The Inner Scoop

Weekend Wakeup: Weather is the weekend's main traffic concern

Posted on: Saturday 12/7/2013 8:57am

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Driving in winter weather can be dangerous, and with a storm rolling in Sunday, drivers should take caution. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON -- The biggest hurdle for travelers this weekend will likely be winter weather. Snow, sleet and, a driver's worst nemesis, freezing rain, are forecast to begin early Sunday.

ABC7 Chief Meteorologist Doug Hill calls it the "dreaded wintry mix" for good reason. Sunday's storm will likely begin by pelting the roads across the region with a layer of snow and sleet. The precipitation is expected to then change to freezing rain, which may rime whatever ice has already accumulated.

The routes well north and west of the metro area will be especially icy. Interstate 81 and roads in northwestern Virginia and central Maryland will likely be treacherous for most of the day as the cold air will remain entrenched in the Shenandoah Valley.

Ice buildup on power lines will likely lead to some power outages and dark intersections in a few areas.

Travel is strongly discouraged during icy conditions. Annually, more accidents are blamed on freezing rain than snow.

Saturday looks like the better day to hit the roads. There will be plenty of holiday-themed events across the region including the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, National Harbor's Holiday Festival and the Manassas Christmas Parade at 10 a.m.

The Redskins have a home game this weekend at 1 p.m. Turnout at Sunday's match-up against the Chiefs is expected to be light due to the weather, amid other factors. Even so, look for heavier traffic on the Beltway and the routes through Largo and Landover before and after the game.

I-95 Express Lanes Extension project

Construction crews postponed work on the I-95 Express Lanes Extension Project on Thursday night and Friday due to rain. They may find a dry window to perform some work on Saturday before the next round of weather moves in. Road work zones on I-95 and across the region should remain sparse because of the forecast.

Metro

Track work will affect Metrorail customers. On the Blue Line, shuttle buses will replace trains between the Rosslyn and Pentagon stations. Tack on an extra 15 minutes of travel time for the bus trip between Rosslyn and Pentagon. Trains between Largo Town Center and Rosslyn will run every 20 minutes.

Trains on the Red Line will operate a 10 to 20 minute intervals throughout the weekend. Trains on the busier segment between Grosvenor and Silver Spring will run every 10 minutes between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Orange Line trains will run every 20 minutes due to work at Minnesota Ave and Deanwood. All stations will remain open.

Green Line trains will operate every 15 minutes throughout the weekend.

Yellow Line trains will operate every 15 minutes throughout the weekend due to the schedule effects of rebuilding work on the Blue and Green lines.

Police offer driver safety tips ahead of wintry weather

Posted on: Saturday 12/7/2013 6:51am

Kathy Stewart and Max Smith, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - With snow and later ice predicted to fall over the D.C. region Sunday, emergency responders urge drivers to review basic winter weather safety tips.

The Maryland State Highway Administration's Charlie Gischlar says drivers who have to head out in rough weather should be prepared with a full tank of gas, decent tires and plenty of patience.

Gischlar says that with two football games in the area Sunday - the Redskins at FedEx Field, in Landover, the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore - thousands of people will be on the I-95 corridor. "So if you're trying to head out to the game, keep an eye on the weather. If it does go bad, know before you go," Gischlar says, advising drivers to give themselves lots of extra time both Sunday and Monday.

"Even people with four-wheel drive, if you encounter ice, you're going to have no control of your vehicle; you're just going to skid in four-wheel drive," Gischlar warns.

If drivers see a snow plow or salt truck on the road, Gischlar says it is important to be patient and not try to pass them.

"The uncleared and untreated road is ahead of them, and the treated roadway is behind them, so there is no earthly reason why you should pass them. If you do pass them and you end up skidding out or becoming disabled, it disrupts everything, and they have to pull over and help you of course. But that also is letting all that weather pile up on the roadway ahead, so that's not really fair to other motorists and it's not safe either," Gischlar says.

Lt. Steve Hawkins, with the Virginia State Police in Fairfax, recommends putting that ice scraper in your car and any other safety supplies now - before Sunday's weather hits.

Items such as blankets, food and drinks can come in handy if your car becomes disabled. A bag of sand or salt can help give your tires the traction they need to get up a hill or just get out of the driveway.

If are out on the road in the bad weather, Hawkins says, "Drive at a safe speed, and that may not be the speed limit."

Most accidents happen within the first two hours after a storm begins, so make sure you buckle up. Put down the cell phone and pay attention to the road, and know who is in front of you and all around you. And give yourself plenty of time and space to safely stop, he says.

