LETTER FROM . . . THE BELTWAY

The View From the Bridge

-- and Beltway

When hearing about traffic jams on the radio just isn't enough . . .

If you want to know what you're really up against in the morning on Northern Virginia's highways, click onto www.HighwayNet.com, a new World Wide Web site offering "up-to-the-minute" Web images of traffic from 25 cameras posted around often-congested interstates 66, 95, 395 and 495.

The free service was made possible by Virginia highway officials and a Herndon Web company, EyeCast.com. The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to install 110 such cameras covering more than 80 miles of interstate in Northern Virginia by this summer.

Users of the site can save up to three personalized commuting routes. Eventually, users will be able to program the site to notify traffic-savvy users via pager when congestion is bad, or when their license needs to be renewed.

"This new service gives drivers more control over their commutes," transportation department administrator Tom Farley said. "It's part of VDOT's commitment to use smart technology to manage congestion."

The site also offers a convenient look at gridlock for those not participating in it. Checking on Interstate 95 southbound at the Fairfax County Parkway at 6 p.m. from the idleness of your home office provides one with the puerile comfort of not being in a place that torments so many thousands.

EyeCast.com is a two-year-old company specializing in Web-delivered digital video.

-- Yuki Noguchi

LETTER FROM . . . COLUMBIA

U.S. Foodservice's Big Appetite

When U.S. Foodservice said Friday it would beat its expectations for growth in the final six months of its fiscal year by $1 billion, it was proof that all pistons are firing for the Columbia food distributor.

"Of course, the economy has something to do with it," said Bonna Walker, vice president of marketing for U.S. Foodservice. "But there's a number of efforts that we've been making that are paying off."

The company's sales force has been given incentives to sell more products to existing accounts, a move that is the reason for the company's growth in its chain restaurant business.

U.S. Foodservice also is seeing the concrete benefits of being a national company, Walker said. The company took on its present size and name two years ago when it bought Rykoff-Sexton Inc. Walker said many national chains that perhaps wouldn't have gone with U.S. Foodservice as a regional company are more than happy to hire it as a national one.

To capitalize on its growing chain business, U.S. Foodservice is creating a chain specialty division, which will open two new distribution centers this month in Florida and Oklahoma, joining in three others in Atlanta, Dallas and Fort Wayne, Ind.

-- Terence O'Hara

BETHESDA

Startec Makes an Investment in India

Startec Global Communications Corp. said it would buy up to a 49 percent stake in Dialnet Communications Ltd., an Internet service provider in India.

The move follows a recent spate of U.S. Internet service providers buying up similar companies in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Startec did not disclose terms of the deal, but one analyst pegged the price at under $2 million.

Startec officials said Dialnet operates mainly in Delhi, but has applied for a nationwide license.

"We are extremely eager to get into the Indian Internet market and into key markets in the emerging economies," said Ram Mukunda, Startec's chief executive.

Startec said the Indian Internet market is underdeveloped, but it should grow rapidly, reaching 4.5 million users by 2002.

Startec's shares shot up more than $14 to $34.12 on Tuesday, the day the deal was announced, but fell back to close the week at $23.12.

CHANTILLY

Genicom Appeals Delisting

Genicom Corp. said Nasdaq plans to delist the company's stock because it failed to meet the $1 minimum price level and the $4 million net tangible asset requirement for listing.

The company, with the symbol GECM, appealed the delisting, saying its recovery plan should resolve the net tangible asset requirement. The stock will remain on Nasdaq during the appeals process. If it loses it appeal, the stock will move to the over-the-counter bulletin board.

Genicom is a network integration firm and a designer and maker of high-end specialty printers. In its third quarter, ended Oct. 3, it reported a stockholder deficit of more than $10 million, meaning that in accounting terms the company has more debt than assets.

MCLEAN

OneSoft Announces IPO

Web hosting and e-commerce software maker OneSoft Corp. plans to sell $70 million worth of stock in an initial public offering.

In a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, OneSoft did not say how many shares it would sell or what percentage of the company is being offered. Baltimore-based Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown Inc. and Arlington-based Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc. are among the underwriters.

The proceeds from the stock sale are expected to be used to expand OneSoft's marketing efforts and its research and development services. OneSoft lost $15.8 million on revenue of $4.6 million in the nine months ending in September.

HERNDON

Baan Loses Another CEO

Troubled Internet software company Baan Co. NV, which has headquarters in both Herndon and the Netherlands, said its CEO quit last Tuesday.

Mary Coleman resigned as CEO, the company said, to pursue other technology-related opportunities nearer her home in Silicon Valley. She had been operating out of Herndon, but had split her time between the Netherlands, the Washington area and Silicon Valley.

She was the second CEO to quit in the last 12 months, the post having previously been held by Tom Tinsley, who resigned in May.

Pierre Everart, 60, a veteran European executive, was named interim CEO.

Baan said its fourth-quarter loss would be $240 million to $250 million.

ROCKVILLE

A New Name for Diagnon

Biotechnology firm Diagnon Corp. changed its name to Bioqual Inc.

The Rockville company said the change was because of a merger of Diagnon and a company it owned with the Bioqual name. Diagnon officials decided to adopt the name of the former subsidiary.

"Our new name better reflects the company's focus of providing a broad spectrum of basic, developmental and applied research in the human and veterinary medical fields," Bioqual chief executive John C. Landon said in a statement.