Poll Measures Public Opinion on New Potomac River Bridge Construction, Higher Gas Taxes, and Raising Area Tolls
Earlier this month, WTOP Radio 103.5 FM announced the results of its first WTOP Beltway Poll of 2012, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, measuring public opinion on a number of “hot topic” transportation issues across the Washington metropolitan area.
The poll reveals strong support of new Potomac River bridge construction, support of funding for area transportation projects, and strong opposition to higher gas taxes. This comes in the wake of intense opposition to Governor O’Malley’s proposed gas tax hikes.
The WTOP Beltway Poll includes the following findings on transportation issues across the Washington metropolitan area:
•59% of residents across the region believe now is the time to increase funding for transportation projects to help promote job growth and regional benefits from improved transportation.
•Two-thirds of area residents (67%) across the region support the construction of a new bridge across the Potomac River to help ease area traffic congestion.
• Support for new bridge construction is strongest among Maryland residents at 69% compared to 65% in Virginia and 58% of those polled in The District.
•Despite the support for increased transportation funding, 78% of those polled oppose higher gas taxes.
•The question of increasing area tolls divided public opinion with 46% in favor and 52% opposed.
“This in-depth look at hotly contested transportation issues is the first of our 2012 series of WTOP Beltway polls. WTOP conducts the polling through our partnership with the respected Heart and Mind Strategies to compare and contrast the views of voters in Virginia, Maryland and DC,” said Mitch Miller, News Director, WTOP Radio. “We look forward to sharing in-depth analysis on a variety of important issues on WTOP Radio and WTOP.com.”
The WTOP Beltway Poll polled 551 participants in the WTOP listening area from February 20 – 23, 2012. The comprehensive findings of the WTOP Beltway Poll can be found online at www.WTOP.com.
Poll Shows DC Area Residents Face L-o-o-o-o-ong Daily Commutes Impacting Productivity, Health Issues & Quality Time for Area Families
Last week, WTOP Radio 103.5 FM announced the results of its most recent WTOP Beltway Poll examining local travel and traffic congestion issues for Washington metropolitan area commuters. The WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, surveyed area residents across the Washington metropolitan region to measure average daily commuting times and the impact that growing commutes have on worker productivity levels, health and wellness issues, and quality time for area families to spend together.
The WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, showed that 52 percent of those polled say that DC area traffic congestion is much worse than other major metropolitan areas. Of those polled, 40 percent blame population density as the main cause of traffic congestion, 33 percent blame insufficient infrastructure, and 12 percent blame existing road construction delays.
The WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, includes these additional findings related to daily commute times for DC area residents:
- Average round trip miles each day:
- 32% 1-10 miles
- 34% 11-30 miles
- 15% 31-50 miles
- 17% 51+ miles
- Average round trip length of time traveling each day:
- 32% 1-30 minutes
- 29% 31 minutes -1 hour
- 27% 1-2 hours
- 11% more than 2 hours
WTOP will examine the poll findings more closely during upcoming stories on WTOP and WTOP.com. The WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, was conducted by phone among 641 adults 18 and older in the WTOP listening area from October 10 -13, 2011. The comprehensive findings of the WTOP Beltway Poll, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, can be found online at www.WTOP.com. The margin of error for a sample this size is +/- 3.87 at 95 percent confidence.
The Intercounty Connector (ICC) will be unique in that it is the only all-electronic toll road in the U.S that can collect tolls at highway speed. That’s right — there are absolutely no toll booths to collect money, so you don’t have to slow down to pay. The ICC will use the E-ZPass system, an electronic toll collection system. Many other U.S. toll roads already use E-ZPass nationwide, but drivers on those roads still have to slow down to about ten miles per hour or less for their E-ZPass to be read properly.
Can you imagine not dealing with the hassle of having long waits in traffic congestion to enter a toll highway? There is another all-electronic toll road collection system currently in place in western Canada, also the first of its kind.
How is electronic toll collection possible?
This high tech solution entails antennas “reading” the vehicle-mounted E-ZPass transponders and deducting the cost of the trip from the driver’s prepaid account. If the vehicle doesn’t have a transponder, cameras will take pictures of the vehicle’s license plate and the owner will receive a “Notice of Toll Due” in the mail along with a $3 surcharge.
The first stretch (7.2 miles) of the ICC will now open at 6AM Wednesday February 23. Until March 7, no tolls or surcharges will be collected. The remaining two stretches will open later this year and by spring of next year.
