Over the last few weeks, a major expansion of the New Jersey Turnpike was completed after 5 years of construction. Between interchanges 6 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) and 8A (Jamesburg) two new carriageways were added with 3 lanes each direction. These are not express lanes like many dual carriage way superhighways; the Turnpike provides a CARS ONLY portion and CAR-TRUCK-BUS portion which can be shifted. All told, those lanes are now in service between interchanges 6 and 15W, about 50 miles. Another lane was also added to the external carriage ways between interchanges 8A and 9, bringing the total to at least six lanes in each direction with full access to all interchanges and service areas. The project is also the final one to use the NJ Turnpike style signage, including the neon REDUCE SPEED signs, as that has been replaced by standard MUTCD signage. Here’s the official Turnpike commission press release (PDF – really)
Also, the project is reported to have come in $200 million under budget, so the leftover money will be directed to the expansion of the Garden State Parkway, controlled by the Turnpike, between mileposts 36 and 63.
Left unsaid was a big reason for this expansion to interchange 6 — the re-routing of Interstate 95 via the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the New Jersey Turnpike. That project, mandated over 30 years ago when the Somerset Freeway was cancelled, is only just getting started. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission continues to drag the project out in part becaue they never wanted it – something the lead engineer said as much to me in an email in the mid-1990s. Why they just didn’t adapt a toll structure that made sense over these last 30 years is nonsensical. Additional funding challenges through Act 44 have impaired the Commission’s ability to fund projects, as have dubious expansion projects in Western Pennsylvania (were the population has lost 500,000 people in 50 years) while that has ignored a significant bottleneck in Pittsburgh.
Photo by I.C. Ligget – The control cities are weak, should be Del Mem Br/Baltimore/Washington
The NJ Turnpike on the other hand, got this expansion done within a decade, under budget and had even planned ahead when building overpasses 15 years ago. In short, get your act together Pennsylvania and adopt some Jersey-style efficiency.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — For over a year, a broken sewer line closed portions of the Holmes Run Trail west of ParkLawn Swimming pool. There were warnings to stay away from the water and at times, the trail was completely fenced off.
Since mid-September though, the trail has been available if not officially reopened. New asphalt has been laid down between Columbia Pike and Parklawn make the ride much smoother too. Combined with the Eisenhower Ave. Trail, there is a continuous route from Lake Barcroft to the Carlye section of Alexandria, just west of Old Town.
West of Interstate 395 and of Beauregard Street in particular, Holmes Run carves its way out of rock as it descends toward Cameron Run and the tidal Potomac River. It’s beautiful all year long, but particularly as the autumnal color arrives.
The western terminus of the trail is at Columbia Pike near Lake Barcroft. Descending in a generally south-southeast direction through the woods, the trail has four water crossings. The second-most western one tends to be fairly deep, several inches. If you choose to ride through the at-grade water crossings YOU WILL GET WET. The alternative is to carry your bicycle as you walk across stepstones. As of October 25, the water wasn’t too cold yet.
After the fourth water crossing, the new pavement ends in the vicinity of Parklawn Swimming pool. The setting is more open and all there is a brief respite from the leaf covered trail. Near Chambliss Street there is a recently constructed concrete bridge over the Run and then it is back into forest. There is a fork in the trail, but keep right for the main trail. Dora Kelley Park abuts the trail here and there are a few other trails through their to the streets of western Alexandria. The trail surfaces changes along this stretch with old asphalt, concrete and even wooden viaducts to contend with along the way. Traffic also picks up, mostly walkers, many of them with dogs who may or may not be leashed. Give ample warning and be prepared to stop as the level of attentiveness cannot be relied upon. Climbing up to Beauregard Street is a wooden viaduct that can feel quite narrow with others on it. After crossing Beauregard, the trail winds through the woods with poor sightlines. Here it is especially important to be mindful of others and take a leisurely pace.
