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Robber gives new meaning to the words 'drive-thru'

Posted on: Tuesday 7/29/2014 12:13pm

WASHINGTON - The summertime rush hour for the D.C. area was relatively uneventful Tuesday morning.

But, as my mom would say, "It's always something."

Early morning in Prince George's County at the Capital Plaza Mall will justify that sentiment.

It was just a little after 5 a.m. when the scanners in the WTOP Traffic blew up with the report of a car into a store at Capital Plaza Mall and a fire. We sent the WTOP mobile unit to the scene in preparation for what would probably cause big problems on Route 450/Annapolis Road just to the east of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Once arriving, our mobile reporter Finn Neilsen called back to the Traffic Center reporting that a SUV went through the side of a McDonald's restaurant. No, the driver wasn't ordering breakfast. With a large response and lots of hoopla, things sifted out relatively quickly.

As Jack Taylor stated on air, "the roadway is unaffected but you will have to make alternate breakfast plans." However, as of 9:45 a.m., the Prince George's County Police investigating officers were still on the scene.

A police spokesperson told WTOP that there was a carjacking and a report of a vehicle into the McDonald's within minutes of one another. Police say the preliminary investigation indicated the carjacking victim was at the intersection of Route 450 and 71st Avenue when the suspect asked for a ride.

When the driver declined, police say the suspect revealed a weapon. The victim then jumped out of the SUV and the robber drove away on Annapolis Road and hit a minivan. The driver of the minivan followed the SUV which subsequently crashed into the McDonald's drive-thru.

Nobody was in the store at the time, no McMuffins harmed and Prince George's Police have the robber in custody.

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Traffic blog: Commuters outraged by I-395 road striping

Posted on: Wednesday 7/23/2014 9:21am

395 road striping (WTOP/ Rick McClure)
A view of the road Wednesday morning. (WTOP/Rick McClure)

WASHINGTON -- When it comes to traffic in D.C., it's always something. Well, Wednesday morning's commute may be one for the record books.

The main call to the WTOP Traffic Center was not about a crash with an overturned tractor trailer, or the Beltway being littered with an oil spill. No, Wednesday morning, it was all about the lines on the road.

Apparently, in Virginia, Interstate 395's terminal construction through Landmark had taken a turn. Or, as Jack Taylor said on air during the morning commute, "it was a line striping project gone awry."

It appears a contractor failed to finish restriping about 1,000 feet of Interstate 395. Work on the interstate typically wraps up by the time commuters head out in the morning.

The WTOP Traffic Center received call after call from commuters about the incident -- some angry, some enlightening, some very, very amusing. This was not taken lightly by the traffic staff. WTOP sent a driver to take a look and he too was bewildered and at a loss for words by the project calamity.

Usually, a summertime rush hour is lighter than normal, but by mid-rush Wednesday morning, delays on I-395 heading northbound toward D.C. stemmed from I-95 in Newington.

The phones were ringing off the hook with great descriptions of the mishap, how the lanes went from three to four, back to three. But our favorite description in the Traffic Center came via social media, using a Seinfeld reference, asking if Kramer was in charge of the paint job, "Kramer Striping."

Eventually, WTOP did get word from VDOT. The situation was deemed to be an incomplete project, which comes as no surprise. But, commuters can rest assured it will be remedied during the overnight and ready to go again tomorrow morning, hopefully.

Ways to avoid miles-long delays during summer getaways

Posted on: Monday 7/7/2014 5:47pm

WASHINGTON -- Travelers returning from holiday weekend getaways Sunday found themselves stuck in stop-and-go traffic for hours, and it was some of the worst traffic WTOP's Director of Traffic and Transit Operations has ever seen.

"I've been doing this traffic now for over 30 years and it was probably one of the worst days I've ever seen [Sunday] and it was bizarre," WTOP's Jim Battagliese said on WTOP Monday.

Beach routes, such as Interstate 95 in Virginia and U.S. 50 in Maryland, had continuous traffic jams. Backups were reported on westbound U.S. 50 most of the day. They cleared around 11:45 p.m. Sunday, but the traffic jam extended up to 10 miles at times.

Traffic started at 10 a.m. on some routes and didn't ease up until midnight.

A crash early in the afternoon on the eastern span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge brought all traffic on the Western Shore to a stop for about 15 minutes and exacerbated westbound delays.

In Virginia, congestion developed by late morning on northbound Interstate 95 North. By 11 p.m., there was a 28-mile backup before Va. 606 at Thornburg that took until nearly 1 a.m. to clear. Numerous other slowdowns developed throughout Stafford and Prince William counties as well.

