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Ron Shaffer
All Things Traffic and Transportation
Monday, May 22, 2006; 1:00 PM

Since 1986, Ron Shaffer, better known as Dr. Gridlock, has written his column, Dr. Gridlock , for The Washington Post. In it he tracks the region's traffic woes, finds the correct officials to answer drivers' questions and responds to some of the hundreds of letters he receives each month. He describes himself as "the Ann Landers of commuters."

Dr. Gridlock was online Monday, May 22, at 1 p.m. ET.

In submitting questions, please specify your first name , last name , town and county -- the same procedure Dr. Gridlock prefers for his newspaper column.

If you included your name, your question may appear in an upcoming column, and may have been published in this discussion.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Extra. You can write to him at 1150 15th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at drgridlock@washpost.com , or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.

A transcript follows.

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Dr. Gridlock: Hello, chatters, Welcome to another session of transportation pain with Dr. Gridlock.

Lots of requests for directions today, including how to get to Asheville, N.C. and a better way from Rockville to Tysons.

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Annapolis, Md.: I am planning a lunch party on a Saturday in June in Annapolis. Many guests will travel Hwy 50 eastbound from the Washington area. Will they encounter early Saturday morning traffic for the approximately 1 hour commute as many rental properties on the Eastern shore begin on Saturday around early afternoon? How much travel time should they allow to arrive in Annapolis by 11AM?

Dr. Gridlock: First, the Wilson Bridge will be shut down June 10-11 to reroute traffic onto a new bridge. They are talking about 14 mile backups. You don't want your people in that.

Maryland toll police say traffic is a better bet on Saturday morning than Friday afternoon and evening.

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Rockville, Md.: Why does the District (may be Capitol Police) allow the T-Shirt/Hot Dog vendor trucks in the south bound lane of 15th Street between Penn. Ave and Constitution Ave.?? It creates a bottle neck. With E St. and Penn. Ave closed it has put a tremendous amount of pressure on commuters headed to Constitution Ave. to head westbound. Combined with people heading south of Constitution Ave. on 15th. The other problem is the one right lane turn. Any thoughts??

Dr. Gridlock: What do the posted signs say? I know in other downtown areas, vendors can and do move out at a certain time.

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Reston, Va.: Dear Dr Gridlock,

I've been following the planning of the Dulles rail project very closely and with lots of interest. I absolutely think there needs to be a tunnel dug through Tyson's Corner; above-ground rail through that area would be horrendous, aesthetically and otherwise. In order to cut costs, I think they need to re-evaluate the number of stations in Tyson's. I find it ludicrous that Tyson's Corner alone needs 4 separate stations to serve it. Why not consolidate two of them into one large one, allowing room for possible 10 and 12-car trains (think of the future here, Metro, not the present). Simple cost cutting measures such as these would make the cost of the project a lot more palatable. What do you think?

Dr. Gridlock: Above ground will interfere with the "aesthetics" of Tysonr corner? Are we talking about the same place?

This is a hodge podge of development where you can't see the building you're going to, or you can see it, but can't get to it. It's such a sprawl I don't think rail stations are going to save it...

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McLean, Va.: Are there any plans to fix the horrendous traffic (and parking problems) at Nissan Pavillion? There is a Bruce Springseen concert on Memorial day weekend with huge crowds (and traffic) are they prepared to get people in and out of the venue smoothly. I avoid the Pavillion concerts because it takes HOURS to enter and leave the lots. Can't they make all the roads one way for pre and post show traffic?

Dr. Gridlock: This venue never should have been placed amid a huge commuter corridor. I don't know any way to avoid the congestion, other than not to go...

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Herndon, Va.: Is there are reason that VDoT is so cryptic with their messages on the variable message signs on I-66? Most messages say something like "Delays Exit 53-47" rather than a more helpful "Delays Rt 28 - Rt 234". Unless I have all of the exit numbers memorized, I have no idea where the delays begin.

Dr. Gridlock: This is part of the bad signing habit that permeates VDOT. Of course the route numbers would be more helpful than Exit numbers. But VDOT is not interested in helping motorists with effective signing.

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Columbia, Md.: Have a question for you and anyone reading:

My family and I are driving to Asheville, N.C., Friday morning, planning on leaving around 7am. Does anyone know the best way to get to I-81 from Columbia? We're going that way to hopefully avoid a lot of traffic on 95.

Dr. Gridlock: When I madee this trip, we took I-81 to the Tennessee bordeer and then a couple of secondary roads about 40 miles to Asheville. Anyone have a direct route?

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Arlington County, Va.: If they happen to be reading this chat ... Frightful intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood (going toward Lee Blvd and Spout Run)!! Can a left turn signal be put in there? There is one coming from Washington Blvd turning left into N.Kirkwood which turns into 10th Street. So many near car misshaps at that intersection. Not counting so much car traffic due to that new office building near Giant and the barely two car lanes that do not even fit two cars side-by-side. Thanks

Dr. Gridlock: Try Diana Sun, listed in previous post.

