Ic­ing is fa­mil­iar haz­ard on D.C.’s Canal Road

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - Robert Thom­son dr­grid­lock@wash­post.com. wash­ing­ton­post.com/ dr­grid­lock. On Twit­ter: dr­grid­lock.

Po­lice were still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Fri­day morn­ing car crash that left two peo­ple dead on Canal Road at Clark Place, and there was no de­ter­mi­na­tion on the cause. But many trav­el­ers who heard about the tragedy wrote in to com­plain about the poor drainage along the com­muter road in North­west Washington, which they say is a long­time haz­ard and leads to ic­ing in the win­ter. This let­ter was typ­i­cal of the mes­sages I re­ceived. Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

I’ve been com­mut­ing from Mont­gomery County to Ross­lyn for about 2½ years. My con­cern is Canal Road and the poor main­te­nance of the road. I’ve never seen a ma­jor com­mute route with so much stand­ing wa­ter and fo­liage prob­lems.

Most reg­u­lar com­muters seem to know in bad weather to avoid the lane closer to the hill­side and use the lane closer to the Po­tomac River. I’ve also been sur­prised that with all the movers and shak­ers that use this road to go into Ge­orge­town and K Street that changes have not hap­pened.

If these fa­tal­i­ties Fri­day morn­ing are due to the ice on the road, I’m def­i­nitely not sur­prised. It’s been a very bad sit­u­a­tion wait­ing for tragedy to strike.

— Beth Erd­man, Darnestown

Canal Road may be just three lanes at its widest be­tween Chain Bridge and Fox­hall Road, but it’s an im­por­tant con­nec­tor for driv­ers go­ing to and from the District or be­tween Mary­land and Vir­ginia.

Driv­ers said sev­eral sec­tions of Canal Road fill with stand­ing wa­ter and be­come very slip­pery when the tem­per­a­ture drops be­low freez­ing. Tree branches in the road­way also are a fre­quent prob­lem, they said.

Some who de­plored the con­di­tion of the road­way also said many driv­ers go too fast in a zone with a 35 mph speed limit.

Like Erd­man, sev­eral rush­hour com­muters who crit­i­cized the road con­di­tions said they’ve learned to avoid the in­side lane in fa­vor of the one closer to the river. Oth­ers said they avoid Canal Road al­to­gether when the weather gets cold.

The District Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, which main­tains the road, has no im­prove­ment projects un­der­way now or planned for the near fu­ture that would deal with these con­di­tions.

Dodg­ing Breeze­wood

Dur­ing my weekly on­line dis­cus­sion on Jan. 3, a trav­eler who used the Penn­syl­va­nia Turn­pike to reach Pitts­burgh for the out­door hockey game be­tween the Cap­i­tals and the Pen­guins noted the dif­fi­cul­ties of get­ting through Breeze­wood. In Breeze­wood, the turn­pike and In­ter­state 70 come close to­gether but don’t quite meet, cre­at­ing an ex­cuse for gas sta­tions, fast food restau­rants, traf­fic lights and con­ges­tion where a high­way in­ter­change would do nicely for most driv­ers.

I re­sponded in part by say­ing that some driv­ers pre­fer to avoid Breeze­wood’s traf­fic by tak­ing I-68 all the way west to Mor­gan­town, W.Va., and then go­ing north on I-79 to reach Pitts­burgh. Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

Only caught the chat via tran­script. I’m orig­i­nally from Cum­ber­land, Md. In­stead of tak­ing I-68 all the way to I-79, an al­ter­na­tive route is to take I-68 to MD 51 to Pitts­burgh. It’s a lit­tle more di­rect, though ob­vi­ously not all in­ter­state. But it’s only 10 or 15 min­utes longer than tak­ing the Penn­syl­va­nia Turn­pike and a much pret­tier drive.

— Den­nis A. Coyle, Ar­ling­ton

Other driv­ers wrote in to note that the tolls on the turn­pike went up at the start of the year. They in­creased about 3 per­cent for E-ZPass users and about 10 per­cent for driv­ers pay­ing cash.

Hopes for New Year

Dear Dr. Grid­lock:

If you do a col­umn on New Year’s res­o­lu­tions, mine is quite sim­ple: Let other driv­ers know what I am go­ing to do be­fore I do it.

This in­cludes us­ing turn sig­nals and horn, tools much ne­glected these days.

— Jeanne Krause,

North Bethesda

Trav­el­ers of­ten look to govern­ment for so­lu­tions to our trans­porta­tion prob­lems, as in­deed they should. But I’ve learned from your letters that many want to hold one an­other ac­count­able for the safety of driv­ers, walk­ers and cy­clists.

Write to me and name some­thing that you’re do­ing — not some­thing that you wish other trav­el­ers were do­ing — to en­sure that we all ar­rive safely at our desti­na­tions. Dr. Grid­lock also ap­pears Thurs­day in Lo­cal Liv­ing. Com­ments and ques­tions are wel­come and may be used in a col­umn, along with the writer’s name and home com­mu­nity. Write to Dr. Grid­lock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. By email: His blog:

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