The trail travels through two tunnels, a long dark one at I-395 and another at Van Dorn Street. Expect to be splashed by the puddles along the way. The final crossing of Homles Run is atop a damn east of Van Dorn Street. From there, the trail footprint is within a long, narrow park, so watch out for families and small children. After the park, it’s back into the woods before an underpass at Duke Street. A sharp turn awaits near another playground and then the final stretch to Eisenhower Avenue under railroad and Metro viaducts — it’s a good spot for railfans. At Eisenhower Avenue, cyclists have the option of choosing the sidewalk on the northside of the roadway to Great Waves water park or continuing under the roadway to a merge onto the Eisenhower Avenue Trail that parallels Cameron Run.
Judging by the weather for this weekend and next week, this may be the last weekend with decent conditions for some time. It’s also a good park to hike through with some scrambling opportunities as well.
Preserving a bridge, one paint coat at a time – The News Journal
My favorite bridge(s), the Delaware Memorial Bridge which carries Interstate 295 and US 40 between Delaware and New Jersey is being repainted. A photographer went along for the story and took some video in addition to photographs:
The video features the external elevators that I dislike for aesthetic reasons:
@doubleuefwhy The external elevators that are shown replaced the original internal elevators. Thanks for the pic! tjm #netDE
All those trips down the Shore are one of the reasons I love those bridge(s), though the novelty of twin suspension bridges is a big part of it too. No, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge doesn’t count — those are fraternal twins. Technically, the Delaware Memorial Bridges are too, as the Delaware-bound span is wider, but that is not distinguishable to the eye. The towers are 440 feet tall.
The Virginia Department of Transportation found footage of US 29 (Lee Highway) from Key Bridge to Cherrydale filmed in 1949. VDOT recreated the same drive and combined that and the 1949 footage into one video and posted it on youtube:
The 1949 footage isn’t perfect, but still gives an idea of post-WWII Arlington County. Streetcars are visible and along with the billboards that faced Georgetown at the Virginia end of Key Bridge. It’s also noteworthy that there are two US 29 signs visible, but not US 211 which was officially multiplexed with US 29 until 1980 according to the Virginia Highways Project when it was officially truncated at Warrenton. I had previously heard 1984, but I suspect that the completion of Interstate 66 outside the Beltway hastened the demise of US 211 since it was no longer than only continuous route number from the Shenandoah Valley to Washington, D.C. This video suggests that the predecessor agency of VDOT and/or Arlington County was disinterested in the US 211 designation near Washington in that designation long before it was technically removed.
In the last frame, beyond the intersection of Kirkwood Road, is a trestle for the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad. That right-of-way would later be used for Interstate 66, completed in 1982 and the Custis Trail, BeltwayLand’s most challenging bicycle path. Starting that year, the intersection with Kirkwood Road was also the northern terminus of the George Washington Memorial Parkway according to Steve Anderson’s dcroads.net. Since 1959, that part of the GW Parkway has been a spur called Spout Run Parkway.
My friend Chris tipped me off on this Wired article and video about the next generation of Goodyear’s airship fleet:
…Wingfoot One, a new airship that Goodyear designed along with storied airship builder Luftschiffbau Zeppelin (yes, the same zeppelin of hydrogen-filled Hindenburg fame). Zeppelin’s hopes for a high-tech, dirigible-driven future largely went up in smoke with the Hindenburg. But today’s helium-filled design could propel us into a new age of flight, minus the airborne conflagrations.
Blimp pilots are kind of lonely, but they get a great view. I’m sure my mother, who worked for MetLife, appreciates that their blimp was featured too.
So, when does Tom Wolfe write about these brave airship pilots? He could call it The Light Stuff…
I’ve mentioned it before, but growing up in Vienna, we lived below the flight path of blimps headed to Dulles Airport. Mostly, it was the Goodyear blimp, Enterprise, but once or twice it was the McBlimp. My mom called Dulles to ask about it and a presskit came in the mail a few days later. We should have kept that one. Here’s how west Texas reacted to McBlimp back in 1985:
Also, my grandparents also lived outside of Lakehurst, N.J. a major hub of airships, even after the Hindenberg.
So, I’m a blimp guy or airship enthusiast I guess. Naturally, the stories linked above was a must-read and even blog about…for posterity.