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Rockville, Md.: Yea! to metro for finally putting a canopy over the escalators at grosvenor station. No more slipping in the rain/snow/leaves that gathered on them (particularly since they've been refurbishing the escalators for the past six months). It is a much-needed improvement.

Dr. Gridlock: Gradually, Metro is doing this.

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Burtonsville, Md.: What is a 'letter of administration' and why does Maryland MVA require me to go to court to get one to get a replacement title for a deceased relative's dead car in order to dispose of it? The funny thing is: nobody at MVA could tell me which court to get one from --not even the supervisor. What a joke! I would just let the dead car sit on the apartment's parking lot until towed if I wasn't worried about the repercussions.

Dr. Gridlock: Do you hold the title for the car? If so donate it or sell it. If not, get one from the MVA. That may be what the administration matteris.

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Exit 71, I-66 Eastbound: Hi Dr. Gridlock,

Another new building in the Ballston area has created a traffic clog-up, and I'm hoping you or another chatter can tell me if it's permanent. Exit 71 (Glebe Road) off of 66E comes out at the intersection of Glebe and Fairfax Drive. There used to be a slip lane on the right for traffic going right onto Glebe Rd, that has now been closed off for a building. It looks permanent. The problem is that the light is very long, and there are so many people that want to turn right that now have to wait for a long time. This backs traffic up a lot, sometimes back onto 66 itself. It has been adding 5-10 minutes to my drive home! There is no information anywhere that I can find on the project. I'd love to know if it's permanent; if not, who I can complain to at VDOT and/or Arlington County. Thank you for your time!

Dr. Gridlock: Try Diana Sun, Arlington director of communications, 703-228-3247.

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Arlington, Va.: Dr. Gridlock, would you please clarify a rule for bicyclists? When traveling on a multilane road, when a cyclist wishes to make a left turn, what would be the proper procedure? She the cyclist proceed to the intersection and cross as if he was a pedestrian or should he cross two lanes of traffic to get into the left turn lane?

Dr. Gridlock: Bikes are to be treated as if they are motor vehicles. They can pull into the left lane for a turn as if they were a car...

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Vienna, Va.: I have some comments on what Metro wants to charge those who park in their lots and want to pay by credit card. First of all, making folks by your specific card to pay for parking is absurd. I don't use metro at all, except on the random instances I don't want to drive into DC. I used it once last month and had to buy a card for $10 to pay for my $4 parking charge. I STILL have that card in my wallet and have not used it since! Second, if customers want to pay for parking via credit cards, they should not be charged extra. Do you pay extra when you charge your gas on your credit card? How about when you buy clothes or groceries?? Merchants, according to the agreements they sign with Vis and Mastercard, are not allowed to charge a different price for a credit card purchase vs. what they would charge for a cash puchase! it's supposed to be part of the "cost of doing business". Private businesses are required to absorb this cost. How can Metro get away with this? I think I'd rather drive my car!

Deepa S., Vienna, Va.

Dr. Gridlock: Some vendors, such as wholesale furniture dealers, charge an extra 4 percent or so for credit card use.

But I agree with you in this case: the customer should not have to pay the garage fee and for the device to pay the garage fee...

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Vienna, Va.: I am a summer intern and drive everyday between the 495 route 7 exit and the 270 shady grove exit. My morning drive is manageable but the traffic leaving work on the beltway is terrible. I'm going to request to change my hours to adjust to this traffic; what is a better time to travel from exit 8 on 270 to route 7 on the beltway? If I left by 4 would traffic be less backed up? Thank you.

Dr. Gridlock: That's just an awful commute. Anyone care to share an alternatative?

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Jody from Southern Maryland: Dr. G - I read your article yesterday re: WWBridge and staying away the weekend of June 9-10-11. I for one will not be anywhere near the bridge but I sure hope that the highway markers up and down I-95 (from Maine to Florida) will alert drivers about the expected delays. The last thing we need is add'tl road rage from angry motorists who know nothing about this particular weekend.

Dr. Gridlock: I hope so too. I think the WWBridge folks are pretty good about signins, but I don't have similar thoughts about VDOT...

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Fairfax Station, Va.: Dr. G, I catch the metro at the Springfield/Franconia station for the ride to King Street. I have noticed several mornings that officers in a brown/green looking uniform (the patch says border patrol) catch the blue line at the same station and they are allowed through the gate free by the station attended. Do you know why they might be offered a free trip. If they are border patrol then I would thing they are federal government employees.

Dr. Gridlock: Law enforcement in uniform are allowed to ride free. I can think of better places for Border Patrol to be...

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"Letter of Administration": A relative needs to apply to be administrator of the deceased's estate with the probate court in the city-county where the deceased lived.

A letter of administration is issued to the administrator to show that he-she has been appointed.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks.

