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Slicing Through a Knot of Snarled Traffic With a Swift Cut

By Ron Shaffer
Thursday, July 28, 2005

I am a federal employee who lives in Silver Spring and works at Dulles International Airport. I leave work every day at 5:30 p.m. Sometimes I go to the gym after work and get on the Capital Beltway between 7 and 7:30 p.m. The problem, of course, is how crowded the Beltway is at that time and location. Right after the Dulles Toll Road Plaza is the worst. Are there any other routes I can take?

Sachin Vaidya

Silver Spring

My condolences. A new bridge across the Potomac River that would connect Dulles Airport with Interstate 270 would help, but neither state seems to want that now.

Try this: Outbound on the Dulles Toll Road, exit at Reston Parkway. Turn left onto the parkway. Go about one mile to a right turn onto Baron Cameron Avenue. Go about three miles to a right turn onto Route 193 (Georgetown Pike). Follow that road to the Beltway.

You bypass the construction mess at the toll road and the Beltway, most of the toll road and several miles of Beltway traffic, since you would enter the Beltway close to the American Legion Bridge.

Route 193 is a two-lane road, quite scenic and not nearly as heavily traveled as the toll road. Let me know how that works.

Anti-Theft, to Boot

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Here's an idea to discourage car thefts that's no more odd than others I've seen. I wonder how much it would cost to buy a "boot" such as the ones the District government attaches to one of your vehicle's wheels if you're too much of a scofflaw.

Seems to me that it would be bulletproof and ought to discourage a car thief.

Mark LaBarre

Rockville

That's a novel approach. What does it say about the number of cars stolen in our area that we may now have to boot ourselves for protection?

I haven't heard of citizens booting themselves to keep their vehicles from being stolen.

Anyone out there have any knowledge of that?

Equipment Delay

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

At Georgia and Missouri avenues NW, large construction steel plates have been in the intersection for six months. They are a hazard.

What can be done?

Margaret Trone

Bethesda

The Washington-area sewer authority dug into that intersection in January to update century-old equipment. The crew excavated, determined what was needed and covered the construction site with steel plates. The crew has been awaiting parts, which have now arrived. The crew will be resuming work.

I don't have a completion date but will keep you posted.

Drop the Coins

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metrobuses recently started using fare boxes that require more careful, one-by-one depositing of coins. Fare paying with coins now takes longer.

Metro might prefer that people use SmarTrip cards on buses, but some of us don't want to. It would be helpful if Metro resumed selling bus tokens and tickets that can be used for the regular and the elderly/disabled fares. Those slip into the fare box more easily.

Rachel Hecht

Washington

Here is a response from Candace Smith, a Metro spokeswoman:

"Metrobus fare boxes were outfitted with a new coin insertion slot last month to eliminate coin jams. Just [as with] vending machines, riders have to insert coins one at a time. Previously, riders would dump a handful of coins in the fare box coin cup, which caused the machines to malfunction and caused delays for passengers waiting to pay their fare.

"Metro encourages customers to use SmarTrip cards, because of the security, speed and convenience. However, we still sell and accept Metrobus tokens for regular-fare customers and students.

"Tickets were discontinued over 18 months ago, as they cannot be inserted into the new fare box. Seniors and people with a disability can purchase a weekly $6 Metrobus flash pass that provides unlimited travel on all Metro buses for that week.

"Information about these passes, and tokens, can be found by clicking on this link: http://www.wmata.com/riding/passes.cfm .

"Seniors also can pay half the one-way fare upon presentation to the bus driver of their WMATA Seniors card, or a Medicare card."

Thank you, Ms. Smith. I hope that covers your questions, Ms. Hecht. It seems that a flash pass would be the quickest way to board if you are a senior citizen and/or disabled.

Otherwise, tokens could be the way to go. Let Dr. Gridlock know how this works.

Rumble Over Strips

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

With respect to the motorist's complaint about the rumble strips on lower Cathedral Avenue [Dr. Gridlock, July 14]:

The strips were installed with the support of this toddler-filled residential neighborhood because of chronic speeding by commuters.

If the motorist drove within the speed limit, his car would not "rattle apart."

Judith Shapiro

Washington

I'm learning about this in increments. I believe the writer was not complaining about the rumble strips, which were put in by the city as a traffic-slowing measure, but about a large pothole and the rutted conditions of Cathedral Avenue between Connecticut Avenue and the Rock Creek and Potomac parkways.

Readers are directing me to different segments of the road, and it is difficult to determine on paper where the problem is. In addition, jurisdiction rests partly with the District of Columbia Department of Transportation and partly with the National Park Service.

I'll take my NPS map and walk the road to see if we can determine where the District/NPS boundary is, and where the problems are.

Lumps in the Road

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What's with the asphalt lumps every 45 feet or so across all lanes on the Capital Beltway outer loop between St. Barnabas Road and Route 5?

Like minor speed bumps, they are extremely uncomfortable, and you can't avoid them.

Michael R. Kelley

City of Fairfax

What you're seeing and feeling is patchwork on the Beltway. The Maryland State Highway Administration is going to resurface the inner and outer loops of the Beltway between Routes 210 and 5. First comes the patching, then the overlay.

Elsewhere on the Beltway, the highway department is doing the same work from the Prince George's-Montgomery county border to Route 193 (Greenbelt Road).

Each of those projects is about three miles long and scheduled to be finished next spring.

Accident Cleanup

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Who pays for cleanup of road accidents?

A recent accident on Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg closed the road for many hours and required extensive cleanup and pavement repair because a large amount of pesticide or herbicide spilled onto the road.

This accident was caused by a truck rear-ending two other trucks.

James Ireland

Great Falls

The cost will be the responsibility of the company operating the truck that caused the accident, according to Ryan Hall, a Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman. The accident occurred about 1 a.m. on July 7 when a tractor-trailer truck rammed into another truck. The driver of the tractor-trailer was killed, and his load of corrosive chemicals was propelled through the cab and onto the pavement.

The accident closed southbound I-95 for 28 hours and the northbound lanes for nine hours. A VDOT contract crew worked overnight in the rain to repair the road surface, Hall said.

Once the cleanup contractor submits a bill to the VDOT, the department will send it along to the insurer of the tractor-trailer, Hall said.

Adjust Priorities

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I suppose that after decades of watching the increase in aggressive driving and biking in the Washington area, nothing should surprise me. Every rush hour is a circus of drivers who refuse to use turn signals or who make "interesting" maneuvers with a cell phone pressed to their ear.

However, James Evans's complaints [Dr. Gridlock, July 7] about students who "just take their sweet time" boarding a school bus, "not caring about the drivers they are delaying," was more than a little over the top.

You were absolutely right in your advice that Mr. Evans explore an alternate route to work. But I am disturbed that a commuter took offense at such a situation, where the law is clear and the safety of youngsters is at stake.

Please, folks! If the timing of your commute is so strict that a delay triggers an aggressive response where children are present, think about leaving home 10 minutes earlier, changing your working hours, telecommuting and, most of all, adjusting your priorities.

Lee Nesbit

Arlington

Thank you for a solid response.

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, atdrgridlock@washpost.com, or 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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