfers approved by the CTB”? (That’s Six-Year Improvement Program and Commonwealth Transportation Board.)

This was the same problem I had with the District Department of Transportation’s Dashboard, launched back when Gabe Klein was director. It was a good step toward public accountability on promised projects, but it was prepared and maintained by project managers and contractors, so it didn’t say much to travelers who just wanted to figure out what was going on and when it would be done.

When looking for information about big D.C. projects today, this page on capital infrastructure is useful.

To get an overview of projects in Maryland, go to: To see a list of major highway projects under construction during 2014 in Maryland, look at this Road Ready Brochure (pdf).

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.



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