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Germantown, Md. to Washington, D.C.: Tenise Pettigrew, After reading your Apr. 24th Gridlock and the comments from people about the use of turn signals and whether other drivers saw it as a 'challenge' or 'request' - my husband and I thought we would conduct our own daily experiment as we do the '270 to River Road to Mass. Ave.' daily commute. Overwhelmingly - most drivers around us take it as a challenge to their spot on the road. Husband talked with co-worker, who, like us, recently returned from a 3 year tour in Japan. Here is his analysis - In Japan, the attitude is "We all have to get somewhere, let's do it together." And they are extremely polite drivers - ONLY use horns to thank you for letting them in traffic or to indicate to you to enter in ahead of them. Here in DC, the attitude is, "ONLY I AND I ALONE HAVE TO GET SOMEWHERE..." We love the U.S. but miss Japan....

Dr. Gridlock: thanks for the survey...

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Getting to Asheville: I-26 has been extended north from Asheville on up into Tennessee. The easiest route is now just to take I-81 down to I-26, then I-26 to Asheville.

The I-95 to I-85 to I-40 route takes too long because of the beach traffic on I-95 and the never-ending construction on North Carolina's portion of I-85.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks. that sounds like the best bet..

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Washington, D.C.: If I leave Saturday morning to drive to Philly from DC, is there a certain time I should leave by to ensure I don't hit horrendous traffic? I want to be in Philly by 2:00. And how bad do you think traffic will be from central NJ back to DC on Monday morning?

Dr. Gridlock: You should encounter lighter traffic by using Saturday and Monday rather than Friday and Sunday. Anyone have any observations?

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Asheville, N.C.: For the Columbia traveler en route to Asheville: even though it's a bit further miles-wise, I would recommend Route 32 to I-70 west to Frederick, then US 340 south/west into West Virginia. Take the bypass around Charlestown into Virginia and Route 7 west, to I-81 south. You'll be going against traffic, and it's pretty countryside to boot.

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks for the tip.

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Rockville, Md.: Dr. Gridlock,I am about to start a new job and will have to drive from Rockville (where it meets Montrose) to Tyson's. So far in my career I've been lucky enough to take metro, so I'm kind of out of the loop on the best ways to get around the area during rush hour.

Do you or any of the chatters know an alternate route from the Pike to Tysons (basically where the mall is) that would keep me off 495? I don't even care if it takes longer, just so long as I'm not sitting in traffic. Is there any hope? Thanks!

Dr. Gridlock: Here's a back door way, but I'm not sure it's any shorter or faster: Take Route 193 (Georgetown Pikc) from the Beltway toward Great Falls.

Turn left onto Springvale Road , and left again on Route 7. You come into Tysons via the back door. Something to try when the Toll Road isn't moving.

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Linden, Va: Regarding the signs on I-66 - I like them that way. It makes it much easier to know how many miles of back-up there may be and when to get off to go an alternate route.

If you drive on I-66 for any period of time you will get to know the exit numbers, it's not hard.

Dr. Gridlock: They could use "Rte. 29" just as easy as "Exit 52"

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Alexandria Commuter on Inner loop: TO whom at VDOT does one address "bad signage" suggestions? on my inner loop commute, as one approaches the left side split-off for I-95 south, the signs are at the bottom of a slight rise, which sets off wild lane changing for folks (especially out-of-staters) who can't see how much merger time they actually have. A sign that reads "I-95 South keep left/Beltway traffic keep right" back near the Eisenhower exit would ease congestion and promote safety--so how do I get the suggestion to VDOT?

Dr. Gridlock: Call VDOT's public affairs officer for the Springfield Interchange. He cares, and will get back to callers. His name is Steve Titunik, at (703) 383-2530.

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Falls Church, Va. : I work in Rockville. If the chatter is ending inside the beltway, there are a few options i know of. You can take the GW parkway and get off on 50 W. if the GW parkway is backed up after you get on it, you can get off on 123 and take it down to Great Falls (Rd? Ave?). Turn left and take that all the way down to Washington Blvd/rt 29. OR you can stay on 495, take the 66 E LEFT exit and follow that to 66 E, where you can get off at the first exit - #69 and turn right onto washington blvd to go down to rt 7. or just try to leave work before 5:30 pm. The beltway is much worse in that direction over the summer than it is in the fall, winter and spring.

Dr. Gridlock: Thank you.

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Silver spring, Md.: Another commute question for you: I'm going to be commuting from Silver Spring to Baltimore for a summer job starting in June. I'm hoping to leave SS around 8:15/8:30 and Baltimore around 5--do you think I'll hit any major congestion on a daily basis? would you suggest changing my hours at all? thanks for any help--love your chat!

Dr. Gridlock: That sounds troublesome. I believe Montgomery is the most traffic-choked jurisdiction in our metropolitan area. The Beltway is often congested. Any chance of getting a job in our metropolitan area?

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Bristow, Va.: About a month ago or so I asked if VDOT could make 29 from Gainesville to Centreville 1 way in the morning commute and then reverse it in the evening? Any response from VDOT on it?

Also how early do you leave on Friday to avoid the traffic disaster that will surely be this Memorial Day weekend?

Dr. Gridlock: Probably noon, although the radio traffic experts say to leave Thursday night or early Saturdan morning, rather than Friday.

I don't understand your first question, about Route 29...

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Washington, D.C.: Follow up to the Saturday/Monday drive - it would be this weekend, Memorial Day, does that change your answer?

