DonRocks

VDOT Express Lanes

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The VDOT Express Lanes are open this weekend which will ultimately trickle across to the Dining in Tysons Corner threads. As of 2:30 this afternoon, southbound, the tolls were 30 cents to Jones Bridge Road, and $1.65 all the way to I-395 in Springfield. One pretty neat feature is that you can look up the historic toll rates on the website, too, at any time, from any entry and exit point. The technological possibilities of cheap computer storage are awesome - just don't ever take away my left exit to I-66 East and we can co-exist in harmony.

Completely by coincidence, I also took the Maryland Intercounty Connector today for the first time in my life - which was really interesting to me since that's my home turf. It was cool to see my homeboy highway, New Hampshire Avenue, all grown up and featured on the exit sign. I also need to get a life.

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These lanes are a nightmare: a concept that was not thought through.

1. Southbound on 495 there is no exit from the toll lanes for Leesburg Pike, Arlington Blvd (route 50!) or Little River Turnpike. Instead they want drivers to exit at Gallows road (for route 50) and drive back through lights and traffic to reach it which essentially defeats the purpose of the toll lanes.

2. Northbound from Springfield the entry onto the toll lanes is DANGEROUS. Yesterday morning there were four accidents from 7 to 9 AM and this is with perhaps one car per 45 seconds passing by. The problem is that the roadway is six or seven lanes across and the private company who built the toll lanes did NOT BUILD SIGNAGE SPANNING THE ENTIRE ROAD. There are only signs on the lefthand side. For the four or five lanes to the right of them there is little awareness of the impending entrance. The result is that we saw two near accidents tonight from cars who found themselves about to enter and swerved hard at the last minute to the 495 lanes to avoid them.

3. The lack of signage is appalling. There should be signs spanning the entire road, not just the two lefthand lanes. But they didn't do it. Most of the highway is separated by only white "sticks" with the two left hand lanes literally built adjoining the other lanes.

4. The entrance onto the toll lanes from the Dulles Toll road is confusing. Simply, there are not enough signs to specify exactly where you enter. This is a theme throughout the toll lanes: they saved money by not erecting sufficient signage for all the lanes to see.

5. The toll lanes end just past Tysons Corner where they merge onto 495 northbound before 193. There is going to be incredible gridlock here. The area already backs up at a standstill and now we have the toll lanes (which may be as much as $6.00 with heavy traffic for 9 or 10 miles) funneling into the four existing lanes.

6. Southbound the toll lanes end at the 95 interchange. We drove into Maryland where the last four or five miles you are on similar "express" lanes that are free. They look the same. And are free. Only a few miles shorter.

7. If someone lives in Loudoun County and works in Springfield the toll on the Greenway (privately owned) is $5.55 for the rush hour. The Dulles Toll Road is expected to be $4.50 within three years and then, during the rush hour as much as $6.00 on the Beltway toll lanes. That's $15.55 each way X 2 = $31.10. Multiply this by 5 (for a week) = $155.50. X 52 weeks = $8,086.00 a year after taxes. Assuming, say, a 28% tax bracket, 5.75% VA state tax and 7.65 FICA, medical, the actual gross cost of using these toll lanes is approximately $13,000 a year. To use toll lanes to go back and forth to work.

I am not a fan of them.

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These lanes are a nightmare: a concept that was not thought through.

1. Southbound on 495 there is no exit from the toll lanes for Leesburg Pike, Arlington Blvd (route 50!) or Little River Turnpike.

As a consolation prize, Arlington Blvd. parallels I-66 - I suspect there was nowhere to put the exit ramps. I always thought it was tragic that there were previously no beltway exits for Lee Highway, but 29, 50, and 66 are all right on top of each other there. I think this is more to funnel traffic from Maryland to I-95.

BTW, if someone from VDOT is reading ... under the "Plan Your Trip" section, how about listing not just the estimated time on the Express lanes, but on the non-Express lanes also? That's vital information - I don't care how fast the express lanes are because I figure the price will always make the times comparable; it's the regular lanes that people need to know about - surely the technology is there?