It was even worse in the afternoon: Northbound traffic was at a standstill on U.S. 301 with nearly 8 miles of stop-and-go traffic leading to the Gov. Harry Nice Bridge. The highway is a well-known alternative to the clogged lanes of I-95.

Interstate 70 eastbound also was a slow drive between Hagerstown and Frederick, Maryland. Traffic on I-70 East and I-270 South is typically heavy in Frederick County on the Sundays following federal holidays.

Because July 4 fell on a weekend, more people may have taken a long weekend and decided to return home at the same time, contributing to the delays.

But whether it is a holiday weekend or just a heavily-traveled summer weekend, Battagliese has some tips to avoid getting stuck in traffic when coming home:

  • Try to leave Monday. Take off at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. Monday morning to head into the region and then go right into school or work.

  • Take shortcuts. Avoid main routes such as I-95 during big travel weekends. Instead, head west and opt for routes such as Interstate 64, U.S. Route 17 or Virginia Route 3.

  • Have options. Before you hit the road, map out some alternate routes so if traffic is bad, you can jump off and keep moving.

    In Virginia, "Route 1 is not a good option," Battagliese notes, "because that's where everyone goes."

    Instead, he suggests U.S. Route 15 or U.S. Route 29.

WTOP's Dave Dildine contribute to this report. Follow @WTOPtraffic and @WTOP on Twitter.

Crowds and traffic for the Fourth of July: Caution is the key

Posted on: Thursday 7/3/2014 6:12am

fireworks (Getty Images)
Expect crowds and massive traffic if you're heading to the National Mall on the Fourth of July. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- Heading down to the National Mall for the Fourth of July? Between the traffic, the parking and the crowds, it's going to be an experience.

WTOP's Dave Dildine says that streets and sidewalks will be packed with cars and pedestrians, so caution is key.

Consider taking Metro. Metro will run more trains as the day continues. On Friday evening, trains will run on a rush-hour schedule. Both should help the congestion a bit, Dildine says.

Capital Bikeshare will set up a corral at Constitution Avenue and 10th Street, in Northwest, from 3 p.m. until an hour after the fireworks end. It says it can guarantee you a place to dock your Bikeshare bike if you ride down there, but it can't assure you that there will be a bike for you to ride home, so plan accordingly.

In her Tuesday appearance on WTOP, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said many of the District's Potomac River bridges will be closed for the fireworks.

Meanwhile, some parking restrictions will be lifted due to the holiday, but some will still apply. And temporary no-parking signs are going up already along the Mall, while all parking restrictions will remain in force around Nationals Park for the Fourth.

Get more Fourth of July information in WTOP's live blog.

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New Silver Line ads promise viewers 'good times are ahead' (Video)

Posted on: Wednesday 6/25/2014 1:55pm

Sophie Ho, special to

WASHINGTON -- What could serve as a place to meet dates, a tool to expand a college graduate's career options and encouragement for a car-less family to leave the house?

According to three new 15-second ads, the Silver Line. The much-anticipated Metro line, which is slated to open July 26, is featured in recently released ads that promise viewers "good times are ahead."

In one video, a man named John -- his only apparent companion a cat -- is told that the Silver Line will broaden his dating prospects. In another ad, college grad Donna is told her job opportunities will expand, thanks to the Silver Line's access into the District.

The first phase of the line includes an 11-mile extension of the Metro system with five new stations, and will eventually extend to Dulles International Airport.

"Now that opening day is in sight, it's time to get a little excited," said Lynn Bowersox, Metro assistant general manager, in a release.

Check out the new spots:

Ad 1:

Ad 2:

Ad 3:

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High waters converge for traffic headaches

Posted on: Thursday 6/12/2014 6:57pm

Eastbound RT 7 remains closed at W. Market St. in Leesburg. (Courtesy Loudoun County Sheriff's office.)

WASHINGTON -- When heavy rains and rush hours coincide, delays are inevitable. Today, the worst of the region's traffic woes have correlated with the flash flood warnings issued for Loudoun County in Virginia and Montgomery and Frederick counties in Maryland.

High water led to the closure of eastbound Route 7 at the Leesburg Bypass, sending drivers onto West Market Street and other small, congested streets downtown.

Gridlock spread, slowing ramps leading off the westbound lanes of the bypass. The pace was further slowed by weather. The traffic jam spilled back onto the Dulles Greenway which was backed up for several miles into Leesburg. Delays spread onto Route 15 toward Point of Rocks. In Frederick, the wet weather led to numerous accidents. I-70 west ground to a halt when two collisions blocked westbound lanes near Route 340 and in Myersville.

