Showing posts with label transportation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label transportation. Show all posts

Monday, April 1, 2024

Maryland officials knew for decades that a ship could cause Baltimore's Key Bridge to collapse

The only thing more shocking than the total collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore last week was the number of speculative conjectures stated by elected and appointed officials in the hours after it was struck by a container ship. Federal and state officials almost immediately declared it had not been a terrorist attack. While there has so far been no evidence whatsoever showing the crash was intentional, there had not been adequate time to investigate sufficiently to entirely rule it out at the time they made that declaration. More importantly, the claim was made - and then repeated ad nauseum by the media - that any type of bridge would have completely collapsed in this scenario. An investigative report published by The Washington Post this past Saturday has determined that claim to be false. 

A collapse of a similar bridge over Tampa Bay in Florida following a ship collision in 1980 resulted in federal authorities alerting highway agencies to review all bridges, to find out how many might have the same vulnerability, the Post learned. An engineer with the Maryland Department of Transportation confirmed to The Baltimore Sun that year that the Key Bridge was one of the state's bridges that fell into that category. "I'm talking about the main supports, a direct hit - it would knock it down," he told the Sun. 

Despite learning this in 1980, state and federal officials took no action to construct barriers or islands around the Key Bridge's support columns. "They had all this time to realize the danger, and it appears to me they did nothing about it," Florida attorney Steve Yerrid told the Post. Yerrid was a lawyer for the pilot of the ship that struck the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay. "Maryland officials should have moved aggressively to protect their bridges from collisions, despite the costs," the Post cited Yerrid as saying.

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy also put to rest the idea that "no bridge could have survived this crash." She said the bridge designs of today have "redundancy" built in, so that the loss of one pier doesn't cause a total collapse. In contrast, Maryland officials knew that the Key Bridge was among the thousands of "fracture critical" bridges in America. "Fracture critical" means that "if one key piece fails, part or all of the bridge would likely collapse," the Post reported.

America's crumbling infrastructure is often in the news, but rarely in state and federal budgets. We know that trillions of dollars that could have been spent on new bridges and highway maintenance, high speed rail, utility networks, healthcare, poverty, housing for the homeless and other essential needs have instead gone to costly wars overseas, as just one example of nonsensical spending priorities.

Senator Chuck Schumer is reportedly having difficulty finding $10 million to correct major infrastructure issues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology campus right here in Gaithersburg, deficiencies that are currently threatening national security and the health of NIST employees. But the U.S. government had no difficulty finding $75 billion for the Ukraine War, at least $3 trillion for the Iraq War, $2.3 trillion for the Afghanistan War, $2.2 billion of weapons for rebels against the government of Syria, $17 billion on a military adventure in the former Yugoslavia, a $100 million drone base in Niger...the list goes on and on, and most of the money goes into the private profit pockets of the military-industrial complex. None of those outlays has resulted in a successful geopolitical victory for the United States.

At the same time, Maryland elected officials have spent big and repeatedly raised taxes since 1980. The completely-preventable collapse of the Key Bridge forces us to now evaluate just which frivolous things - and campaign donors - our representatives have spent all that tax revenue on instead.

In many photo-ops over the last week, our elected officials have striven to give us the impression they are here to save us from an economic catastrophe that also cost at least six human lives. As the Post report proves, they were actually the problem in the first place, having failed to act to modify or replace the Key Bridge for 44 years.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

WMATA puts Bethesda-Chevy Chase to Rockville T2 Metrobus route on chopping block

A major bus route connecting the Friendship Heights and Rockville Metro stations is among 67 Metrobus lines WMATA is proposing to eliminate under its "doomsday" budget. The T2 Metrobus travels along the River Road and Falls Road corridors, most of which lack proximity to Metro subway service. If you want to connect to Metrorail beyond the Westbard and West End areas of Bethesda and Rockville, respectively, the T2 can be either one of the few options or the only option to reach a Metro station. 