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These lanes are a nightmare: a concept that was not thought through.

1. Southbound on 495 there is no exit from the toll lanes for Leesburg Pike, Arlington Blvd (route 50!) or Little River Turnpike. Instead they want drivers to exit at Gallows road (for route 50) and drive back through lights and traffic to reach it which essentially defeats the purpose of the toll lanes.

2. Northbound from Springfield the entry onto the toll lanes is DANGEROUS. Yesterday morning there were four accidents from 7 to 9 AM and this is with perhaps one car per 45 seconds passing by. The problem is that the roadway is six or seven lanes across and the private company who built the toll lanes did NOT BUILD SIGNAGE SPANNING THE ENTIRE ROAD. There are only signs on the lefthand side. For the four or five lanes to the right of them there is little awareness of the impending entrance. The result is that we saw two near accidents tonight from cars who found themselves about to enter and swerved hard at the last minute to the 495 lanes to avoid them.

3. The lack of signage is appalling. There should be signs spanning the entire road, not just the two lefthand lanes. But they didn't do it. Most of the highway is separated by only white "sticks" with the two left hand lanes literally built adjoining the other lanes.

4. The entrance onto the toll lanes from the Dulles Toll road is confusing. Simply, there are not enough signs to specify exactly where you enter. This is a theme throughout the toll lanes: they saved money by not erecting sufficient signage for all the lanes to see.

5. The toll lanes end just past Tysons Corner where they merge onto 495 northbound before 193. There is going to be incredible gridlock here. The area already backs up at a standstill and now we have the toll lanes (which may be as much as $6.00 with heavy traffic for 9 or 10 miles) funneling into the four existing lanes.

6. Southbound the toll lanes end at the 95 interchange. We drove into Maryland where the last four or five miles you are on similar "express" lanes that are free. They look the same. And are free. Only a few miles shorter.

7. If someone lives in Loudoun County and works in Springfield the toll on the Greenway (privately owned) is $5.55 for the rush hour. The Dulles Toll Road is expected to be $4.50 within three years and then, during the rush hour as much as $6.00 on the Beltway toll lanes. That's $15.55 each way X 2 = $31.10. Multiply this by 5 (for a week) = $155.50. X 52 weeks = $8,086.00 a year after taxes. Assuming, say, a 28% tax bracket, 5.75% VA state tax and 7.65 FICA, medical, the actual gross cost of using these toll lanes is approximately $13,000 a year. To use toll lanes to go back and forth to work.

I am not a fan of them.

They either were not able to buy land at these interchanges or did not have the budget.

Virginia's manipulation of traffic is an outrage:

1. The new toll lanes.

2. HOV 3 on them vs. HOV 2 on the toll road. (All HOV should be the same.)

3. I 66 allows you to drive on the shoulder in areas and during certain time frames. Other areas have you exit on the shoulder. It's confusing.

4. Rather than erect signage spanning the entire road (including the toll lanes) the signage is more compact with more information in a smaller area. I have no idea how a driver is going to read this while travelling at 55 mph? I have no idea now someone whose native language is not English is going to understand any of it.

5. Should I mention that 495 becomes 95 south of Springfield although it is the same road? I don't mean turning off of 495 onto 95 southbound rather that once you pass the Springfield interchange the route number changes from 495 to 95 northbound.

6. What is happening is that the Northern VA part of the Beltway has become too sophisticated, too complicated. The toll lanes have just pushed everything over the top.

Someone in Richmond thought they could save the money by not widening the road and let a private company build parallel toll lanes for approximately half of the length of the beltway in Northern VA.

It doesn't work.

Sorry to react so passionately but we just returned home from driving on them and fear what will happen tomorrow in the rush hour. We also wonder how they will plow snow since the lanes are parallel. Should I also mention the $12.50 they'll charge you for entering them without a flashpass? (which most in Montgomery and P. G. county do not need; other than the Intercounty Connector there is not a toll road in either county) There are cameras all over the place on them.

