Dear Dr. Gridlock:
About three or four times a year, MacArthur Boulevard, where I live, is closed to traffic so that runners can use it for races. Usually these races benefit a charity.
What this means for us residents is that we wake up and find out that we cannot drive anywhere all morning. Sometimes we are trapped for up to three hours. That can mean we cannot get to the grocery store or to a wedding.
I wish the planners would put up signs a few days before the event, so that we can make other arrangements for parking.
By the way, I support running. I support these charities. I simply think some courteous notification to residents would be charitable.
Dale S. Brown
I don't blame you for being upset, Ms. Brown. I'm against people being trapped in their homes because some special-interest group has taken over a roadway. That you were not forewarned of imminent incarceration is doubly irritating.
Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), your representative on the D.C. Council, says she has addressed this issue in the past and thought it was worked out with the police department to make sure that there was notification about races and that residents had periodic access out of the area.
"Of course, it is not acceptable for people to be locked out of their household for two, three and four hours, and the District government has no business doing such a thing," Patterson said. "If it is continuing to happen, then it needs to stop immediately."
The existing law on advance notice is vague, according to Joanne Ginsburg, Patterson's press secretary.
We need advance notice of a street closing, at least. This is all the more reason runners ought to use a more remote facility, such as the Quantico Marine Base, where they have nice hills to go up and down and don't trap people in their homes, apparently with police endorsement.
If this happens to any of you readers, note the details and contact your local elected official. Send Dr. Gridlock a copy, too. Grrr.
Right Place for Traffic Signals
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I would like to complain about the terrible and dangerous way Maryland and Virginia install their traffic signals. The common practice is to string a wire across the intersection (also unsightly), then dangle the signal directly over the lanes of traffic.
Fine, but if you are driving behind a bus, truck or any tall vehicle, the signals are often totally hidden from view when approaching or waiting at an intersection.
To correct this, signals at an intersection should be placed on the far right and far left corners, if the roadway is undivided. This way the signals are easily visible around tall vehicles. It's better for pedestrians, too.
The next time you are in the District of Columbia or California, take notice. They do it right.
A recent national television show illustrated a particularly dangerous intersection in suburban Dallas because of just what you cite, Mr. Thompson: no signals on the corners, no view of the overhead signal because of trucks.
Dr. Gridlock mentioned this situation to Northern Virginia traffic engineers a few years ago and challenged them to look at other jurisdictions to see how it's done. To my amazement, Fairfax County did and concluded that the mast arm lights, although more expensive than span wire, are cheaper to maintain (not so much wind and water damage). Since then, Fairfax County has been installing numerous mast arm lights, with lights at the corners.
Let's hope our local governments study this further (and attach a big, easy-to-read street sign from each mast arm).
Cooling Off to Some Tunes
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
A few weeks ago, the temperature reached 100 degrees, and I was sweltering. So I came up with a good way to keep cool. I pulled out one of my holiday tapes, like "Winter Wonderland," and felt instantly cooler.
Whatever works. Will "Heat Wave" work in winter?
Wilson Bridge Meetings
The folks at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project--that's a group of state and federal officials who are trying to replace the bridge--are offering a couple more evenings you might be interested in.
These meetings will offer a review on where we stand with the bridge and solicitation of citizen input on either the 10- or the 12-lane bridge proposal.
A federal judge last spring, acting on a lawsuit brought by Alexandria citizens groups, ordered a further study of a smaller, 10-lane bridge and additional compliance with environmental and historic resource laws.
The bridge builders had received approval from state and local governments to build a 12-lane bridge next to the existing bridge. Work would begin soon and be finished in 2006. It is not clear whether the lawsuit will delay that timetable.
The public sessions are as follows:
Wednesday, Sept. 8, from 5 to 8 p.m., Valley View Elementary School, 5500 Danby Ave., Oxon Hill;
Thursday, Sept. 9, from 5 to 8 p.m., Belle View Elementary School, 6701 Fort Hunt Rd., Alexandria.
For more information, call 703-519-9800.
Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and on Wednesday or Thursday in the Weekly and Extra sections. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.