The T2 is also useful for reaching the judicial and government centers of Montgomery County in Rockville Town Center, as well as Amtrak and MARC service via the Rockville Metro station. WMATA's strategy is not novel, however. Governments and transit agencies often release doomsday budgets prior to asking taxpayers to shell out more to avoid the painful cuts proposed. 

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Rockville bus shelter video screen smashed (Photos)

The video screen displaying transit information at the Ride On ExtRa bus stop on Rockville Pike at Edmonston Drive has been smashed. There is a large hole in the center of the screen. It appears to be the work of intentional vandalism, unless road debris generated by a passing vehicle struck the screen. Surveillance cameras at nearby businesses may show what happened if police investigate. The Ride On ExtRa service operates every 20 minutes during peak rush hour periods between the Lakeforest Transit Center and the Bethesda Medical Center Metro station along MD 355.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Maryland says possible CSX strike could impact MARC commuter rail service starting September 16

CSX Transportation has informed the Maryland Transit Administration that a potential labor strike by CSX railroad employees could impact MARC commuter rail service beginning this Friday, September 16, 2022. The MTA says a strike would impact the Brunswick and Camden lines, which are operated by CSX personnel. Penn Line service, operated by Amtrak employees, would not be affected. Many residents of towns like Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Silver Spring and Kensington rely on MARC service.

The MTA is recommending that Brunswick and Camden line commuters begin making alternate travel plans for Friday morning, and plan to possibly continue using those alternatives until any potential labor action ends. A list of alternative commuting options is posted on the MTA website to assist riders in planning an alternative itinerary, if needed. A freight railroad worker strike would have far-reaching impacts to communities across the country, including supply lines and store inventories. This could cause inflation in prices, just as inflation pressures appeared to be slightly easing in many sectors.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Rockville Mayor & Council ask for more time to study new I-495/I-270 Managed Lanes material

Rockville's Mayor and Council last night voted to approve a letter to Maryland state officials seeking more time for the city to review new material related to the controversial I-495/I-270 Managed Lanes highway expansion study. There are 26,000 pages of new environmental impact study results, Councilmember Mark Pierzchala noted. He added that local stakeholders also need more time to "validate" new modeling used by the state of Maryland for the project. 

The proposed expansion championed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) would include new toll lanes along both interstates, widening of the highways to accommodate those lanes, and a future connection to tolled Express Lanes on the Virginia side of the American Legion Bridge. Residents in affected areas of Rockville, Bethesda and Silver Spring have expressed opposition to the environmental impacts of the plan, and potential taking of homes for the project.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Red Line single-tracking after smoke reported in tunnel near Bethesda Metro station (Photos)

A smoke incident at the Bethesda Metro station has forced Red Line trains to single track between Friendship Heights and Medical Center this evening. Around 7:00 PM, smoke was reported in the tunnel near the station. Metro Transit police and Montgomery County fire units responded, but so far have found no fire. A police officer at the scene said the smoke is believed to have been caused by brake dust in the tunnel, but firefighters are going to thoroughly search to be sure. Among the units that responded was a truck from the Twinbrook Fire Station 23 in Rockville.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Rockville Metro station paving will temporarily relocate these bus stops

Construction and paving at the Rockville Metro station from May 31 to June 6, 2022 will require the temporary relocation of many bus stops at the transit hub. Wayfinding signage will be posted at the station to assist riders in finding their bus stop. The following routes will be affected:


  • Route 44. Destination: Twinbrook. Temporary bus stop: T1.
  • Route 45. Destination: Rockville Regional Transit Center and Twinbrook. Temporary bus stop: D (eastside).
  • Route 46. Destination: Montgomery College and Medical Center Way. Temporary bus stop: T1.
  • Route 47. Destination: Bethesda. Temporary bus stop: T1.
  • Route 48. Destination: Wheaton. Temporary bus stop: B (eastside).
  • Route 49. Destination: Glenmont. Temporary bus stop: B (eastside).
  • Route 52: Destination: Montgomery General Hospital. Temporary bus stop: D (eastside).
  • Route 54. Destination: Lakeforest Transit Center. Temporary bus stop: T2.
  • Route 55. Destination: Germantown. Temporary bus stop: C (eastside).
  • Route 56. Destination: Lakeforest Transit Center. Temporary bus stop: T2.
  • Route 59. Montgomery Village. Temporary bus stop: C (eastside).
  • Route 63. Destination: Shady Grove. Temporary bus stop: T1.
  • Route 81. Destination: White Flint. Temporary bus stop: T1.
  • Route 101. Destination: Medical Center. Temporary bus stop: T3.
  • Route 101. Destination: Lakeforest. Temporary bus stop: G.
  • Route 301. Destination: Tobytown. Temporary bus stop: D (eastside).
  • Flex Rockville. On Demand Service. Temporary bus stop: T1.   


  • Routes Q1, Q2, Q5, Q6. Destination: Shady Grove. Temporary bus stop: G.
  • Routes Q1, Q2, Q4. Destination: Silver Spring. Temporary bus stop: A (eastside).
  • Routes Q5, Q6. Destination: Wheaton. Temporary bus stop: A (eastside).
  • Route T2. Destination: Friendship Heights. Temporary bus stop: A (eastside).
  • Ride On bus remains free to ride until July 2, 2022 when fares will be $1

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Rockville Metro station East Kiss and Ride lot to be closed Friday

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation announced that the East Kiss and Ride parking lot at the Rockville Metro station will be closed tomorrow, Friday, March 18, 2022. Vehicles parked there may be ticketed and towed away. MCDOT also reported that the Capital Bikeshare station on the west side of the Metro station has reopened.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Rockville, Shady Grove Metro stations to reopen in January

WMATA announced that the extended closure of two Metro stations that has extremely inconvenienced commuters in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Clarksburg and Damascus for months will end in January. The Shady Grove and Rockville Metro Red Line stations are now scheduled to reopen for service on January 16, 2022. Free parking and free shuttle bus service will continue to be offered at both stations until the reopening date.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Rockville extends Baltimore Road closure

Baltimore Road has been closed between Gladstone and Broadwood Drives for stormwater and safety upgrades since last spring. However, the City of Rockville has just announced the closure will continue for at least another month. Supply chain issues and weather are responsible for the delay, the city explained in a statement.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Rockville bus crash severely injures 3 (Video+Photos)

A Metrobus traveling on Rockville Pike suddenly veered onto Congressional Lane around 12:20 PM yesterday, stuck several vehicles, and came to rest on top of the front of a minivan at a building wall of a retail center. Six patients were evaluated by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue services, MCFRS Battalion Chief Steve Mann said. Three of those individuals suffered traumatic injuries, and a total of four were transported to local hospitals, MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer said later Sunday afternoon.

As evening approached, WMATA personnel and truck towing specialists were brought in to supervise the complicated task of extracting the minivan safely from under the Metrobus. The large tow truck assisted in a crane operation to hold the bus upright while a second towing crew pulled the minivan out. Night was falling as the Metrobus finally had all four wheels back on the pavement to be towed away. No official explanation for why the bus operator lost control has been released so far. 

Tow truck arrives to lift Metrobus

Extracting minivan from beneath bus

Metrobus lowered to pavement

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Montgomery County residents in parks, grocery stores more than before the pandemic, data shows

Residents still not going back to the
office, transit, or general shopping 
in great numbers

Montgomery County residents are shopping inside grocery and drug stores in larger numbers than they were before the pandemic, the latest Google Mobility data show. They're making even greater use of parks than before Covid-19 officially arrived last spring. Other travel hasn't bounced back as strongly, such as going into the office, or commuting there by transit. And in-person retail shopping for items other than groceries and medicine remains sluggish, in relative comparison.