And last, tonight in the 10 minute drive from Braddock Road (the start) to 495 near 193 (the end) we passed a total of 8 cars coming in the opposite direction on them. I should note that a guess of several thousand cars in the "regular" lanes (versus these eight) would not be too wild of a guess.

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5. The toll lanes end just past Tysons Corner where they merge onto 495 northbound before 193. There is going to be incredible gridlock here. The area already backs up at a standstill and now we have the toll lanes (which may be as much as $6.00 with heavy traffic for 9 or 10 miles) funneling into the four existing lanes.

The key to this sentence is "past Tysons Corner" which is all anyone has given a damn about since ... what was that place called again? ... Evans Farm ... remember that? ... was sold (*). Don't think for a second that greedy developers didn't have their eyes set on Tysons even back then - I'm certain that they did. And they (perhaps literally) mortgaged an entire generation because of it - remember Inox, look at Route 7 right now.

Many of your problems seem to be signage which, hopefully, will be relatively inexpensive to produce.

I agree that the Virginia highways have become too sophisticated. And do you know what's going to happen because of all this efficiency? More real estate development, and do you know what's going to happen because of more real estate development? Right. More traffic. And the developers? They'll all be sitting by the pool in Miami if they aren't already.

Forced "growth" such as this is for the birds. The birds, lobbyists, developers, and politicians. I think the City of Falls Church is awesome for not allowing I-66 to go through it. And for *you*, brian ... this is the same type of "do it quick" mentality that led to the disaster that was Brutalism. B) Seriously, where is the beauty and humanity in any of this? Allowing people to commute more quickly so they can spend more time with their families in their plastic-siding condominiums thrown up in the exurbs? I don't buy it. I've already accepted that someone will chime in and call me an "elitist" for that last sentiment - go ahead, but know in advance that (at least in my mind) it's actually the opposing philosophy. Sometimes yoga is better than running bleachers; I understand the usefulness of both.

I'm going to have the option of using these lanes (or not), in various combinations, a fair amount in the next few years. I'd say "we'll see how it goes," but I don't like thinking in the short-term like most birds, lobbyists, developers, and politicians do, and the "next few years" won't be enough to judge. Talk to me in fifty, and if I sound ambivalent right now, I guess I am.

(*) I still think that, in terms of geographical positioning, Bistro Vivant could have a thirty-year run if that's what the goals are. Admittedly, that's quite a projection and is more allegorical than anything, but it seems like it's going to be surrounded by everything - I guess a lot of it is going to depend on how much people drive in the future because that area isn't set up for foot traffic.

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We live two blocks from where the golf course in Reston may be rezoned to allow development. I am not a fan of growth.

Again, sorry to be so passionate about this but the Springfield interchange has as many as 22 lanes in width. Tyson's now has as many as 20 in a similar snakepit like configuration. There are four subway exits at Tyson's. I believe the expectation is that at three of them, similar to say, Ballston, people will walk off rather than drive off. I'm just not sure where they will walk to.

Reston Town Center will probably double in size (from Town Center to the toll road), what is called the Spectrum (from Town Center to Baron Cameron-about four blocks in the other direction) will have high rises on both sides. On the other side of the toll road (where the Sheraton and Weston are) will be another concentration of high rises and then we have the golf course. (Remember the "old" Indian Spring?)

I've never liked Crystal City. But it is growing up around me.

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And do you know what's going to happen because of all this efficiency? More real estate development, and do you know what's going to happen because of more real estate development? Right. More traffic. And the developers? They'll all be sitting by the pool in Miami if they aren't already.

There are four subway exits at Tyson's. I believe the expectation is that at three of them, similar to say, Ballston, people will walk off rather than drive off. I'm just not sure where they will walk to.

Oh, by the way, did I mention ... <_<

If that golf course is being rezoned for the Dulles Metro, there won't be any hope for it.