New E-ZPass offices are now open in Gaithersburg and Beltsville Maryland (MVA) for those who want to sign up. Toll prices have also been set, and they will vary depending on what time of day you pass through.
A word to the wise: you might want to stick to the speed limit as the E-ZPass antenna reads your transponder. If you zoom past at a higher speed than the posted speed limit, you could end up with a nasty speeding ticket. Happy driving!
Today, as I was returning back to the office from my lunch break, I encountered a very common problem — a female driver who didn’t know how to properly merge onto the highway. I got so angry at her apparent lack of driving skills, I didn’t know what to do!
Here’s what she did — and this is soooo classic — instead of yielding to the driver getting off the highway (me), she decides to speed up, pass me on the right (on a short exit ramp!) and merge onto the highway ahead of me, despite the fact that I was going a little too fast for that, both of us are running out of exit ramp (!), and there was a large slowish moving vehicle in front of me. What she should have done was to yield and then merge in behind me when it was safe to do so.
This is really a problem that I’m noticing more and more. And, quite frankly, it’s got me worried for my safety. For some reason, many people do not seem to realize that:
- exiting vehicles have the right of way by law
- entering vehicles are supposed to YIELD to exiting vehicles
- entering vehicles are not to attempt to pass vehicles on the right as exiting vehicles are trying to complete their exit
Roileen Miller of Miller Driving School gave some useful merging pointers on the Road Warrior blog, including that drivers should use their signals and that entering vehicles should check their blindspots for exiting vehicles and merge accordingly.
Here is what I’ve noticed: when I wait an extra second before signaling my intent to exit, most drivers will assume I am continuing on the highway, yield, and just merge into traffic behind me. However, if I signal before that, there is confusion because other drivers may not yield to me otherwise. To mitigate this problem, I try to signal at a precise time that safely alerts others I am about to exit, just before I am about to pass the merging vehicle while they are still on the exit ramp.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. She probably passed you like that because you drive like a grandma! Au contraire! Those who have ridden with me will tell you I most certainly do not drive like a grandma.
Unfortunately, many drivers these days tend to do exactly what that lady did to me today — although most of them do not go to such great lengths as to actually attempt to pass me on the right before merging!
What do you think about this behavior? Do you drive just like that lady? Or does this kind of unsafe, illegal driving tick you off, too? Tell me, and please feel free to share this blog post/site with others!
What if we could help ease traffic congestion by merely installing traffic signs? Nothing fancy here. These signs would simply suggest a desired driver behavior to achieve a desired outcome: moving traffic along in a more expeditious manner.
Highways all over the country already have these. Imagine my awe as I rode past, staring at them with my mouth wide open as I had an “ah-ha moment.” There was a sign that blatantly said: “Steep Upgrade, Maintain Speed.” Wow, what an idea! A sign that strongly suggests that drivers hit the gas pedal to maintain speed because — pay attention now, this is deep — we are now driving on a steep incline on a highway, and in order to not slow the people down behind us, we need to STEP ON IT. What a novel idea! Why haven’t the transportation authorities in MD, VA, and D.C. metro area caught onto this??
Study explained traffic jams
Years ago, I remember watching a news story about a traffic study that explained why traffic jams and slowdowns occur on our highways. Among their conclusions were: (1) rubbernecking to see the source of a police stop; (2) rubbernecking due to a disabled car or accident; (3) sheer volume; (4) curvy highways; (5) hilly highways (the steeper the grade, the slower traffic gets); (6) construction and or repair.
We have many highways that are curved and are downright hilly in this area. I understand slowing down a little for curves in bad weather, but not to the degree that most people do. I’m quite sure they were built to accommodate highway speeds (at least during fair weather). But, for some reason, people don’t compensate for hills by simply accelerating. Guess they just feel that they don’t need to or are not paying enough attention to notice that their car is slowing down. I wouldn’t want to be a passenger in that car!
Wake up, people!
I believe that this problem could be helped just by strategically installing the right signage. Traffic merging onto I-95 North is always slow because there are two steep upgrades before you even get to Exit 33 Rt. 193. After this exit, traffic usually speeds up exponentially (with some exceptions, of course). I am convinced that merely suggesting that people accelerate to maintain their speed would go a long way to relieve congestion caused by hills. It’s worth a try!
Tell me…what do you think of this solution? Don’t be shy — leave a comment.