I-70 and U.S. Route 40 were closed west of Hagerstown, Maryland near the Big Pool exits due to significant flash flooding. The National Weather Service estimated that over four inches of rain had fallen since noon.

On I-270 a truck jackknifed south of Montrose Road, snarling traffic from Gaithersburg. The rubbernecking caused extensive delays to spread onto the Beltway and into the I-495 interchanges as far south as McLean and Tysons Corner, Virginia. Nearby, a series of wrecks occurred on Route 267 and Route 7.

On the Dulles Toll Road, a crash blocked lanes west of Wolf Trap causing a five-mile-long backup. Above the Dulles Toll Road, a wreck occurred on the Route 7 overpass causing delays throughout Tysons. On the Dulles Access Road a crash was reported in the eastbound lanes near the Beltway.

When a road is near capacity, any brief slowdown can ripple backwards and disrupt the flow of traffic for hours. When rain begins to fall, accidents, road spray and flooding are just a few of the factors that can lead to extreme delays.

All the more reason to tune to WTOP Traffic, or better yet, just stay home.

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPTraffic on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

Eight vehicle accident on Baltimore-Washington Parkway

Posted on: Saturday 4/26/2014 6:55am

WASHINGTON -- WTOP is following a serious accident on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway occurring around 3:40 a.m. Saturday morning.

U.S. Park Police say that eight vehicles were involved. Prince George's County Fire Department says that one person was transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Two people were also arrested for drug possession.


All parkway lanes are open again.

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Osprey returns! Nest and bird seen on live traffic cam

Posted on: Sunday 4/20/2014 8:27am

WASHINGTON -- The osprey nest that was previously removed from a traffic cam near the Bay Bridge has returned.

Watch the live camera feed HERE.

Related stories:

Ospreys return to the Potomac River

Osprey nest removed from traffic cam location near Bay Bridge

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Bus crashes beg question: How safe are they?

Posted on: Wednesday 4/2/2014 3:51pm

WASHINGTON -- Travel season means tour buses crisscrossing the country. They're already parked on the Mall bringing tourists to see Washington's world-famous cherry blossoms. But after a number of high-profile bus crashes, more and more riders have asked: How safe are they?

There's a quick and easy way to check the safety record of bus companies, says Anne Ferro, administrator with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It's called the Safer Bus app, and it's free.

"It's a quick and easy look-up for the authority of that company that you may be choosing to book," says Ferro.

The app has been around for a couple of years, but Ferro uses the start of the spring and summer travel season to remind riders they should check the records of any bus company they may travel with.

Ferro also announced that Union Station would now be used as a site for on-the-spot bus inspections. The FMCSA and the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department are teaming up to carry out the inspections, which include checking the vehicle and the driver's information.

"We want to be sure the driver is rested and obeying the law," Ferro says.

Ferro encourages potential riders to use the Safer Bus app and says her administration is working hard to ferret out fly-by-night companies.

"We shut down 100 motor coach companies in the last year," she says. "The key for us is to make it more difficult than ever before to operate unsafe equipment."

Here's a link for information on the Safer Bus app.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on the WTOP Facebook page.

Freezing roadways a danger to Wednesday morning commuters

Posted on: Wednesday 3/26/2014 6:56am

WASHINGTON -- We've all seen the signs: "Bridges freeze before roadway." Well, WTOP traffic reporter Bob Marbourg says that's especially true for Wednesday morning.

Marbourg says Tuesday night's strong winds helped temperatures plummet after a day of snowfall. The result is wet roads and frigid temperatures for Wednesday morning, which may mean dicey roads for morning commuters.

That means the roads are freezing before the winds can dry them off, Marbourg says, and some bridge decks, particularly in Montgomery County and areas to the north and west, are already freezing.

A man died after an ice-related single-vehicle crash in Prince George's County Wednesday morning.

At least six crashes were reported in Montgomery County as of 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, including ones on Viers Mill Road and University Boulevard, and at Georgia Avenue and Laytonsville Road.

Bridges get cold air from above and below, so they freeze before surface roads.

"That's what the signs say," Marbourg says, "and this is why it happens."

Most of the pre-treating of area roads in preparation for the snow was washed away in the course of Tuesday snow and wind, Marbourg says.

"There are crews out on the roads doing some salting [Tuesday night], but not nearly a full-scale mobilization."

His advice?

"Everybody take in a breath, back off on the speed, and consider that the next overpass you find may be slippery."

Some schools are delayed Wednesday morning because of the road conditions. See the full list on

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