It's really interesting to see the divide between Montgomery County and Fairfax County growing deeper and deeper - boy, the two could not be more different.

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It is 7:08AM and there has been a four car accident at the Braddock road entrance to the northbound toll lanes on I 495. Channel 5 just reported that they have been continually watching cars swerve at the last minute to avoid entering these lanes. They've even seen cars enter the toll lanes and then slam on their brakes, pull over onto the left shoulder and BACK UP to try and reenter the four free lanes.

Saturday morning there were four accidents between 7 AM and 10 AM at the same entrance with people going to the hospital in two of them.

THEY ARE NOT PROPERLY MARKED. Simply there is not sufficient notice given to drivers that if they remain in the left two lanes they are going to have to commit to the toll lanes. Yes, there are signs, but they are inadequate. There should be signs that span all six or seven lanes where the toll lanes start with each lane having an arrow noting it's destination (i.e. 495 Tysons Corner or 495 Toll Lanes). There should be at least two of these road spanning signs allowing sufficient time with cars in heavy traffic to change lanes. There must be EMPHASIS that this decision is approaching. The problem is very simple: at the last minute-out of the blue-white sticks appear between the lanes separating the toll lanes from the free lanes.

For drivers coming from the Wilson Bridge what compounds the confusion (and lack of preparation) is that there is similar separation just after crossing the bridge into VA. There you make the choice between "collector" lanes or "express lanes." They are both free. A couple of miles after they end you once again face a separation. This time the choice is different since it involves a toll. AND IT INVOLVES HAVING A FLEX PASS WHICH MOST MARYLAND DRIVERS DO NOT HAVE.

http://www.wtop.com/654/3125243/New-Express-Lanes-cause-confusion

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They've even seen cars enter the toll lanes and then slam on their brakes, pull over onto the left shoulder and BACK UP to try and reenter the four free lanes.

Any driver who attempts that and survives should be shot.

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It is 7:08AM and there has been a four car accident at the Braddock road entrance to the northbound toll lanes on I 495. Channel 5 just reported that they have been continually watching cars swerve at the last minute to avoid entering these lanes. They've even seen cars enter the toll lanes and then slam on their brakes, pull over onto the left shoulder and BACK UP to try and reenter the four free lanes.

Saturday morning there were four accidents between 7 AM and 10 AM at the same entrance with people going to the hospital in two of them.

THEY ARE NOT PROPERLY MARKED. Simply there is not sufficient notice given to drivers that if they remain in the left two lanes they are going to have to commit to the toll lanes. Yes, there are signs, but they are inadequate. There should be signs that span all six or seven lanes where the toll lanes start with each lane having an arrow noting it's destination (i.e. 495 Tysons Corner or 495 Toll Lanes). There should be at least two of these road spanning signs allowing sufficient time with cars in heavy traffic to change lanes. There must be EMPHASIS that this decision is approaching. The problem is very simple: at the last minute-out of the blue-white sticks appear between the lanes separating the toll lanes from the free lanes.

For drivers coming from the Wilson Bridge what compounds the confusion (and lack of preparation) is that there is similar separation just after crossing the bridge into VA. There you make the choice between "collector" lanes or "express lanes." They are both free. A couple of miles after they end you once again face a separation. This time the choice is different since it involves a toll. AND IT INVOLVES HAVING A FLEX PASS WHICH MOST MARYLAND DRIVERS DO NOT HAVE.

http://www.wtop.com/...cause-confusion

So much for the old catch-phrase, "All Politics is Local."

Oops.

In the military, it's called "acceptable collateral damage."

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As you are approaching the Springfield interchange on the inner loop, there are 7 lanes. Two on the left go to the ramp leading to 95 South, one on the far right leads to 395 North, the one on the second right leads to a Springfield ramp and the three lanes go through.

Now two of those three lanes, the ones in the center and on the far left, become a Toll Lane 1 mile after passing under the overpass. So most of those thru drivers will try to get RIGHT to avoid the toll lane. AT THE SAME TIME, 5 lanes from 395 South and 95 north are merging down to 4 lanes before Braddock Road, all moving LEFT. So that is 7 lanes of traffic merging into 4 lanes of traffic in a one mile stretch of road, at one of the busiest freeway intersections in the country.

