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Rush-Hour Scene Doesn't Make Sense

Sunday, April 17, 2005; Page C02

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

During a Monday morning rush hour on the Dulles Toll Road, I found myself behind a driver who handed over a credit card at the tollbooth. There was little discussion between the attendant and the driver.

The transaction took over six minutes.

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Please tell me I did not witness someone paying a 50-cent toll with a credit card!

How could any credit card transaction be allowed during morning or evening rush hour?

Lauren Meader

Potomac Falls

I agree. This shouldn't happen. Toll takers should be getting commuters through the booths as fast as possible, and this does not include taking credit cards.

The Dulles Toll Road does not accept credit cards, according to Ryan Hall, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation. However, the contiguous Dulles Greenway toll road, privately built and privately run, does, he said.

Virginia State Police, or VDOT officials on official business, present cards to the toll taker, who will then write down some information before waving the state employee through. Even so, Hall said, six minutes "sounds like a bit much."

I'd like to hear more on the subject.

Remember When . . .

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

For the list of useful things that have been removed from autos in the name of progress, I would head the list with the little side windows, especially on the driver's side, that could be maneuvered independently of the main windows.

Air conditioners have supposedly supplanted the necessity of this convenience, but they were really convenient on clear days on the interstate highways, out of city traffic.

Without those wind deflectors, the open windows create too much turbulence.

Lillian Porter

Silver Spring

I remember those little, triangular windows. On my 1966 Pontiac GTO (best car I ever owned), the seals loosened and the window whistled when closed. When open, a loud wind rushed in. I prefer windows up to muffle road noise. I don't miss the little windows.

Some people like windows down for fresh air, although that's becoming a scarce commodity around here.

A Wider Beltway?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Thanks for the update on the major road projects in Northern Virginia [Dr. Gridlock, March 17]. You mentioned that the Beltway would be widened to five lanes in each direction near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

What are the plans for widening the remainder of the Beltway?

Ginny Hines Parry

Alexandria

Virginia and Maryland officials are looking at widening the Beltway by two lanes in each direction and making those lanes toll. Virginia would exempt high-occupancy vehicles, but Maryland, citing enforcement difficulties, would not.

Some of this involves working with the private sector, which is doing an impressive job building interchanges on Route 28 in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Some of the new lanes could be in place by 2010, but we don't really have a timetable yet.

'Obnoxious' SUVs

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I find the letter by Seth Weizel [Dr. Gridlock, March 24] to be typical of the attitude held by most SUV drivers.

NO, Mr. Weizel, I would NOT "love to drive an SUV with halogen lights and a DVD player."

As a matter of fact, I wouldn't have one if it were given to me.

These cars represent everything that's bad about Americans. They are big, wasteful and obnoxious.

If Norman Rockwell were around today, he'd have to paint a new picture of America -- a 250-pound male, on the cell phone, behind the wheel of a Navigator.

Sylvia Willoughby

Crofton

Ouch. I'm a 250-pound male who owns an SUV. One of the things SUVs do for a driver, now that Mrs. Gridlock gave me one for Christmas (a new Toyota Highlander), is remove those dangerous, super-bright oncoming headlights from view. What's next -- even higher vehicles?

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at drgridlock@washpost.comor faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.


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