Welcome to 2017, comrades! Hope springs eternal for D.C. commuters hoping to get to work on time, return home at a reasonable hour and enjoy life along the way. As we prepare for our first work week of the year, here are a few concerns that threaten to raise our blood pressure while we’re waiting for delayed Metrorail trains, breathing exhaust in our cars while stuck in the Mixing Bowl at rush hour or squeezing our bicycles past angry motorists.
Surviving SafeTrack: This Metro initiative, which began in June 2016, has been trying to squeeze three years of track repairs into about one year. This was the result of years of neglect, with plenty of blame to go around. What is certain is that over the past several years, Metrorail commuters have endured price hikes, delays, reduced operating hours, smoke incidents, fires and derailments that, in a few tragic cases, were fatal. In 2016, there were 11 SafeTrack surge projects that shut down large sections of track for weeks at a time to allow workers to make desperately needed repairs. The SafeTrack schedule has not yet been announced for 2017, but expect an announcement from the Metro powers-that-be sometime this month. More info about SafeTrack can be found here: https://www.wmata.com/service/SafeTrack.cfm
New Construction Projects Clogging D.C. Roads: Many major U.S. cities host major construction projects that introduce mixed-use residential/retail developments. But not all cities were designed with narrow roads in the late 18th century. You can find a good list of new developments that might disrupt D.C. roads by following this link: http://dc.curbed.com/maps/dc-washington-development-2017-map. Among those listed on this list by Curbed, the Southwest Waterfront’s $2 billion, 3.2-million-square-foot Wharf project promises to be HUGE, especially for folks trying to drive past on their way to work at Fort McNair.
More Protests in D.C.: Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, anti-gun, pro-gun, pro-life, pro-choice, anti-Trump, pro-Trump … expect the number of protests to increase this year. In the near-term, expect at least a little commuting chaos on Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 (with the threat of protests looming, will the president and new first lady take a triumphant stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue as in past parades?) and the following day’s Women’s March on Washington. More info about Inauguration Day and the following day’s Women’s March here:
Interpreting Right-of-Way During A Power Outage: Everyone screws this up, seeming in every corner of the D.C./Maryland/Virginia region. This is especially dangerous during power outages, resulting in four-way traffic lights simultaneously flashing red. This is NOT an invitation for every motorist to speed through the intersection. Here are the simple rules, courtesy of the Fairfax County Police Department:
- For flashing red, stop — treat it like a stop sign!
- For flashing yellow, proceed with caution.
- Treat each traffic light as a four-way stop, with the driver on the right having the right-of-way.
- Proceed with caution only when traffic permits.
- Enter intersections only when it is safe to do so, using turn signals to let other motorists know your intentions.
- Use extreme caution in school zones.
- As always, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
- Watch out for and obey police officers directing traffic within intersections.
- Don’t use the emergency number 9-1-1 to report a power outage.
- Call your local power provider to report outages.
Any others? If so, add your suggestions to the comments below.