How did they not see this coming?

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As you are approaching the Springfield interchange on the inner loop, there are 7 lanes. Two on the left go to the ramp leading to 95 South, one on the far right leads to 395 North, the one on the second right leads to a Springfield ramp and the three lanes go through.

Now two of those three lanes, the ones in the center and on the far left, become a Toll Lane 1 mile after passing under the overpass. So most of those thru drivers will try to get right to avoid the toll lane. AT THE SAME TIME, 5 lanes from 395 South and 95 north are merging down to 4 lanes before Braddock Road. So that is 7 lanes of traffic merging into 4 lanes of traffic in a one mile stretch of road, at one of the busiest freeway intersections in the country.

How did they not see this coming?

Acceptable collateral damage.

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I have an office in Falls Church that looks out over 495. There is basically no traffic in the hot lanes at this time. I live in McLean and I take 495 to and from work, and I don't expect to ever use the hot lanes

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Maybe drivers need to slow down and be more alert, especially when there are new signs and traffic patterns in a familiar area. The opening of the HOT lanes has been well publicized and it wasn't exactly a low-profile construction project.

I seem to recall the same bitching went on with the opening of the "Local" and "Thru" lanes crossing the Wilson Bridge from Virginia into Maryland.

Transurban (the Australian company behind the HOT lanes project) and their contractors have been responsive to concerns. See here for a list of recent, and future, improvements to the southern end of the express lanes.

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Maybe drivers need to slow down and be more alert, especially when there are new signs and traffic patterns in a familiar area.

That's true, but it's not going to happen. Just today, I was coming back from Reston on the Dulles Toll Road, and getting over into the EZ Pass Express Lanes was like driving in the Indianapolis 500.

Driving has become *extremely* dangerous, just in the past few years. What else could it be other than cell phones?

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That's true, but it's not going to happen. Just today, I was coming back from Reston on the Dulles Toll Road, and getting over into the EZ Pass Express Lanes was like driving in the Indianapolis 500.

Driving has become *extremely* dangerous, just in the past few years. What else could it be other than cell phones?

Driving anywhere on the Beltway, or any of the major roads in the area, is like driving in the Indy 500; it's not unique to the Express Lanes. Cell phones, people being over-scheduled, in a hurry, just generally distracted - lots of reasons. I avoid the Beltway (and 66) if at all possible.

And to bring it back to food...traffic and avoiding it play a large part in my decision-making about where to eat. I pretty much never go to Montgomery County because it's such a hassle to get there - and I know I'm missing out on some good food because of that choice.

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Driving anywhere on the Beltway, or any of the major roads in the area, is like driving in the Indy 500; it's not unique to the Express Lanes. Cell phones, people being over-scheduled, in a hurry, just generally distracted - lots of reasons. I avoid the Beltway (and 66) if at all possible.

And to bring it back to food...traffic and avoiding it play a large part in my decision-making about where to eat. I pretty much never go to Montgomery County because it's such a hassle to get there - and I know I'm missing out on some good food because of that choice.

Drivers dehumanize other drivers in ways both obvious and subtle (refer to internet postings). It used to involve just giving the finger to a random piece of metal that wouldn't let you merge; now, the consequences are becoming more fatal.

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Driving anywhere on the Beltway, or any of the major roads in the area, is like driving in the Indy 500; it's not unique to the Express Lanes. Cell phones, people being over-scheduled, in a hurry, just generally distracted - lots of reasons. I avoid the Beltway (and 66) if at all possible.

Add to that people who don't agree with the speed limit and go as fast as they want (not a little over but a lot over). I think part of the problem is calling them express lanes on the signs instead of toll lanes. Other express lanes are not necessarily toll lanes (as Joe H. has pointed out). People are realizing too late that they are going to have to pay a toll. I've seen people backing up on 395 and other roads for years because they realized they're about to miss their exit. Now that it's going to cost people, it doesn't surprise me that it's happening.

