Travelers’ letters tell story of conflict, cooperation on D.C. roads and rails in 2013

Robert Thomson
Columnist December 28, 2013

In 2013, travelers continued their battles with government and with each other. These excerpts from “Dear Dr. Gridlock” letters not only offer intelligent questions and commentary on specific problems but also reflect the main sources of agitation during the year.

Driving

The Virginia Department of Transportation rebuilt a roundabout in Loudoun County to reduce crashes caused by speeding:

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

“Certainly speed is one issue, if drivers do not slow down for the circle. Another is roundabout etiquette, which demands that everyone use turn signals.

“It is time to raise the standards for driving a car in the United States.”

— Graham Long , Fairfax County

Interstate 66 traffic congestion drew many complaints, including this about limits on shoulder- lane use:

“It’s bad enough that I have to sit in traffic Monday through Friday, but also on Saturday and Sunday, too, because of the red X. Why is this lane closed for use on Saturday and Sunday?”

— Eugenia Martin, Fairfax County

VDOT is working on an “active traffic management” program that, among other things, will allow controllers to turn on the green arrows opening shoulders whenever congestion is bad in the regular lanes.

“Why hasn’t Virginia joined Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York and made Interstate 95 a toll road? Seems only fair that drivers from these states who travel south should help maintain Virginia’s highways.”

— Chris Keppler , Fairfax City

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s administration dropped unpopular plans to toll I-95 in favor of passing a new tax law to increase spending on transportation programs. Maryland also approved a law to raise tax revenue, but in both states, travelers will need to monitor the outcomes:

“Maryland’s just-passed transportation bill identifies only the sources and amount of new revenue. It does not specify how the money will get spent.”

— Harry M. Seidman ,

Baltimore

Looking ahead

The early success of Metro’s new line will depend largely on how well the transit authority and Fairfax County can tie in the existing bus and train systems with the new service:

“I continue to wonder whether the Silver Line will be less of a success than planned — or too much of a success.

“As regards the former possibility, I think much will depend on whether there are frequent buses to take people from the train to their destinations. People don’t like to walk very far. If, on the other hand, the Silver Line is a big success, the route of the Orange, Blue and Silver lines from Rosslyn through downtown is going to become impossibly crowded.”

— Peter Bridges , Arlington

Interactions

Some people figure out practical ways of integrating travel patterns:

“The use of hands combined with eye contact helps to communicate the intentions of drivers. Perhaps pedestrians could also use hand signals to say, ‘Stop! I’m walking here!’ or to wave the driver through, as I often do.”

— Michael Hoyt , Silver Spring

Transit

Many had a similar evaluation of Metro travel on weekends during the lengthy, extensive and disruptive building program:

“I chose to ride Metro to a monthly function on a Saturday. It will be the final time. Back to driving I go. I spent 70 minutes in delays between Bethesda and Rockville, and this is completely unacceptable. “

— Mitford Mathews , Rockville

The sunny side

From an 80-year-old rider who said she felt dizzy on a Metro escalator and started to fall:

“Suddenly, the strong arms of a Metro employee grabbed me and held on until the escalator reached the bottom. He walked me to a bench where, still dizzy, I sat down. He made calls ahead to stations where employees met my train and saw me safely on my way home.”

— Elizabeth A. Konig , Bethesda

From a traveler who recently moved to Northern Virginia from Oahu, Hawaii:

“Traffic here is nothing compared with other states. I think people need to check out Los Angeles or Honolulu and realize how good they have it here!”

— Jan Shapiro , Fairfax County

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or e-mail drgridlock@washpost.com.

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