Sunday, July 06, 2008

DC wants to close off major arteries for commuters, pass-through travelers

The “people’s” democratic administration of Washington DC (under Mayor Adrian Fenty) is considering asking for more draconian steps against motorists, the most visible of which would be to close off the exit from I-395 (just after the two tunnels) onto New York Avenue (US 50) heading NE toward the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and toward Annapolis and Bay Bridge.

Unlike most cities, Washington does not have an Interstate that runs through the city continuously. So some motorists go “straight” through the mixing bowl on I-95, which becomes I-395 as a spur, to the Fourteenth Street Bridge. It then meanders across the Chase Bridge toward the tunnels, and winds up at New York Ave. About three miles of New York Ave have lights (most with cameras, and with speed cameras) until it becomes a freeway at the Arboretum and the Washington Times property. One can then take the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (called MD 295) to 495 (the Beltway), head west to I-95 (eight lanes) to head toward Baltimore. As a practical matter, this is the shortest route through the area going north. I-95 actually follows the Beltway through Prince Georges County after crossing the new Wilson Bridge (near the new National Harbor) and heads north toward Baltimore only after about 30 miles of Beltway, often clogged.

A right turn onto US-50-NY Avenue from I-395 presents one with an extra bus stop lane and light, one which almost got me a ticket, but I talked them out of it (with some improvement in light timing afterward). The time I spent on emails was worth the amount of the ticket.

Washington DC has been criticized for its heavy use of camera fines, often said to be motivated by revenue rather than traffic safety. AAA has called Washington DC to have the most literal enforcement of speed limits and other traffic laws in the nation. Some enforcement activity seems justified to increase the likelihood of apprehending possible terror suspects. However, some observers feel that the fines and harassment of commuters is motivated politically, because Congress won't allow DC to levy a commuter tax. In the DC area, local income taxes are dependent on where you live. In the New York area, by comparison, they often depend on where you work.

DC’s red light camera locations are given at this website from the Metropolitan Police Department.

DC has legitimate concerns about pedestrian safety. One of the most dangerous areas for pedestrians in my opinion is around U Street and the Lincoln Theater, where there are a lot of newly renovated condominiums and apartments and many bars and restaurants, including some that cater to the LGBT community.

The Speed cameras are given at this location.

The front page (Sunday July 6) Washington Post Story is “D.C. May Choke Driving Options: City Considers Ways To Take Commuters Off Key Roadways,” link here.

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