Speeding your way through delays Help: Locate traffic trouble in advance with phone systems and Web sites, plus the list here

Strategies

July 12, 1998|By Betsy Wade | Betsy Wade,NEW YORK TIMES

Talk about traffic jams! This summer's hot spots on the national traffic-jam roster include a couple at least a year old. As resurfacing and widening of the middle-aged interstate system continues, long-distance drivers who have been barreling along may find themselves trapped in a maze of overheating cars.

But there is also good news. Some states have created phone systems and Web site reports with up-to-date traffic and transit information. In addition, there are slick databases for Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and Cincinnati. Details on this system, called Smartraveler, are at right.

But first, here is a quick view of national traffic knots assessed by the AAA, state highway departments and other safety agencies.

Tennessee. The problem bringing the most driver reports, the AAA says, is on I-24 south of Nashville. Between Exit 53, the link to I-440, a perimeter road, and Exit 81 at Murfreesboro, the road is being widened and the ramps improved, with blasting involved, which requires the stopping of traffic. If debris will cause traffic to be blocked for 15 minutes after a blast, the Tennessee Department of Transportation says, a detour is posted. The state says that two lanes in each direction must be kept open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; blasting and lane reductions take place on weekends. The AAA reports that delays of two hours are possible.

On the bright side, the 60-mile detour around a blockage on I-40 near the Smokies at the Tennessee-North Carolina line is now but a memory. Repairs were complete at Thanksgiving.

Tennessee provides traffic information by phone and on a Web site, both updated weekly, usually on Fridays. A call to 800-858-6349 provides a menu of interstate numbers so drivers can listen to information on a specific route.

The Web site, www.state.tn.us/transport, gives the same information, with a map.

Connecticut. Work on I-95 continues. The repair concentration this year is in the western portion, from the New York line to New Haven. Picking up the Merritt Parkway at the Cross Westchester avoids this work as far east as Milford. Sue Reynolds of the state Department of Transportation says construction is scheduled around the rush hours, with work going on from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and after 10 p.m. During construction hours, there are lane restrictions for long stretches, she says, so an extra hour of travel time should be allowed. There is also construction on the link between I-91 and I-84 in Hartford. It goes on between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and after 11 p.m.

The Q Bridge work over the Quinnipiac at New Haven is complete, and the Saltonstall Bridge in East Haven nearly done, Reynolds said. Despite its position as a gateway to New England vacation areas, Connecticut does not have a number to call for information on construction delays.

There are also problems on I-95 farther south.

In Pennsylvania, repairs required after a tractor-trailer accident on Memorial Day are almost complete in the Chester area. Charles Metzger, a spokesman for the state Transportation Department, said that the restriction to two lanes was expected to end Wednesday, when the concrete has cured. At first, the delay was an hour, but detours have kept it to half an hour, he said.

In Virginia, I-95 is under construction on the 20 miles between the North Carolina border and Exit 22. Traffic is down to one lane each way, and the state says "serious delays" are to be expected. The seven miles closest to the state line are nearly done; the rest will take two years. Bridge repairs at Exits 58, 64, 67 and 69 are bringing lane restrictions in both directions. Virginia has information on its Web site: www.vdot.state.va.us. But it is not updated very often.

Visitors to Yellowstone National Park again face restrictions as roadwork continues. Kerry Taylor at the visitor office at Mammoth Hot Springs said that the northeast entrance and the east entrance were both being worked on, as well as Routes 14, 16 and 20, which link the east entrance to Cody, Wyo. Driving in the park is slow anyway, but Taylor said 30-minute delays at the entrances should be expected 24 hours a day.

The east entrance will be open only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. until Labor Day; the northeast entrance only from 5 a.m. to midnight. The south entrance road from Jackson, Wyo., and the west entrance from West Yellowstone, Mont., will be coated with a sealant one lane at a time, she said, causing lane restrictions. Information is available from the Visitor Office, 307-344-2109. The Park Service has a Web site with pictures and maps at www.nps.gov, but road projects are not included.

Mud slides this year have given California difficulties along the coast. But Jim Drago, a spokesman for Caltrans, the state transportation department, said that Route 1, the coastal road, which had 70 washouts in 40 miles south of Carmel, was fully reopened at the end of May from San Luis Obispo north to Carmel.

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