Using a baseline of mobility data Google collected from Montgomery County residents' devices between January 3 and February 6, 2020, behavioral changes are evident. The latest Google data covers the period between Monday, July 19, 2021, and Monday, August 30, 2021.

Hillwood Manor Park in Takoma Park

Over the last half of this summer, County residents were using parks 28% more than they were at the start of 2020. One caveat to that: the new data covers a warm, summer period, while the baseline was taken during the height of winter.

Safeway in Damascus

A more apples-to-apples comparison is in grocery and pharmacy shopping; the latter surges during winter months. But during late summer 2021, County residents were going into grocery stores and drugstores 7% more than they were during the height of cold and flu season in early 2020. There has been an increasing strain on grocery supply lines again in recent weeks, as evidenced by Costco reinstating limits on the number of some items that may be purchased, such as paper towels and toilet paper. Business Insider reports that shortages are the result of panic buying over the Delta variant, and of labor shortages affecting the ability to produce, ship and restock merchandise.

CVS Pharmacy

Residents aren't shopping in other types of retail stores, or traveling for non-park recreational activities as much, though. "Retail and recreation" travel was down 12% in late summer this year, compared to early 2020. One would expect recreation to be higher in summer than in midwinter, so that is a notable decline.

Metro Red Line train in Rockville

Travel to workplaces looks better than it was during the lockdowns and peaks of the pandemic, but still follows the national trend of those working from home continuing to do so where possible. Workplace travel was 44% lower in late summer 2021 in Montgomery County than it was in January-February 2020. Those traveling for any reason are often still wary of using public transit. Bus and rail commuting was down 42% in recent weeks, compared to early 2020.

One thing many residents are doing is continuing to stay home. Despite warm weather, County residents stayed at home 11% more over the last six weeks than they did in frigid January-February 2020.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Rockville barrack of Maryland State Police participates in crackdown on "superspeeders"

The Maryland State Police have concluded a crackdown on "superspeeders," drivers traveling at excessive speeds whom the agency says have been growing in number during the pandemic. On a designated day last Tuesday, troopers from the Rockville barrack on Montrose Road joined colleagues from the College Park and Forestville barracks in targeting speeders on I-495. 

By the end of the six-month initiative that concluded Tuesday, troopers had issued 875 citations, 803 warnings, 6 Move Over citiations (for failing to either sufficiently slow down, or change lanes when passing an emergency vehicle stopped on the shoulder), 41 Move Over warnings, and 43 safety equipment repair orders. They also made 8 arrests on outstanding warrants, and an additional 11 arrests for possession of controlled substances.

On Tuesday, troopers issued 149 citations, 155 warnings, and 34 safety equipment repair orders. They made 1 criminal arrest, and 3 arrests on outstanding warrants.

Funding for the coordinated operation was provided by the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office. The stated goal is to reduce crashes on interstate highways in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. According to statistics released by the Rockville barrack, crashes are trending downward in recent years. Troopers based in Rockville responded to 1921 crashes in 2018, 1749 crashes in 2019, and 1121 crashes in 2020.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Part of Baltimore Road in Rockville to close until October

The latest phase of improvements to Baltimore Road in Rockville will require an extended closure of part of the street. On or about June 23, 2021, the segment between Gladstone Drive and Broadwood Drive will be closed, and remain closed until October. Detour signs will reroute drivers via Broadwood and Edmonston Drive. There will also be signs to direct pedestrians to a pedestrian detour.

Part of the project will be replacing a culvert over a stream that flows beneath Baltimore Road near Rockville Cemetery. Storm drain installation and stream restoration will also be performed during the closure. The closed segment should reopen by mid-October, the city announced yesterday. Baltimore Road will be resurfaced when all of the projects are completed, and that should wrap up by spring 2022.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Rockville Metro station pedestrian bridge repairs (Video+Photos)

Repair work continues on the aging pedestrian skybridge over MD 355 at the Rockville Metro station. Work last night on the bridge required lane closures on the roadway below, as a crew operated from street level.