The Washington Post

Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips: Holiday getaways, Metro clocks, disability parking

When to get away

Last week, I had a chance to compare notes on the timing of the Thanksgiving getaway with Bob Marbourg, WTOP radio’s master of traffic.

He said that Wednesday afternoon and evening — Thanksgiving eve — used to be the killer of the holiday week. But in recent years, he said, the high volume of holiday-bound travelers has spread itself out over the preceding days.

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. View Archive

This is not to suggest you should wait till the last possible moment to leave. Wednesday can still be very unpleasant on the highways, just not quite as bad as it used to be.

If planning for an overnight departure, be wary of your body clock. It may be saying you should be asleep just when you need all your faculties to stay safe on the road.

Metro clocks back

Metro riders are happy to have their digital clocks back at the rail station kiosks. The older versions were taken down so a new display style could be installed. But some feared the time would not return.

The digital clocks are particularly valuable to the riders who cluster outside the fare gates waiting for the peak fares to become off-peak fares, because they need to know what time Metro says it is before they proceed through the gates.

Over the next few weeks, the rest of the new kiosk displays should be activated to show the status of service on the rail lines.

Disability parking

The misuse of disability parking placards is a problem in many jurisdictions across the region. This misbehavior sometimes can take away parking from the general public, but in the worst cases, it means that people in need are denied access to street space reserved for them.

Montgomery County has tried to increase its enforcement of disability parking rules during the past year under a program it calls “Respect the Space.” But county officials said they needed help from the state Motor Vehicle Administration, which maintains the information in the vehicle registration database.

Now, law enforcement officers across Maryland have easier access to the database, which makes it easier for them to detect fraud, theft or abuse of disabled parking privileges. They can quickly determine who has a disabled parking privilege and can see a photo of the person.

Restoring Route 29

The Maryland State Highway Administration has wrapped up work on the Route 29 bridges over Route 40 and Frederick Road in Howard County. Southbound Route 29 is back in its normal configuration.

All the work that began in March was done a lot earlier than the original target of summer 2013. Drivers won’t see the orange construction barrels or the speed- enforcement cameras.

Route 28 bridge

The biggest ribbon-cutting of the week occurred Tuesday for the 495 Express Lanes. But the Virginia Department of Transportation held another one on Wednesday for a project that is important to many commuters: the Route 28 bridge over Wellington Road and the Norfolk Southern Railroad in Manassas.

The overpass eliminates the at-grade railroad crossing, enhancing safety for drivers and pedestrians. VDOT said the construction was advanced five years thanks to the availability of nearly $20 million in federal stimulus money.

Eastern Avenue paving

The District Department of Transportation plans to start the reconstruction and resurfacing of Eastern Avenue NE this week. The project includes two sections of Eastern Avenue: from Sargent Road to Galloway Street and from Michigan Avenue to Randolph Street. The entire project should take about a year.

Most work will be done from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays, though there may be some construction overnights and on weekends. Curbside parking will be temporarily restricted in the work zones, the transportation department said.

For more transportation news, visit



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