Now can we please let commercial blimps fly around BeltwayLand again? Maybe in October…
In 2013, I mentioned the coming end of NJ Turnpike exceptionalism when it comes to signs. The Turnpike Authority has begun modernizing (note: I did not say “upgrade”) highway signs to comply with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Though not necessarily directly related, the neon “REDUCE SPEED” signs that have been on the Turnpike since time immemorial are being removed in favor of modern LED signs.
I have been wondering what will happen to all of these classic neon signs. I hope that some are saved for museums. Maybe I’ll tweet at them to buy this one, though on second thought the Turnpike ought to donate one. There probably ought to be one or two at a service plaza on the Turnpike itself.
The sign itself probably weighs at least a ton and it has to be picked up. This isn’t a really good time for me to do that logistically or financially. So, a little help?
In my experience Chesapeake House, originally opened in 1972, is less crowded than Maryland House, so I have preferred stopping there over the years. The last several years have seen three completely rebuilt service areas along a 40 mile stretch of I-95 between Baltimore and Wilmington. The Delaware Service Plaza was rebuilt in 2008.
Service areas are lasting vestige of the pre-interstate toll roads area. In order to promote commerce along interstate corridors, service areas are banned and have been since the early 1960s. Some interstates were assigned to existing turnpikes like parts of the New Jersey Turnpike and the service areas were grandfathered in.
Unfortunately, an opportunity was missed during the reconstruction of these service areas — flyover ramps from the right side. It would have been eight overall (2 off, 2 on in each direction) but for whatever reason, the Maryland Transportation Authority did not choose to go n that direction. Safety and traffic flow are better when exits and entrances are from the right side.
Saturday afternoon was a big day for transportation in Northern Virginia and greater Washington, D.C. – the first phase of the Silver Line opened between Whiele Ave-Reston and East Falls Church. Five new stations, including four in Tysons, one of the largest office districts in the U.S., are now in service providing greater connectivity for the entire Washington, D.C. region.
My family and I rode the first train to Whiele Ave-Reston from Courthouse station in Arlington. We were in the front car which was a little more than half full. Several people were in the very front with their cameras. Other riders took the train only as far as some of the Tysons stops, particularly the Tysons Corner stop which serves the two malls. When the train left the Orange Line tracks for the new Silver Line tracks, there was mild applause.
I jumped out at each of the stops to take a few photos, but with the whole family along, including our 1-month old son taking his first Metro ride, I did not explore. It was interesting to get a new perspective on the familiar Tysons area from the elevated tracks. The best view of the Tysons skyline is on the big curve from the media of the Dulles Access Road to VA 123.
At the Whiele Ave-Reston East terminus, there was a celebration hosted by Comstock. VIPs got to go indoors, while the public was entertained by a DJ playing a bunch of music that came out when I was in middle school. We had a quick picnic there anyway, before returning to the platform to take the Silver Line back to Courthouse.
The ride was smooth, though not as fast as I would have thought, particularly on the return trip.
Rail to Tysons (and eventually Dulles Airport) was something I wondered if would ever happen. Like baseball in D.C., it made a lot of sense, but there were obstacles to getting there. Increased Metro service is a bigger deal than baseball, but the absence of both for most of my life was frustrating.
George Mason University history professor Zachary Schrag (Q & A: The Great Society Subway) made the case in his outstanding book, The Great Society Subway, that Metro should have been built to Tysons rather than Vienna all along. Instead, the Orange Line was built through the median of Interstate 66 all the way past the Nutley Street interchange. Though recent development, mostly in the form of low-rise apartments has come to the Orange Line corridor outside the Capital Beltway, the primary role of that Metro Line is as suburb to city, commuter rail, rather than an intraurban subway. Ultimately, the Silver Line will do the same though. The increasingly urbanized Tysons Corner and its four stations will be the only ones, with the exception of the Dulles Airport station, that are not within the median of the Dulles Toll Road. The commuter rail/subway hybrid has always been a compromise to maximize the constituency (and funding partners) of Metro.
Getting this far with the Silver Line has been messy and expensive. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority struck a deal with the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government to build the Silver Line in exchange for taking over the Dulles Toll Road. Much of the funding (too much), is coming out of automobile tolls. Some subsidy from motorists is appropriate, but perhaps a comparatively token fee, such as a $1 a ticket, passed along to Dulles Airport flyers would have been more helpful. The partnership between two public authorities MWAA and Washignton Metropolitan Transit Authority isn’t ideal and this will never be a great deal, but as the saying goes, at least it got built.