"If this weather hits like forecasters are saying, then we will be busy. But we will have resources and troopers out on the roadway to respond to all the incidents," Hawkins says.

But if you don't have to be on the road Sunday, then stay home so VDOT can clear the roads, he says.

If reason doesn't change your ways, there are always cheesy slogans to help remind drivers how to stay safe.

"We say 'Don't crowd the plow', and 'On ice and snow, take it slow'," Gischlar says. There's also the old, "Know before you go."

Stay with WTOP for the latest on road and weather conditions.

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Tree lighting downtown to slow commute Friday

Posted on: Friday 12/6/2013 3:45pm

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Officers stand guard on the Ellipse Thursday ahead of the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The annual event will close several downtown roads during the Friday afternoon rush hour. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)


Watch a live stream of the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony beginning at 4:30 p.m.


WASHINGTON - Sudden gridlock is common near the White House when motorcades are afoot. This time, the congestion comes with some advanced notice.

The National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and concert on the Ellipse begins at 5 p.m. during the Friday afternoon rush hour. Organizers say it will take place rain or shine.

In years past, the closure of the streets of either side of the Ellipse -- 15th and 17th streets -- left many downtown commuters sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

WTOP veteran traffic reporter Bob Marbourg says it would probably payoff to plan on "going into work-around mode."

"If you know something is going to be there, you have the opportunity to rethink your route and go for the end-run around it," Marbourg says.

D.C. police tweeted out a list of street closures early Friday for advance planning:

Jim Battagliese, Director of Traffic and Weather at WTOP, offers this advice:

"If you're trying to get out of town, the best way to go is away from the White House. Whichever side of the White House you're on, head the opposite direction. If you're on the west side, exit to the west. If you're on the east side, exit to the east."

Heading south from K Street on either 19th Street or 9th Street will probably get you around the event. The problem with that route is that everyone else will think of that. The challenge will be to outthink the competition ahead of time. Forewarned is forearmed.

WMATA also says more than two dozen downtown Metro bus routes will be affected by the street closures. Metro officials are also expecting the downtown Metro stations, including Farragut North, to be extra crowded. Click here for a full list.

Stay with WTOP for all the latest on road and traffic conditions.

Follow @WTOPtraffic and @WTOP on Twitter.

Post-Thanksgiving traffic left I-95 drivers frustrated

Posted on: Sunday 12/1/2013 5:57pm

WASHINGTON - Drivers headed home from the long holiday weekend were plagued with major delays on Interstate 95 in Virginia on Sunday, due to a series of accidents in Prince William County.

Four separate wrecks occurred in the 2-mile stretch of the interstate's southbound lanes, between the Prince William Parkway and Dale Boulevard between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Each crash occurred in the fast lanes of I-95 and the responders to each incident forced traffic to use a single right lane from late morning until mid- afternoon.

At its height, the backup on I-95 extended from near the Telegraph Road interchange on the Beltway into Woodbridge -- nearly 19 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Interstate 95 is in high demand this time of the year and delays are common on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, says Jim Battagliese, director of traffic and weather at WTOP.

"The Sunday problem is simple. People try to stay with their family as long as possible after Thanksgiving and leave Sunday, since most need to be back to work or school on Monday. There's not as much flexibility going home as there is in leaving," Battagliese says.

The mishaps on I-95 only affected the southbound drivers headed toward Fredericksburg and Richmond. Northbound travelers experienced volume delays through Caroline, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties.

The High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, or express lanes, were oriented northbound and were not available to southbound drivers.

Corinne Geller, with Virginia State Police, explains that as traffic gets heavier, patience and stopping-distance wanes.

"When you've got heavy traffic, anytime you have one crash, you can have chain reaction crashes," Geller says.

When one incident clears, Geller says some drivers lurch forward to get ahead of the pack. If conditions are right, one crash can lead to another.

"People are suddenly putting their brakes on and folks simply don't have enough space between them and the vehicle in front of them," she says.

"We've had additional state troopers working throughout the holiday weekend to make sure that if we do have crashes like what happened on I-95 today we can get the resources deployed as quickly as possible."

All lanes reopened to traffic on southbound I-95 around 3:30 p.m. When the final accident in the series was cleared from the roadway, the heavy traffic surged downstream through Marine Corps Base Quantico and Stafford County.

The WTOP Traffic Center fielded many calls from frustrated motorists during the ordeal. A caller named Ralph was stuck in the delay and was nearing the final stretch of his trip in southern Stafford County.

