- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

In a region where traffic tie-ups are an everyday occurrence, yesterday’s delays from two wrecks that halted traffic into the District’s Northeast quadrant for hours may be remembered among the worst.

“I think it ranks up there,” said Lisa Baden, traffic reporter for WTOP Radio and WJLA-TV (Channel 7).

“It’s unusual,” Miss Baden said. “Typically, we have an alternate route that’s available and well-traveled. That didn’t happen here.”

Traffic problems began when a carjacked truck being chased by Prince George’s County police crashed on New York Avenue Northeast during the morning rush hour.

The ensuing traffic jam was exacerbated when a tanker truck hit a tractor-trailer and burst into flames about an hour later on nearby Kenilworth Avenue.

D.C. transportation officials said having two accidents requiring a multijurisdictional response in such close proximity worsened the problems of each, but yesterday’s accidents individually were not so unusual.

“These things pop up very frequently because Washington is such a growing metropolitan region,” said Erik Linden, a spokesman for the city’s Transportation Department.

Mr. Linden said the focus of his agency’s emergency response is to keep people safe and provide them with detours, adding that having regional partnerships is key to responding to incidents like yesterday’s.

He said those partnerships have been developed in the years since the September 11 terrorist attacks, as authorities around the metropolitan area have developed emergency response and evacuation plans.

“We feel our coordination on that level has really improved,” Mr. Linden said.

The stretch of Kenilworth Avenue where yesterday’s tanker accident occurred was also the site of a massive traffic jam in August, when a backhoe being towed southbound on a trailer by a dump truck clipped the north side of the Eastern Avenue overpass.

That accident, which occurred at 6:30 a.m., caused miles of morning and evening backups, even though transportation officials reopened Kenilworth Avenue between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. before closing it to conduct repairs.

Miss Baden, who has reported on traffic for 15 years, said yesterday’s accidents recalled a wreck in November, when a tanker exploded on Interstate 95 north of the Capital Beltway in Prince George’s County on the day before Thanksgiving, one of the most heavily traveled days of the year.

That accident occurred at about 4:45 a.m. and closed the northbound lanes for about an hour. Two southbound lanes reopened at about 8:15 a.m., and the other two reopened at about 1:30 p.m.

No injuries were reported, but traffic backed up about 3 miles. After the fire-damaged tanker was removed, road crews had to repair the melted asphalt.

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