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Best, worst in metro area transportation

Monday - 12/30/2013, 12:03pm  ET

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More drivers are using the Interstate 495 Express Lanes. Toll Road News reports more than 37,600 vehicles used the lanes in September, compared with 35,000 in June. (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON - Looking back at 2013, the year was a "banner year" for transportation in the metro region, says Lon Anderson, AAA Mid-Atlantic.

"We were actually spending a little bit less time on the road than we were in previous years, and it's all because we were able to get some major road construction done and some major projects done," Anderson tells WTOP.

According to a Washington Post study, commuters spent an average of one hour, 22 minutes less per month stuck in traffic compared to three years ago.

In addition, gas prices dipped to some of the lowest levels in three years.

The average price in 2012 was $3.63 per gallon, and the Energy Information Administration projects prices will average $3.50 per gallon this year and just $3.43 per gallon in 2014.

AAA cites several other milestones related to transportation in D.C., Maryland and Virginia:

  • All three jurisdictions enacted major legislation to fund transportation projects.

  • Legislators in Virginia approved $2.6 billion in funding for Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads area, in addition to another $3.5 billion for statewide projects.

  • Maryland lawmakers passed $4.5 billion in funding for the next six years.

  • The D.C. Council passed changes to the District's fuel tax that will help keep transportation coffers full in the future.

"That's great news for all of us who use the transportation systems in all three jurisdictions," Anderson says.

The opening of the 11th Street Bridge, the one-year anniversary of the Interstate 495 Express Lanes and increased use of the Intercounty Connector also made the list of good things in transportation this year.

Mixed news in traffic safety: The highway death toll dropped by 4.2 percent in the first half of 2013, but that's after a sharp increase in 2012. Additionally, there was an increase in the number of motorcycle rider deaths and pedestrian deaths nationwide.

But the number of single-vehicle crashes resulting in fatalities led AAA's list of the worst milestones in transportation in 2013.

More than half of all highway fatalities in Virginia and Maryland in 2012 were single-vehicle accidents. The numbers for 2013 are not available yet. In the District, seven of 15 highway fatalities were in single-vehicle accidents in 2012.

Speed camera controversies, particularly in Baltimore County, made the worst list. The Maryland General Assembly may make another attempt to repeal the program in 2014.

Also on the worst list: Montgomery County Council's vote to move forward to re-purposing traffic lanes for bus rapid transit.

"Bus rapid transit holds a lot of promise, but not the way Montgomery County is trying to proceed. That will only damage our commutes and we're very disappointed in Montgomery County for going in that direction," Anderson says.

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