"It's brutal. I haven't moved in over 10 minutes," the caller said.

Monday, Nov. 25, 2013

Posted on: Monday 11/25/2013 9:51pm

WASHINGTON - Research has found that gratitude as a mindful practice can offer many health benefits.

The Health Benefits

  • Physical and emotional well being
  • Gratitude group experienced less stress and depression
  • Improves your ability to cope with stress
  • It is physiological impossible to experience stress and gratitude simultaneously
  • Grateful people are more optimistic and optimism boosts your immune system
  • Gratitude "resets your thermostat and you instantly focus on what is important in your life"
  • You produce healing hormones into the body that restores peace, love and balance

Begin a Gratitude Practice Today

  • Waking up: Open your eyes, take a deep breath and be thankful for your body and the healing sleep you received
  • Set Your Alarm: Set your alarm on your smart phone three times a day and when the alarm goes off, smile and say something you are grateful for
  • Meals: Be grateful for your food, the people and work it took to bring it to your table
  • Other people in your life: Tell others that you are grateful for them in your life and why you are grateful for their gifts they bring into your life
  • Office: At weekly staff meetings begin the meetings by going around to each person and each tells what they are grateful for in their lives that week
  • Bedtime: Close your eyes, take a deep breath, smile and say "Thank you for this day of my life, my family, friends, the people at work. Thank you for my health. Thank you for my prosperity."

Teach Your Children Gratitude

  • Gratitude Journal: Teach your children to keep a gratitude journal and have them write three things they are grateful each day
  • Before Meals: Teach your children to be thankful for their food, the people who labored to bring the food to their mouths. Grateful to the animals that gave their lives for their life
  • Lunch Napkins: Hand write "Thank You" on your child's lunch napkin when you pack their lunch
  • Bedtime: Before bed have your children give thanks for their day and specific things that happened

Listen as Kathleen Hall talks about how to become more grateful in your life:

'Backtracking' on Dulles Access Road will cost you

Posted on: Thursday 11/21/2013 4:54pm

WASHINGTON -- Have you heard of the term "backtracking" when it comes to the Dulles Access Highway? If not, you are not alone. That's why police are working to get the message out about "backtracking" and its consequences.

Those who use the Dulles Access Highway instead of the Dulles Toll Road -- even if they're not going to the airport -- be warned. There is beefed up police presence on the road.

"We put out a press release and put it on social media to make the public aware," says Stephen Holl, police chief for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. "Backtracking is our one word label for people who are using the Dulles Airport Access Highway without conducting official business at the airport."

Holl says the access road was set up for airport users only, while the toll road was built for local traffic.

Drivers who are caught using the access road despite not heading to the airport will face fines that begin at $92 and three points on their license.

"We generally write out about a thousand of these violations a year," Holl says.

The fines go to the county in which the ticket was written -- Fairfax or Loudoun. Meanwhile, the tolls help fund construction of the Metro Silver Line as well as the operation and maintenance of the toll road and the access road.

Amtrak reopens service between D.C. and Baltimore

Posted on: Tuesday 11/19/2013 8:12am

UPDATE: Tuesday - 11/19/2013, 7:52 am

Amtrak has reopened the railroad. Delays persist.

UPDATE: Tuesday - 11/19/2013, 7:40 am

WASHINGTON - Amtrak is temporarily suspending service between Baltimore and Washington as a crane tows a disabled train from the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel.

Riders of the Penn Line on MARC should expect 30- to 60 minute delays.

Metro is honoring MARC tickets.

UPDATE: Monday - 11/18/2013, 9:27pm ET

WASHINGTON - MARC and Amtrak report that rail service has resumed between Washington and Baltimore both northbound and southbound.

Amtrak trains are single-tracking in the Baltimore area and delays are expected through the evening.

The passengers on the disabled train returned to the Baltimore Penn Station shortly after 9 p.m.

MARC train No. 548 left Washington on time. However MARC trains 446, 448 and 451 were cancelled.

EARLIER: Monday - 11/18/2013, 8:32pm ET

WASHINGTON - An Amtrak train carrying passengers derailed in a tunnel south of Baltimore Monday evening halting rail traffic along the busy Northeast Corridor.

None of the 158 passengers was hurt in the incident. However the derailment caused delays for MARC riders.

The Amtrak train was heading south when the lead wheels of the locomotive came off the rails about 7 p.m. All passenger cars remained upright and on the tracks, according to Amtrak.

