Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What to expect on the roads in Bethesda this morning

I saved some images from the traffic cameras so that you can see how many lanes are open on the roads leading in to downtown Bethesda.  I saved these pictures at 7 this morning.  You can see that most roads are only one or two lanes each direction.  Even heavily used roads like Old Georgetown Road and East-West Highway are only one lane each way.

Wisconsin Ave and Bradley Blvd,  looks like two lanes each direction are open

MD-355 at Ceder Ln, heading towards NIH and downtown.  Two lanes open

Bradley Blvd at Arlington Rd, one lane open each direction

East-West Hwy at Montgomery Ave.  Looks to me like there is about one and a half lanes open

Old Georgetown Rd at Arlington Rd.  One lane each direction

Old Georgetown Rd at Cedar Ln One lane plus two half lanes.

Woodmont Ave and Norfolk Ave. One lane each way plus the turn lane

Monday, January 25, 2016

Are Bethesda roads ready for you?

Arlington Road and Bethesda Avenue
 So you've been cooped up in your house/apartment for the past 3 days, your neighborhood road just got plowed and you are ready to get out and get to work first thing in the morning.  But are the roads ready for you?  I drove around downtown Bethesda, MD this evening and the answer is "probably not".  Most of the roads were wet and plowed down to the pavement, but only for one lane each direction.  Even Old Georgetown Road is one lane each way (plus the suicide turn lane in the middle), there doesn't seem to be any place to put the snow.  Even places where it is two lanes don't last long before being filled with piles of snow again.

As more people head back to work on roads that can handle significantly fewer cars than usual, be prepared for delays.

Bethesda Avenue sidewalk near Uncle Julios  

Even the sidewalks are narrowed if they are clear at all.
Bethesda Avenue at the parking garage

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snow, wonderful snow

We now have well over a foot of snow here in Bethesda, MD and it much more to come.  I went out this morning to take a look around.  The state and county are doing a pretty good job keeping the roads passable (at least for 4-wheel drive vehicles) and this is helped by almost no one being out on them.  With few exceptions, the only vehicles on the road are state/county plows and private plowing contractors going from job to job.

Snow is still coming down hard and there is over a foot on the ground.  Interstate 495 has been plowed but is mostly deserted, only a single car drives on it.

A front-end loader equipped with a plow clears snow on Old Georgetown Road

A John Deere tractor, equipped with a plow clears snow on Old Georgetown Road

The county is pulling out all the stops, even putting a plow on the front of this full-size tractor

The intersection of Old Georgetown Rd and Democracy Blvd. Both roads have been plowed, but there are a couple of inches of packed snow on them, and the intersection itself has small mounds of snow in it.

Sign for Interstate 495 in the snow.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Prepping for the Impending Doom snow

It is getting close to time for the snow to start and everyone is doing last minute preparations I went to Giant and Balducci's around noon today to see how they were coping.  Balducci's was busy but not much worse than the average weekend, all the registers were open with 2 or 3 people in line for each.  I didn't notice anything out of stock and there were several employees stocking shelves.

Giant was a bit of a different story.  Again, they had a bunch of people stocking shelves, especially in the dairy area, but it looks like they have run out of milk, eggs are almost gone, and other areas of the store (such as the soup aisle) had limited selection available.

The place was also packed.  The line for the self checkout was well over half way down the aisle behind it, the express lane had a similar number of people in it.

The gas station across the street was busy, with all pumps being used, but not more than one car waiting in line.

I didn't see many plows out in Bethesda, but towards Silver Spring they were starting to stack them up on the side of the road to be ready.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Traffic calming structures in Montgomery County, MD

I was recently involved in a discussion about how to make traffic go slower on neighborhood streets.  The main options people put forward were 1) speed bumps, and 2) speed cameras.  I'm not a big fan of either, speed bumps can do damage to your suspension and it makes it harder for emergency vehicles to get around.  Montgomery County also has limits on where and when speed cameras can operate.

It struck me that most people, me included, don't know what the options are for traffic calming and knowing the options might help people decide which ones are most appropriate for a given situation.  There are several general classes, including laws (speed limits), signage, and physical modifications to the road.  I decided to look around Bethesda and start inventorying different physical traffic calming structures I found.

Concrete islands are placed on the sides of the road to artificially narrow Ewig Drive near Fernwood Road.

Cars have to slow down to go around the traffic circle.  This reduces speeds without making people come to a complete stop at an intersection like a stop sign would. Traffic circles are generally used at intersections.  This one is on Ewig Drive near Greentree Road.

Not only does a pedestrian refuge slow traffic down by constricting the road, it also provides a safe place for a pedestrian to stand if traffic is heavy and they can't make it all the way across the street.  I think this one is flawed because cars coming towards the camera can't see if someone is standing in the refuge because of how large the plants are. This one is on Ewig Drive near Greentree Road.
One of the many ways the county tries to slow traffic down is by artificially making the street narrow in places.  This bump in is at the corner of Greentree and Hempstead.

A raised crosswalk is bit like a speed bump but much longer.  It makes crosswalks stand out a bit more to cars. This is on Beech Avenue near the YMCA.

 If you know of any others, let me know in the comments.  Include a street name if possible so people can see for themselves how they work.