I also don't understand people who had no clue this was going to happen, since it's been an ongoing project. All I can figure is: 1) Some people pay no attention to news; 2) People who pay attention to news burn out on seeing the same coverage over and over; and 3) There are a lot of transient people in the region who may be completely unaware.

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This entire thread is part of the reason I don't own a car. Many of the roads around here are poorly designed, unnecessarily confusing, and require ridiculous merging and lane changing in extremely short distances.

I've only heard one news story mention that you can go on https://www.495expresslanes.com/ and pay your toll if you do not have an E-ZPass and get on the toll road.

And I'm sure there are a lot of transient people or non-regular drivers out there who have no idea what the lanes are or how they operate. Personally I had never heard of an all HOV highway before I moved here.

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This entire thread is part of the reason I don't own a car. Many of the roads around here are poorly designed, unnecessarily confusing, and require ridiculous merging and lane changing in extremely short distances.

I've only heard one news story mention that you can go on https://www.495expresslanes.com/ and pay your toll if you do not have an E-ZPass and get on the toll road.

And I'm sure there are a lot of transient people or non-regular drivers out there who have no idea what the lanes are or how they operate. Personally I had never heard of an all HOV highway before I moved here.

I don't own a car, either, but use Zip cars on occasion. I avoid the Beltway at all costs. And, I dread getting on Route 50 to get to Annapolis--people drive like bats out of Hell. Scares me half to death.

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And to bring it back to food...traffic and avoiding it play a large part in my decision-making about where to eat. I pretty much never go to Montgomery County because it's such a hassle to get there - and I know I'm missing out on some good food because of that choice.

Not really!

I hate to generalize but Virginia roads never have good signs. It is a standing rule in my office that my boss can't go into Virginia by himself because he'd never make it back.

I have to drive on 270 every day. I have to go on the Beltway a few days a week. I go to Virginia once a month or less. I don't see that changing. I do miss the Ray's empire but that's about it...

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Add to that people who don't agree with the speed limit and go as fast as they want (not a little over but a lot over). I think part of the problem is calling them express lanes on the signs instead of toll lanes. Other express lanes are not necessarily toll lanes (as Joe H. has pointed out). People are realizing too late that they are going to have to pay a toll. I've seen people backing up on 395 and other roads for years because they realized they're about to miss their exit. Now that it's going to cost people, it doesn't surprise me that it's happening.

I also don't understand people who had no clue this was going to happen, since it's been an ongoing project. All I can figure is: 1) Some people pay no attention to news; 2) People who pay attention to news burn out on seeing the same coverage over and over; and 3) There are a lot of transient people in the region who may be completely unaware.

The Australian company, Transurban, may have used Australian engineers...who drive on the "other" side of the road...

...You have two separate but parallel highways (the express toll lanes are three lanes for a significant portion) side by side with only white sticks as separation for most, if not all, of their length. There are two different sets of signs which are directed towards two different audiences. In some places they seem to contradict each other. (Northbound, passing Tysons Corner, are signs for the toll lanes which tell you to exit on the right. Seven lanes to the right of this is a sign telling the near four lanes to exit on the left.) Yesterday I watched a car backing up from the "left exit" of the toll lane.

There are too many signs. Simply, there is too much information to process especially while ostensibly driving and looking at the road and traffic in front of and around you. And, as noted above, even if one reads the signs they are confusing.

I've driven all over North America and Europe, heavily, for over thirty years. I've never seen anything anywhere that approached this level of confusion. Excepting the narrow serpentine roads without shoulders off of the south coast of Italy this may be the most dangerous section of highway of any that I have seen. There are elements of Bangkok and Mexico City in negotiating the area approaching Braddock road.

I can't imagine what this must be like for someone from Bangkok or Mexico City. Or even Bangladesh. They may all believe this is more dangerous than driving at home...

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