Dr. Gridlock: Good point. Yes it does. Monday becomes Sunday for homebound traffic. How about leaving Tuesday morning?

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Alexandria, Va.: Dr Gridlock : What is the construction going on at National Airport near the north end on the GW Parkway? thank You

Dr. Gridlock: They are rebuilding a bridge, and constructing a safer (farther away from traffic) bike path over the bridge.

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Northern Virginia: I find it annoying when people call a road the wrong thing, such as calling Interstate 66, or I-66, Route 66. I know that it is easy to recognize an Interstate but there are so many other Routes and US Highways that it just becomes number soup. I also get caught up when a traffic report talks about a delay on the beltway at the intersection with US 50 because it is easy to miss enough to not know if they are talking about Virginia or Maryland. There are several other routes in Maryland, Virginia and DC (such as route 28). Is there any help for us?

Dr. Gridlock: We've mentioned this before. Certainly roads like Route 28 and Route 50 need to be preceded with the name of the state. I'm not hopeful.

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Round-Trip Resident: Dr. Gridlock;

With all the recent griping about the HOV lanes being clogged (violators, hybrids, etc.) - are they still supporting the sluglines?

Dr. Gridlock: Hybrid owners can continue their exemption on I-95/I-395 if they obtained their CF plates before June 30, 2006. Those who get the plates after June 30 will not be allowed an exemption in the I-395/I-95 HOV lanes.

Motorists can continue to get an exemption on I-66 regardless of when they obtained their plates...

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Washington, D.C.: For the parking fees, they won't technically charge extra for paying with a credit card. They will raise all the prices by $1, and offer a discount of $1 if you use a smartcard. That's legal for them to do.

Dr. Gridlock: Tricky.

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Manassas, Va: Regarding the signs on I-66, I have to disagree with the you. Along the whole length of I-66, every 10th of a mile, there are sign posts on the right hand side of the road indicating exactly at what mile you are at. If the signs said 'Rt. 29', then how would you know where the back-up is at?

If the sign says 'Exit 52' and you are traveling west and are at Mile 60, then you know exactly how far in front of you the back-up starts. It only makes sense to have the signs this way.

Dr. Gridlock: I thought we were talking about the overhead electronic signs, and not the mile markers. Two different systems.

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Rockville to Tysons: Try this: Montrose Road west to Falls Road.

Left on Falls Road.

At the entrance to Great Falls Park it doglegs left and becomes MacArthur Boulevard.

After going through the stop sign at Brickyard Road, take the next slight right turn onto the Maryland side of the GW Parkway (there is a stop sign for straight-thru traffic, but you don't have to stop).

Take the exit for the Beltway going towards Virginia--it is a left-hand exit on the parkway, and then you have to stay to the right on the ramp.

As soon as you cross the bridge, take the exit on the right and follow the distributor road to the ramp for Route 193 (Georgetown Pike).

Go right at the light at the top of the ramp.

Take the fourth left turn onto Swinks Mill Road. There is no light here and the turn comes up a bit suddenly on a downhill curve, so pay attention.

Follow Swinks Mill to where it ends at a stop sign at Lewinsville Road. Go right onto Lewinsville. (This is an odd intersection in that another smaller road splits off to a hard right. You want the bigger of the two roads.)

Follow Lewinsville to the light at Spring Hill Road and go left at that light. After it goes under the Toll Road, Spring Hill Road becomes International Drive and takes you directly to both of the two shopping malls at Tysons.

Dr. Gridlock: Thank you for taking time to share...

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Deceased Relative's car: Doc, I think the guy needs to contact probate court to show that he can re-title the car. It's a property issue. But thankfully in Maryland, you can call the clerk of the county where the will was registered, and a person will answer, and probably be helpful.

Dr. Gridlock: Thank you. Of course the decedent might have lived in another state. ...

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US-29 idea: The idea for US-29 would be similar to Canal Road--one-way in the peak direction.

Dr. Gridlock: Ms. Gridlock has proposed the same thing, given then nightly five mile bacackups along Route 29 from I-66 to the Route 234 traffic light....

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Farifax, Va.: I have a friend flying into Dulles on Wednesday and I will take the day off to show him DC. I was thinking of driving from the airport to the Metro and taking it into DC, but will there be parking spaces at any of the lots along the Orange Line around 11:00am?

Thanks

Dr. Gridlock: Anyone have an idea?

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To SS to B'more commuter: There's no way avoid traffic in either town at the times you've mentioned. Capital Beltway to I-95 to downtown Baltimore-gridlock. Even if you tried a back door route, say Georgia Ave north to I-70 then to Baltimore, gridlock getting to the Baltimore Beltway and then on the beltway both north and south of I-70. I recommend MARC commuter rail if possible(take Metro to Union station, take either the Camden or Penn lines), or you'll have to leave much earlier for work.

Dr. Gridlock: thank you.

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Alexandria, Va.: "Round-Trip Resident: Dr. Gridlock;

With all the recent griping about the HOV lanes being clogged (violators, hybrids, etc.) - are they still supporting the sluglines?"

Your response had nothing to do with the question being asked about the sluglines.

Dr. Gridlock: I think I've answered that today. Let me know if it's not clear.

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Bristow, Va.: Is it possible to make 29 through the battlefield in Manassas to the quarry in Centreville 1 way in the morning and evening commutes to give a real alternative route and take a few of the cars off of 66. In Gainesville the backup to go North starts where the road goes from 4 to 2 lanes at the merge and it sits all the way through the light at 234 and opens back up at the quarry in Centerville. The reverse is true on the ride home. You sit starting at the light by the quarry in Centerville. VDOT could create a real alternative route by simply making this stretch of road 1 way North from 6-9 during the AM rush and 1 way South from 3-7 during the PM rush.

Dr. Gridlock: It sounds like something we should try.

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College Park, Md.: Who can I contact about timing of lights on Old Georgetown Rd (MD-185) between I-270 and Rockville Pike (MD-355)? I seem to hit every red light on that stretch of road whether there is traffic or not? Thanks.

Dr. Gridlock: Call Thomas D. Pogue, Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation, Community Outrerach manager 240 777-7170.

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Washington, D.C.: I usually commute over the 14th Street Bridge to get downtown, but if that's backed up I sometimes take Memorial Bridge and then go around via Independence Avenue to 15th Street (because the Secret Service stole E Street to park their cars). They've been replacing the curbs on Independence Avenue near the Tidal Basin with some spiffy-looking tall curbs that appear to be made out of a fancy stone.

The downside? For some reason the DCDOT didn't put the usual "apron" in front of the curb (you know, the small concrete area between the curb and the pavement)--the asphalt road surface runs right up to the spiffy new curbs. The curbs already have tire markings all over them. I haven't had the bad luck to hit the curb, but I do think it is a bit disorienting not to have that usual visual reference there. Why did they come up with a silly design like this? Water drainage, maybe?

Dr. Gridlock: Sounds like possible bungling to me. It's the National Park Service, not D.C.

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Lorton, Va.: I live in Lorton and am about to start a job in Georgetown. I used to work downtown and take VRE, but the hassle involved with taking public transportation to Georgetown (it would require VRE, a transfer to Metro, and yet another transfer to the Georgetown Connector Bus) makes me want to drive. I have some flexibility in arrival and depature times. Does anyone know whether my commute to Georgetown would be easier if I leave Lorton after 9am, once HOV restrictions end? Or would I be better off with an early morning commute? Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

Dr. Gridlock: I'd pick after 9. Closer to ten if you can. Things should be lighter, although Georgetown is often a mess at any time.

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Columbia: Vendors who charge extra to use credit cards should not state it is extra for credit cards but a discount for cash. There are strict rules by credit card companies that state you can not be charged extra for using your credit card. This is how the gas companies got around that issue years ago. If a vendor does state that they are charging you more for using your credit card you can and should report them to your credit card company.

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks.

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Woodbridge Va: Please remind readers to take extra special care when changing lanes this week and weekend as the Memorial Day Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally will bring a large number of motorcycles onto the Washington area.

The weather is projected to be clear and warm which will only add to the number of motorcycles on the road.

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks--and those reckless cyclists who travel 100 mph in and around traffic each weekend should look out for motorists too.

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Alexandria, Va.: Yet another example of the "me-first" attitude of many drivers today is the way they react when they discover that their car has somehow become headed in the opposite direction from that they really wish to go.

When I took driver's ed in high school, I was told that what you should do is make a succession of right or left turns at intersections until you are back on the right road and going in the direction you want. I have always done this or at least I try to pull in to a driveway or a parking lot so that when I reorient my vehicle I am out of the stream of traffic.

No more. I constantly see people jockey their cars around in the middle of busy streets, blocking traffic and delaying other motorists just to save themselves the few seconds that a less selfish method of changing direction would involve.

I don't suggest that there is anything that can be done about this, I just make the observation of another dimunition of civility in our society.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks.

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Silver Spring, Md.: To be fair, it's not just VDOT that uses exit numbers for traffic warnings. Maryland does too.

Dr. Gridlock: Boo. I also like the message that says, "Congestion Ahead"

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Delay Information: I find using the exit number to indicate a delay to be very effective. I don't usually know the route numbers but if I know the problem is at Exit 71 and I see from a sign that I am in mile 64 I can calculate how far I am from the problem. Telling me a route number would tell me nothing.

Dr. Gridlock: Except where the incident is...

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Falls Church, Va.: I was driving west on the Toll road on Saturday and there was a fire engine placed on each overpass. Also at the Wolf Trap exit there were maybe 20 police cars lined up diagonally in formation. I also saw maybe 20 motorcycle cops riding in pairs. Do you know what was going on? I was afraid that they knew something we didn't and they wanted fire trucks far enough away from the city and ready to go in and put out the fires.

I know, I'm paranoid.

Dr. Gridlock: I'm going to guess it was related to the funeral of the second Fairfax County policeman killed in a shootout.

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Washington, D.C.: Re: Metro to Tyson's. Metro's station platforms are long enough to take 8 car trains, maximum, so you couldn't have 10-12 car trains.

Also, the Capitol Police's jurisdiction doesn't extend downtown, so the vendors around 15th/17th and Constitution (and also on Independence) would be a Metropolitan Police (and if near the White House, probably a Secret Service) issue.

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks.

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SmarTrip and credit cards: Once you have the SmarTrip card in your pocket, which you paid 5 dollars for, you can visit a fare card machine to add value to it using a credit card. No need to buy multiple SmarTrip cards!

Dr. Gridlock: Correct. SmarTrip cards can be used for rail and bus fares, (but not vice versa).

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Falls Church, Va. : Anyone know if it is better to get a reserved parking spot at at East Falls Church metro station for daily use, or is the extra $45 a month a rip off and there are plenty of unreserved spots open at 8:30 am?

Dr. Gridlock: I don't know, but I would want the reserved parking for my commute.

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I-66 Signs: The exit numbers, since they are based on the mile markers, are more helpful for those who don't travel the road regularly. If the overhead sign says there's a problem at exit 52 and I'm already in a backup at mile marker 26, then maybe I want to get off at the next exit and re-evaluate my options. If the overhead sign says there's a problem at Rt. 29, that doesn't mean much to me if I don't live in the area.

Dr. Gridlock: I believe the road names are more familiar to local commuters an out of towners than are Exit numbers...

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Orange line parking: "but will there be parking spaces at any of the lots along the Orange Line around 11:00am?"

Ballston, if you park in the shopping center garage (on Randolph Street, I believe). I haven't been there for quite a while, but when I used to go mid-day, there was PLENTY of parking in that garage.

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks. Amazing that there is available parking on a weekday....

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Re: Silver Spring to Baltimore Commute: I don't think this commute would be too terrible, as it is essentially in reverse of the major traffic flow. Plus, as a summer internship, the overall traffic should be lighter. Of course, the total commute time depends on the exact location in Baltimore, but Silver Spring to I-695 shouldn't be too painful.

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks

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Reston, Va.: Are you aware that the exit number on an Interstate Highway is the milemarker nearest to the exit?

Dr. Gridlock: I think some people would like to know the Route number...

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Police Procession: Yes Dr. G, the procession came down the Toll Road from McLean to 28 south. Very moving scene and there were a lot of people pulled over to pay their respects to the second officer.

Dr. Gridlock: the service was in the McLean Bible Church on Route 7, near Lewinsville Road...

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Alexandria, Va.: Dr. Gridlock,

This past weekend I nearly ran into a bycyclist who was riding his bike on the GW Parkway. I know the Mt. Vernon trail gets a bit crowded on weekends, but riding your bike on the parkway can't possibly be legal can it?

Dr. Gridlock: Yes. Two wheeled vehicles have the same traffic rights as four-wheeled ones...

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Fairfax, Va.: "Anyone know if it is better to get a reserved parking spot at at East Falls Church metro station for daily use, or is the extra $45 a month a rip off and there are plenty of unreserved spots open at 8:30 am?"

Not sure about East Falls Church, but there are plenty of open spots at that time at the Vienna station.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks

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Rockville to Tysons: I take Old Georgtown Rd to 495, and usually hit Chain Bridge Rd. in about 20-25 minutes. There is usually very little traffic in the morning going into Tysons on the beltway between 270 and rt.123 (exit 46). The other suggestions seem a bit excessive.

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks

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Two responses: First, for Silver Spring traveling to Baltimore, you can expect a manageable morning commute. You should enter the beltway five miles or fewer from 95N, and this should be your only back-up until you get to the surface roads in Baltimore. Unfortunately your afternoon commute could be a lot more hazardous. You should look into adjusting your hours.

Second, in regard to a much earlier post, Dr. Gridlock, you told the chatters that bicycles should be considered motor vehicles. Does this mean that they do not share the same rights as pedestrians when CROSSING traffic? Thanks!

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks. Don' get the second point, about pedestrians...

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Another take on I-66 signs: There are five interchanges between US-29 and I-66 (going west, you have Rosslyn, one near Spout Run, one near the East Falls Church Metro, Centreville, and Gainesville), so I suppose I can sympathize with VDOT in not wanting to be ambiguous on that front.

Dr. Gridlock: There are many more I-66 interchanges than that...

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Rockville, Md.: Not to go agains what has been said, but when I give directions on my "main street" I always say 355 asnd avoid having to know where it is Wisconsin, Rockville Pike, Hungerford, or evern Frederick Road.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks.

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Exit numbers: "Are you aware that the exit number on an Interstate Highway is the milemarker nearest to the exit?"

That depends on the state. It's true in both Virginia and Maryland, but New York and Georgia are notable exceptions.

Dr. Gridlock: Thank you. Also, when entering a state, i'ts not always clear to me whether you should start or finish at Exit 1...

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Bethesda, Md.: How long can a construction site block a lane of traffic? The contruction on Wisconsin Ave just north of Bradley has closed the sidewalk and one lane of southbound Wisconsin Ave. for months. Can you just get county permission to do that for unlimited amounts of time? It creates a bottle neck every morning and all weekend.

Dr. Gridlock: The construction firm is supposed to have a permit for taking a lane of traffic for their commuter parking. But they sometimes take the lane anyway, That's one for Pogue, listed in a previous answer..

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Washington, D.C.: Responding to the person who wants to park at the orange line - the garage in west falls church has reserved spots that are protected from 2 am - 10 am, which allows regular commuters who pay the premium to get a guaranteed, close-in spot. however, they are never filled by the permit holders, and if you arrive right after 10 am, there's plenty of parking (I think it's 10, but I would recommend the questioner double check that)

Dr. Gridlock: thanks.

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Arlington, Va.: The 2 routes to BWI question for this Friday is for 7:45 AM -- don't think I made that distinction in the last post.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: According to VDOT, Motorists traveling to and from Dulles International Airport on business are permitted to use I-66 inside the Beltway during HOV hours. How should one prove they are going to/returning from the airport, especially if you are not the traveler? Carry a copy of the persons travel itinerary? Thanks

Dr. Gridlock: I often do exactly that after droppoing Mrs. Gridlock off at the airport and heading into Wasington. I carry a copy of her itinerary, or passenger receipt.

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RE: Exit Numbers: You wrote: "Also, when entering a state, i'ts not always clear to me whether you should start or finish at Exit 1..."

On interstate, exits increase in number from south to north and from east to west.

Dr. Gridlock: dthanks.

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Cyclist or pedestrian?: They are either/or, but not both. When you're on a bike, you either follow all rules of the road all the time (when you ride on the road), or all pedestrian rules all the time (when you ride on the sidewalk). Not whatever's convenient.

Dr. Gridlock: Right, and I'm afraid many cyclists don't adhere to rules of the road (like stopping for red lights).

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Springfield, Va.: Re: Bicycles....Doesn't the GW Parkway have signs on the entrance ramps prohibiting bikes and mopeds? Also, I have never seen a bike on the beltway.

Dr. Gridlock: They'd have to be suicidal to do that. I'm not aware of a prohibition on the GW Parkway. Anyone?

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Lorton commuter: The Lorton commuter might want to consider leaving early, going up to "Bob's" at Springfield, and picking up Pentagon-bound slugs. While I have not picked up slugs in the morning, on the times I have left work early and picked up slugs in the evenings I've found that it's shaved a good 40 minutes off the trip.

Dr. Gridlock: Not to be sneezed at. I meant to ask the Lorton commuter is the widening of Route 123 is done yet, and that includes the bridge over the Occoquan River?

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Washington, D.C.: RE: tall curbs around Tidal Basin. That road had not been completed. The 'tall curbs will be regular height once hte final surface is laid. They'll probable use striping instead of the apron. That's my thought.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: To Lorton, VA, you could still take VRE to Union Station and then the newish DC Circulator to Georgetown. That way you don't have to use Metro at all.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks

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Silver Spring, Md.: Non-motorized vehicles are not permitted on the GW Pkwy...straight from its' Web site.

Dr. Gridlock: Well, thank you.

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Silver Spring, Md.: For the Lorton-Georgetown commuter: the still-almost-new-and-always-empty DC Circulator runs from Union Station to G'town for $1.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks.

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re: VDOT signs : "But VDOT is not interested in helping motorists with effective signing." Precisely. Not only are they ineffective, half the time the information is so old it's useless!

Dr. Gridlock: Or not there at all, such as overhead signs listing the cross streets at intersesctions. If it's night, forget it.

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DC to Old Town: I have a new commute that takes me across the Key Bridge from DC to VA. Leaving DC, I take Foxhall Rd. to Canal Rd. and then onto the bridge. So far I've left home at 7:45 (5 mins. to Canal Rd. along Foxhall Rd.) and had only slight backups waiting on Canal Rd. to the Key Bridge. If I left at 8:15, would I find the backups to be much worse or does the traffic along Canal Rd. usually move smoothly?

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks. Watch out for Foxhall Road reconstruction project, from Canal Road to Nebraska Avenue, to start this summer and last a year.

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Washington, D.C.: I think the poster who wrote about I-66 interchanges at Spout Run, Centerville, Gainesville, etc meant that US-29 intersects with I-66 5 times. So if an I-66 traffic sign reads "congestion at US-29" no one would know which US-29/I-66 interchange it refers to. This makes the exit number that much more useful.

Dr. Gridlock: I read that too fast. Good point.

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re: nissan pavillion: Af last night's show we paid $20 for premium parking and were on to I66 in ten minutes after the show. And they did have traffic going one way with all lanes open on the way out.

Dr. Gridlock: On what road was the one-way traffic?

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Arlington, Va.: You posted my second part, but didn't answer the question re: the best way to get to BWI Friday morning . . . 395 through DC to BW Parkway or Falls Church to 495 to 95. Thanks!

Dr. Gridlock: You don't tell me wich weekend. Since the WWBridge will be a mess the weekend of Jun 11-12, I'd pick your first option.

