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Initiative offers food discounts to Tysons commuters who don't drive

Wednesday - 5/4/2011, 8:20am  ET

Tysons Dulles Rail Construction (Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project/Chuck Samuelson)
The Dulles Rail Project is one of the projects causing gridlock in Tysons. (Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project/Chuck Samuelson)

WASHINGTON -- A new transportation initiative aimed at alleviating Tysons Corner traffic saves gas money for participants -- more than $4 million so far -- and also gives them a chance to win $100 a week in groceries and get discounts.

The NuRide program rewards drivers for avoiding the traditionally gridlocked district, which has become even more heavily congested than usual thanks to the ongoing Dulles Rail and Interstate 495 High Occupancy Transportation Lanes construction projects. Commuters are encouraged to telework, or use van pools, car pools, buses and bicycles to get to work, or simply walk.

"Whenever we do heavy construction work in an area, we always try to find those transportation commuter solutions that we can put in place to ease the stress," says Steve Titunic, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, which which also has sponsored commuter buses since February.

Those who sign up -- more than 8,800 people in the D.C. region and counting -- receive discounts on food and groceries, and are eligible for a weekly drawing for a $100 gift certificate.

Participants also have access to a van pool for $50 per month.

NuRide claims it has saved more than 580,000 car trips in the D.C. area, and spared drivers from traveling almost 18 million miles, according to its website. This has saved area commuters almost 800,000 gallons of gas totaling $3.8 million, they report.

The users, evenly split between men and women, travel an average of 30 miles on each leg of their commutes.

WTOP's Hank Silverberg contributed to this report. Follow Hank and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)