Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have lived in the Northern Virginia area for six years, and my work takes me all over the area, so I have learned the traffic patterns out of necessity.

There are several road improvements that would greatly help this area:

1. Extend the Metro Orange Line to Manassas.

2. Change Route 7100 [Fairfax County Parkway] and Route 28 into freeways by installing overpasses and underpasses.

3. Build a bridge over the Potomac at either Route 7100 extended or Route 28 extended, connecting the Dulles area to Interstate 270 and Rockville.

Andrew Wilson

Sterling

Unfortunately, almost none of that is funded and most of it is unlikely.

1. Virginia transportation officials have talked about such an Orange Line extension, but they have also talked about a Metrorail extension out the Dulles Access Road corridor. Neither seems likely anytime soon.

Besides, once more, the District and Maryland seem at the front of the line for new Metrorail stations -- the District with a new Red Line station planned for New York Avenue, and Maryland with a Blue Line extension to Largo. Both of these are already included on Metro's maps posted in rail cars.

Further, Metro's development has not favored Fairfax County. Montgomery and Prince George's counties each have 12 Metrorail stations. Fairfax, the area's most populous jurisdiction with nearly 1 million people, has just five. But that's another story.

2. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors long ago killed the idea of full interchanges (overpasses/underpasses) on the Fairfax County Parkway because they would take up too much room. Instead, we've got 30-some traffic lights along the parkway, including one so long (about five minutes at Fair Lakes Parkway) it made the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

VDOT wants to build some interchanges along Route 28, and it has the land to do so. This is the one area where I think we'll see some improvements over the next five years. Virginia's transportation commissioner, Charles D. "Chip" Nottingham, seems committed to improvements in that time.

3. Neither one of these is likely, as they would involve building a road across Montgomery County's agricultural preserves and parkland. Montgomery's elected officials, and Maryland state officials, are dead set against this, fearing a "techway" would spur unwanted development and despoil pristine land.

VDOT Update

Here are updates on some of the state's biggest road improvements in Fairfax County, from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

* Fairfax County Parkway: The remaining lanes between South Walnut Branch and Baron Cameron Avenue/Elden Street will be open to traffic late this summer. The 1.4-mile gap from Baron Cameron/Elden Street to Sunset Hills Road will open next summer, completing the northernmost section of the parkway.

* Lee Chapel Road will be widened to four lanes from the Fairfax County Parkway to Old Keene Mill Road, with completion by the end of 2001.

* Telegraph Road is being widened from two lanes to a four-lane divided roadway, with a 16-foot median and two four-foot bicycle lanes from Beulah Street to Route 1. The project will be completed by year's end.

* Routes 28 and 29: Work is underway to convert this congested intersection so that Route 28 will flow uninterrupted under Route 29. Both roads will have six through lanes, plus turn lanes. The project, scheduled for completion in 2002, is running ahead of schedule and may be done by the end of this year.

* Roberts Parkway is being widened from two to four lanes for approximately a half-mile north of Burke Commons Road. New Guinea Road is being widened to four lanes from Guinea Road to Roberts Road. A traffic signal will be installed at New Guinea Road and Roberts Road. The project will be completed this summer.

* Springfield Mixing Bowl: This project is ahead of schedule and is to be completed in 2007. For updates, visit www.springfieldinterchange.com.

For other state road construction updates, visit www.vdot.state.va.

Plea for Speed Cameras

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your reader Tom Sharkey of Manassas asked if there are speed cameras in the Third Street Tunnel. (There aren't.) I say, please install them soon!

I've lived in D.C. for 16 years and use the tunnel at least twice a day, seven days a week. The only way you can avoid being run over, run off the road, cursed at or given the finger is to go as fast as you can and pray you make it out alive.

I have had to go 55 to 60 mph just to avoid someone tailgating me, flashing the headlights and curses flying.

Please install those cameras soon!

Dirk Beach

Washington

I'm not aware of any cameras that are used to record speeding violations in our area. (They'd need lots of film.) The National Park Service is considering the idea along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. (I'm for it.)

The photo-enforcement cameras we do have catch red-light runners. About 30 are set up in the District, and officials report a marked decline in violations at intersections where cameras are present.

How do you feel about law enforcement use of cameras to catch speeders?

Unsafe Distances

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have read the views of Greg Christopher and James Rowland in your May 9 column about the need for driver awareness and agree almost fully with both of them.

A driver should be aware at all times of what is going on around him or her while driving. But in this area, anyway, keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you is almost impossible. If you try to stay back a safe distance, folks will pass you and then cut in front of you, thereby lessening the difference.

Road courtesy just doesn't exist in this area anymore.

John E. Brewer

Woodbridge

Yep. I defy anyone to keep a safe distance from the car ahead. Somebody else will zoom into the gap. The price of prosperity?

Driving While Dumb

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You might be interested in a recent incident of outrageous driving behavior. While traveling south on Bonifant Road, one lane each way, near Notley Road, my wife and I saw a driver coming north, who took his hands off the wheel and proceeded to pull a sweater on over his head. "Look, Ma, no hands, no eyes and, whoopee, I'm driving too!"

Robert G. Cantor

Silver Spring

Possibly no head, too, with that kind of carelessness behind the wheel.

Dr. Gridlock's assistant,

Lori Fischer, contributed

to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Thursday in Fairfax Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at drgridlock@washpost.com. The doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county, and day and evening phone numbers. Because of the number of responses, Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.