The disabled train remained inside the B&P Tunnel in Baltimore.

A rescue locomotive has been sent to bring the passengers to Baltimore Penn Station.

The disabled train also halted travel on the MARC Penn Line. MARC announced after 8 p.m. that buses were on their way to the BWI station to transfer passengers.

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Weekend Wakeup: Road, rail work to slow cross-Potomac travel

Posted on: Friday 11/15/2013 6:54pm

WASHINGTON - Motorists can expect another weekend with lane closures along Interstates 95 and 395 in Virginia but many Metro riders will also have a longer trip across the Potomac.

No Yellow Line trains will run this weekend. However a shuttle train will take riders between Huntington and Braddock Road.

Riders coming from Huntington toward the District should connect to the Blue Line at Braddock Road. Riders who would normally take the Yellow Line to Virginia from Downtown D.C. should give themselves extra travel time, and take the Blue Line toward Franconia-Springfield.

A stretch of the Green Line will also be shut down between 10 p.m. Friday and closing on Sunday. Buses will run between Archives, L'Enfant Plaza, Waterfront and Navy Yard stations.

On the Green Line, trains will run every 10 minutes between Greenbelt and Archives during daytime hours, and every 12 to 15 minutes between Branch Avenue and Navy Yard. The trains will run less often at night. L'Enfant Plaza will be open for Blue and Orange line trains only.

Orange Line trains will be running every 20 minutes all weekend because of single-tracking near Minnesota Avenue and Deanwood.

Red Line trains will run every 16 minutes this weekend because of track work between Dupont Circle and Van Ness. Extra trains will run during the day between Farragut North and Silver Spring only.

The Blue Line is scheduled to have normal weekend service.

Virginia Road Work

The I-95/395 HOV lanes will close from Friday night through Sunday afternoon.

There are also a number of other lane closures along I-95 in Northern Virginia this weekend for the Express Lanes construction and most will take place from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m.

On Interstate 66, overnight construction tied to the Silver Line will close two lanes in each direction near the Dulles Connector Road. The lane closures will continue overnight during the week.

Other Silver Line-related closures will block lanes on the Dulles Toll Road, Dulles Connector Road and local roads in Tysons Corner.

Maryland Road Work

Sunday morning, the State Highway Administration says two lanes will be shut down on I-95 South at Old Gunpowder Road (just south of the Inter-County Connector). Crews will be inspecting the overpass between 5 and 11:30 a.m.

Further north on I-95 in Maryland, watch out for overnight construction Sunday night that will close two lanes in each direction at the Baltimore/Howard county line.

Overnight road work continues on the Beltway in Prince George's County. The State Highway Administration says there will be lane closures on both the Inner and Outer loops between D'Arcy Road and Arena Drive.

Beginning Monday night, crews are scheduled to close lanes overnight on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. The pavement patching project is scheduled to last into late December.

DC Road Work

Sunday afternoon, DDOT plans to close 8th Street SE between Virginia Avenue and I St SE. The closure between noon and 6 p.m. will allow contractors to work on a new ramp from 8th Street to Interstate 695.

Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th streets will be closed to traffic and pedestrians from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday so cranes can place a prison tower and rail car onto the site of the future Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is currently under construction.

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Midday work to close section of Canal Road

Posted on: Thursday 11/14/2013 1:17pm

WASHINGTON - A portion of Canal Road in the District will be closed to traffic next week.

The midday closure between Arizona Avenue and Foxhall Road begins Tuesday, Nov. 19 and lasts through Thursday, Nov. 21.

The stretch of road will be closed from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day for curb and shoulder work, according to the D.C. Department of Transportation.

Detour signs will be posted.

Drivers leaving the District should take Foxhall Road to MacArthur Boulevard to Arizona Avenue and back to Canal Road.

Drivers entering the District should take Arizona Avenue to MacArthur Boulevard to Foxhall Road and back to Canal.

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Pile-up crash causes delays on NB I-395 (Photo)

Posted on: Thursday 11/14/2013 9:17am

WASHINGTON - A crash involving a two-vehicle pile-up caused delays on northbound I-395 in Virginia Thursday morning.

The crash, which ended with a vehicle coming to rest on top of a Corvette sports car, happened on northbound I-395 before Seminary Road at about 9 a.m. Only the right lane was open to traffic following the crash, but all lanes reopened to traffic by about 9:40 a.m.

It is not yet clear if anyone sustained injuries the crash. Authorities have not yet said what caused the crash.

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Tags: crash i-395
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