Traffic gridlocked by summer road construction

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Photo - Traffic moves slowly amid construction along Leesburg Pike. Road work snarls the region's roads during the summer. (Examiner file photo)
Traffic moves slowly amid construction along Leesburg Pike. Road work snarls the region's roads during the summer. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Transportation,Liz Essley

Summer has D.C. drivers seeing orange.

The seemingly endless accumulation of construction site traffic cones in the area has made routine trips to jobs and to vacations something between a headache and a nightmare.

The list of bothersome road construction includes everything from billion-dollar projects to utility work on local cul-de-sacs.

"This summer construction is going to be inescapable no matter where you go," said AAA Mid-Atlantic's John Townsend. "The summer months are prime time for summer construction because of the ideal weather. But that can be bad for motorists because we do more traveling in the summer and make more long-distance trips."

Roadwork around the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda has made Kensington resident Bailey Condrey's normal 10-minute commute a 25-minute drag.

"I try to stay off of Rockville Pike. The times I have been forced to travel on Rockville Pike, it can take 25 minutes from Woodmont Avenue to Cedar Lane, and that's about a third of a mile," he said.

And construction means drivers need to slow down to safely navigate lane changes and steer clear of construction workers.

"Work zones are naturally tricky places. You could have situations where we do a lane shift, it may curve a little where you don't expect it. That's why we tell people to slow down in work zones," said Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. "The rule of thumb is summer is construction time, and we want folks to think orange, the color of barrels and cones. That means slow down in the work zone. That's for the benefit of motorist as well as our crews and contractors."

Work on big highway projects kicks into high gear in summer, but the warm temperatures also allow local agencies to make the rounds filling potholes and resurfacing bumpy streets.

Gischlar said crews can't really repair a road in temperatures under 50 degrees, so summer is patching and paving time for road agencies.

But the heat can also be a danger for drivers. Townsend recommends people keep their cars in tip-top shape in summer so they don't break down in traffic, making gridlock even worse.

"For the motorists, this heat that we have now is even harder or just as harsh on a car than the dead of winter. On hot days we'll have a spike in service calls," he said. "If your car is not in top shape and you have to stop in traffic, it can kill your car."

The good news: Construction crews around the region try to work mostly at night, and they suspend work on big holidays like July Fourth.

"We try to get out of people's way on the holidays," Gischlar said.

Drivers can find real-time traffic conditions and more information on construction for their routes at md511.org and 511virginia.org.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner