Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have seen much written about outer beltways through Maryland, Virginia or wherever they may be located, but I haven't seen anything on the future of I-66. Are there any plans to make I-66 three lanes to Manassas or Gainesville? It also appears that four lanes {on I-66} could be used between the Beltway and Rte. 50.

Does Dr. Gridlock have a cure?STEVE KOPACH Gainesville

What's the matter, Mr. Kopach? You don't like bumper-to-bumper traffic in both directions in a highway corridor surrounded by explosive growth and already more heavily traveled than the Woodrow Wilson Bridge? No sense of humor?

The short answer is that the Virginia Department of Transportation is planning to add a car-pool and bus lane to the seven-mile I-66 segment between Rte. 50 and the Beltway. But the bad news is that construction for that is not expected until 1991 and completion not until 1993. For the 15-mile I-66 segment between Gainesville and Rte. 50, the highway department plans to acquire right of way and do engineering studies to add a car- pool lane, but there is no plan to begin build that before 1993.

This can all be speeded up -- or delayed -- depending on public comments during the state's highway allocation hearings next year, according to highway department spokeswoman Marianne Pastor.

The importance to commuters of the I-66 corridor between Gainesville in Prince William County and the Beltway cannot be overstated. The number of cars who use that road daily (135,000 in 1986) was more than the number who use the Beltway's heavily traveled Woodrow Wilson Bridge and almost as many as the 14th Street Bridge corridor (174,000). Since then, with heavy growth in western Fairfax and Prince William counties, traffic has increased tremendously. "There is no longer any heavy flow into town in the morning and the reverse in the evening. With the growth in the Dulles corridor and Tysons Corner, I-66 is heavily congested in both directions," Pastor said.

Still, it is only two lanes in each direction from Gainesville to Rte. 50, and three lanes in each direction from Rte. 50 to the Beltway (except for a two-lane segment under the Rte. 123 bridge). Inside the Beltway it is two lanes again.

A consultant's report concluded last year that I-66's "basic characteristics, those of a rural freeway, are unsuited to the present and future travel needs for the region." That's so, but it sure is taking a long time to do something about it.

The highway department is concentrating right now on improving access to I-66 with an auxiliary lane at the Dulles Toll Road, and on building complete interchanges (meaning access from all directions) at Nutley Road and Rte. 50.

Beyond that, even though the 22-mile I-66 corridor from Gainesville to the Beltway is a priority project, it will not be widened until 1993, and then only for a car pool lane on a seven-mile stretch.

But hasn't Gov. Gerald L. Baliles and his transportation secretary, Vivian E. Watts, promised help for Northern Virginia commuters? They tour the area in a press bus, expressing concern. So, where's the asphalt?

Said Pastor: "If the state were able to work autonomously and do what we knew was right without having to go through a number of the political hoops we have to go through, I am confident that the governor and state officials are bright enough to recognize this need and act on it."

The history of the major I-66 squabble was between the highway department, which wanted to build I-66 inside the Beltway, and opposition groups who thought that would be too much impact on neighborhoods and the environment. The highway inside the Beltway was finally approved, but with restrictions: two lanes in each direction, pools and buses only during rush hour, no trucks and extensive sound barriers.

"The political reality of this situation is that the state would have built I-66 as an eight-lane facility in the 1960s if it hadn't been for the parochial and political interests that blocked it," Pastor said. "Now, you've got to look at more mass transit as well as more road improvements. You cannot put eight lanes outside the Beltway without somewhere to go. The Beltway is already overloaded."

Pastor said there had been lots of discussion about I-66, but that the highway department needs more support from citizens to speed up improvements. "If there is enough citizen involvement, then people can no longer say that we are trying to ram something through that people don't want," she said. "It's always the people that are oppposed to a road who go to public hearings. You hear from the opposition, you never hear from the people the roads would benefit."

The cure you ask for then, Mr. Kopach, seems to be for citizens to speak up for the improvements they want. The prospect of not improving your stretch of I-66 for years, what with the current traffic congestion and growth occurring around it, is almost too painful to contemplate. If you would like to comment, feel free to drop a postcard here and it will be forwarded to the right people, or write directly to Marianne Pastor, Virginia Department of Transportation, 10777 Main St., Fairfax, Va. 22030.

Pastor also advises that citizens get vocal at the public hearing where priorities are set for the allocation of state highway money. That's 10 a.m. April 22 at the Fairfax City Hall.

"The citizens grumble privately, but never grumble publicly where it will make a difference," Pastor said. So, grumble. Let's see what happens. Metro Temperature a Hot Topic Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Now that winter is upon us, I would like to address a Metro problem.

Like most Metro riders, I dress for the weather. This means, on cold mornings, a heavy winter coat. Yet, most of the metro train operators keep the temperature in the trains quite warm. In most cases it feels well over 70 degrees.

I would like to suggest that Metro keep the temperature inside the trains down to where a coat can be comfortably worn. I don't mean that they should run the air conditioning, or avoid heating the trains in any way. I just ask that they consider the dress of the passengers, and not just the operator. BILL LOEWY Rockville

Metro spokeswoman Beverly Silverberg says the train temperatures are 72 degrees in summer and 65-68 degrees in winter. "We get complaints in both directions; some people say it's too warm and some say it's too cold," she said. "We'd set it at a happy medium if we knew what it was. One person's warm is another person's cold. You can encourage your readers to write in and make suggestions and we'll look at them."

Anybody feel warm to that invitation? Trashing the Garbage Cans Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A problem can be created when trash cans are out in the street, effectively blocking the curb lane. Some homeowners thoughtlessly put them there, but more often they roll or are blown back after being emptied. When traffic is heavy, cars must maneuver around them, and there is no opportunity for motorists to stop and move them, thus clearing the lane. MARY B. LICARI Fort Washington Those Entry-Lane Bandits Dear Dr. Gridlock:

There is a growing new breed of rush-hour traveler these days on Shirley Highway in Virginia: the "entry-lane bandit."

These rude morning-rush characters glide along the soft shoulder looking impatiently for where the acceleration entry-lane from each interchange meets the main highway. Then they speed down the entry lane, passing everybody (including me) until the lane ends in its merger with the main flow. Then . . . it's back to the soft shoulder.

We're talking juvenile behavior here, folks, because us bumper-to-bumper types catch up with the banditos at the first red light, be it 23rd and Constitution, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, or elsewhere.

The bandits don't really make any time to speak of. Meanwhile, they have endangered themselves and all of us for no good reason. AND they're breaking the law.

Let's get the State Men in Blue out there to police this one from time to time. PAUL PIERPOINT (Not A Bandit) Alexandria Rte. 28 Section Almost Back in Business

A bit of good news: The Virginia highway department announces that a Rte. 28 widening project will be completed and opened next Tuesday. This involves the widening from two lanes to four of a two-mile section of the road, a major commuter route in Fairfax and Prince William counties. Bottleneck Crackdown Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The police should keep ticketing intersection blockers. They should do it with a smile, when possible. Or a frown, if necessary.

There may be other things that the police should do to keep traffic moving steadily through busy intersections during rush hour; but better-synchronized traffic lights would probably do more to improve matters at many bottleneck intersections.

The traffic engineers should be held responsible for design of intersections and setting of signal lights. Only after the traffic engineers have done all they can, or when the traffic signals break down, should a traffic policeman step in to direct traffic. Worst of all is when a traffic policeman stands in an intersection and directs traffic to move against the operating traffic signal. This merely causes confusion and hesistancy, which slow down the traffic even more. MICHAEL DWYRE Fairfax

The Dr. Gridlock column for Jan. 1 might be an opportunity for readers to offer New Year's resolutions that local traffic officials should consider. If you'd like to offer a recommendation, feel free to do so in one or two sentences, and one resolution per letter, please, about a matter of concern to a large number of people. For instance: "I would like to see Virginia highway officials resolve to widen Braddock Road in Fairfax County because it is wholly inadequate to serve the development around it." Mark the outside of the envelope "January 1," and we'll see if we can help officials off to a good start next year.

Dr. Gridlock appears in this section each Friday to explore what makes it difficult to get around on roads, from misleading signs to parking problems to chronic bottlenecks. We'll try to find out why bad situations exist and what is being done about them. You can suggest problems by writing to GRIDLOCK, c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.