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Arlington, Va.: Friend of mine is moving down to DC to work near Union Station. He's looking at places in Springfield and Lorton with the idea of taking the VRE right in to Union Station. Any thoughts on the reliability of VRE? He's used to the excellent NY Metro-North system.

Dr. Gridlock: Best I can say about VRE is I don't get enough letters to indicate a problem.

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More orange line parking: "...but there are plenty of open spots at that time at the Vienna station."

Don't get too used to that, once they take away all of those parking spaces for that stupid Metro West development.

Dr. Gridlock: Vote!

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Reston, Va.: About a month ago I had to drop my wife off one morning at Dulles Airport to catch a flight. I work in Arlington so after leaving Dulles I got onto the access road and then I-66 and exited at Glebe Rd.

I was stopped by Arlington Co. police officers for HOV violation. I explained to them that I had come from Dulles after dropping off my wife. The officer asked if I had any proof of that and I said no (she was the one taking the flight, not me). He then wrote me a ticket. When I protested to him, he asserted that he had checked the laws and they had determined that "coming from Dulles airport is not a valid reason for not conforming to HOV rules." He suggested I take the matter up with the Commonwealth's Attorney.

I suppose what I need to do is go to court to fight the ticket, but this seems ridiculous. It's almost better to just pay the fine ($50 for first-time violation) than waste a half a day in court. But what else are people supposed to do? How reasonable is it to expect people who legitimately went to Dulles to have to go to court to prove that? And what do you make of the officer's assertion that it's not a valid reason anyway?

Dr. Gridlock: People who have business at Dulles get an HOV exemption. It is possible this officer is misinformed. (Also, I thought the fine for the first offense was $200.) Write the commander of this officer, and include a copy of your wife's airline ticket...

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No bikes permitted on GW parkway: From byways.org, website of the National Scenic Byways Program (part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration) re the GW Parkway: "Non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles are prohibited from the roadway."

Dr. Gridlock: thanks

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Arlington, Va.: Going to BWI this Friday morning, 7:45 flight (so Memorial Day traffic to deal with, potentially) -- through DC to BW Parkway or 495 to 95?

Dr. Gridlock: thanks

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Access I-395 HOV from Crystal City?: How do you get on HOV lanes (south-bound) on I-395 from Crystal City? Looking at maps doesn't show me any easy way to get on these lanes. Thanks.

Dr. Gridlock: I believe you can go south thgrough Alexandria, link to theBeltway, and head south on the HOV lanes at the Sopringfield interchange.

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Arlington, Va.: For the poster from Falls Church who asked "Anyone know if it is better to get a reserved parking spot at at East Falls Church metro station for daily use, or is the extra $45 a month a rip off and there are plenty of unreserved spots open at 8:30 am?"

The EFC station has a pretty small lot, in comparison to WFC or Vienna. I park there regularly and try to get there by 7 am. Sometimes I can find a spot up to 7:30, but 8:30? You'd be out of luck.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks

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Washington, D.C.: In D.C., it is illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk.

Dr. Gridlock: Only in the downtown commercial district..

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Rockville, Md.: Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who responded to my question of how to get to Tyson's from Rockville. I feel much better knowing more than one route! Thanks!

Dr. Gridlock: That's what this site can be used for. Thanks for those who shared.

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Fairfax, Va: Who do you contact about dismal timing on traffic lights ? Rt 50 between 28 and Arcola is a virtual parking lot every evening, east and west bound. The problem is, the lights are not synched to allow for moving masses of cars for a good distance.

Dr. Gridlock: I suspect it is simply too much traffic. Try VDOTs Northeern Virginia traffic signals chief: Mark Hagan 703-383-2872.

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Nissan Pavillion: Personally I've never had too huge a problem getting out, but I would reccomend trying to out the east exit, not the west one if you can. Theyv'e reconfigured the roads near the pavillion recently and the traffic management hasn't quite caught up at all of the intersection. East exit also avoids any potential train-related tieups.

For what it's worth, I was there last night and I only waited about 25 minutes from the end of the show till when I was leaving the lot. I reccomened sticking aroudn for a bit after the show. It's always fun to watch them take the rigging down and you avoid the "Me first!" crowd.

Dr. Gridlock: thanks

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Fairfax, Va.: Looking forward to Metro West, anything that provides a greater supply of housing that is not another McMansion development is a step in the right direction.

Dr. Gridlock: Yes, and they're alll going to use Metro! What a scam!

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Oxon Hill, Md.: I accepted a new job in Frederick, MD. Is there any advice for public transportation or commuting in the mornings until I am able to move closer.

Dr. Gridlock: You can take Metro to Union Station, and board MARC for Frederick. Good luck!

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Virginia HOV and Dulles: And he might want to print off this page from the VA DOT site .

"Motorists traveling to and from Dulles International Airport on business are permitted to use I-66 inside the Beltway during HOV hours."

Dr. Gridlock: Thank you...

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Dr. Gridlock: Folks, I think we've come to the end of another session. Thanks so much for all those recommendations on alternate ways to get to and from posters job sites. Until next time...Dr. G.

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