The Silver Line has also created a squeeze at the Rosslyn tunnel which has cut into Blue Line service. I ride the Blue Line several times a week, but I have found it to be manageable, albiet more crowded. Come September, it could get very crowded. Optimization of the Rosslyn tunnels is an urgent need and long-term, more tubes under the Potomac is also needed. That will be another 15-25 years, I’m afraid.
Building the Tysons portion above ground rather than below it is a flawed decision, but at a certain point, the attitude of “at least it got built” wins out again. I don’t mind the views, but this was pennywise and pound-foolish. Will it hold back Tysons development? Probably not, Chicago seems to do fine with elevated trains and locally, Silver Spring and Alexandria have strong transit oriented development near above ground Metro lines.
If the Silver Line is to succeed, it will be in spite of its builder, not because of it.
On April 2, 1964, Administrator Rex Whitton participates in the dedication of I-495, the Capital Beltway from U.S. 1 to the Shirley Highway-the last segment in Virginia. Photo by FHWA
It was on this day fifty years ago that the Capital Beltway was completed in Northern Virginia. I suppose many commuters would have found it opening a day earlier more apropos as the road seems more a burden than anything else and the SPEED LIMIT 55 signs to be a mockery. Back in 1964, most of Virginia’s 22 miles of Beltway was only 2 lanes wide each way. Now, with the HO/T (high occupancy/toll), EZ-Pass Express Lanes, it is 6 lanes each way between Springfield and Tysons.
Inside the Beltway wouldn’t be coined until 1969 (by Mike Causey, then of The Post, now with Federal News Radio), but the highway formed a big wall literally and figuratively in Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria. There currently are only 23 automobile crossings of I-495 in Northern Virginia and 15 of them have full interchanges with the road, while another has a partial interchange with lanes. Another one, Live Oak Road, is not a through route. The are also 3 Metro rail crossings (Orange, Blue and Yellow lines) and 2 Virginia Railway Express rail lines penetrate it as well. There are a few pedestrian/bicycle trails too, but overall it is tough to get from one side of the Beltway to the other. A “bridge to nowhere” was built between Van Dorn Street and Telegraph Road, but it never became connected to anything and was torn down in the early 21st century.
The Beltway divides the sprawling newer suburbs with the more established and often denser populated pre-World War II areas like Arlington and Alexandria, whose residents don’t even necessarily think of the Beltway much. Tysons Corner, once a crossroads of two country roads grew into the 11th largest business district with two large shopping malls and a growing skyline most of which is just outside the Beltway. In fact when USA Today left Rosslyn for its own campus, I recall then publisher Tom Curley making it a point to mention in an interview that they’d be outside the Beltway. It really abuts the Beltway by the way or at least it did before they sold off their land with the softball field and path. I digress.
Back in ’64, the Virginia portion of the Beltway was signed only as Interstate 495 as Interstate 95 was then routed along the Henry G. Shirley Highway into Washington, D.C. over the 14th Street Bridge and planned to cut through Northeast D.C. and Takoma Park then onto points north. That didn’t happen and in 1977, the eastern-most portion of the Beltway in Virginia was changed to I-95. That proved to be confusing, so I-495 multiplexed back on the I-95 portion of the Beltway around 1989.
The original Beltway exit numbering began in Alexandria with Exit 1 at US 1 (note US 1 is also Exit 1 in several locations throughout the East, including just over the 14th Street Bridge on I-395) and increased sequentially clockwise until finishing off at Exit 38 for I-295 just east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Around 2001, the exit number was changed in Virginia for the first time (it had changed in Maryland after I-95 was moved to the southern and eastern portions of the Beltway) to be a counter-clockwise continuation of the Maryland numbering scheme that began east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge all the way to the Springfield interchange (Exit 57) where I-95′s mileage-based exit numbering took over, the there is a jump from 57 to 172.
The entire Beltway opened in August 1964, so I’ll have more to say then.