Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Serious Design Flaw

There is an interchange that is fondly called the Mixing Bowl. It is the point where I95 splits off from I495, the Capital Beltway, and turns south. This intersection also has connections to and from 395. Before they started construction (years ago), all connecting roads would back up for miles and hours every day of the week. Some road planner decided that long, high, flyover ramps was the solution. And they did break up the constant traffic around the Mixing Bowl.

The problem with long, high, flyover ramps is that they are high up in the air. When the ice started falling yesterday afternoon, the ramps started freezing. Then the cars started slipping. Then they started colliding. Then they had to close down those long, high, flyover ramps because there was no getting over the ice, or through the accidents already there. My dad and I were so very very glad that we don't have to go that way, we found a road that bypasses that intersection entirely. So glad we were not any of those poor people who had to sit in the falling ice on the frozen ramps that were closed for nine hours. And all this was with just a thin sheet of ice, maybe an eighth of an inch thick. Whoever designed that new Mixing Bowl turned it into a Frozen Dinner.

Dad and I drive a parkway that runs parallel to the Beltway, and bypass the traffic that usually plagues the Beltway. Before even making it halfway down the parkway in the ice, we passed ten accidents. The radio was telling people to stay at work. Too late! After two and a half hours (really not bad, considering the weather), we made it to our polling place, cast our votes, and made it home.

Now, the plan was for dad to get up in the wee hours of the morning and go in to work at 0200. Then mom has her usual time and is out the door by the time my alarm is going off at 0415. I was expecting to wake up to an empty house. Of course, that's not what happened! The call that woke us all up at 2330 last night was to tell dad that they were cancelling the early morning update because of the still-falling ice. Mom didn't go into work for the same reason, deciding it would be best to wait a few hours to see if the ice would change to rain and let the salt trucks do their thing. Yes, the roads were slick, but I still managed to get here on time. Go me!

This is nothing like the ice storm we had a year ago. The trees are coating in a very thin layer of ice that glows blue in the light of the stormy dawn. The flag hangs limp and ice-encrusted. Hopefully, it will change to rain or stop altogether so we can all get home. Hopefully it will not turn into snow in the night and make tomorrow morning just as yucky.

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