Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was wondering if you knew of a way to get from the Baltimore area to Hartford, Conn., that does not involve I-95. I'm trying to avoid tolls, especially on the New Jersey Turnpike and the George Washington Bridge.

Anna Horner

Severn

Sure. Get on the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695) north and exit at Interstate 83 north to York, Pa. Stay on I-83 to the Harrisburg area and connect with Interstate 81 north to Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Pa.

At Scranton, take Interstate 84 east, across Pennsylvania and New York and western Connecticut, directly to Hartford. Readers say to avoid Hartford at rush hours.

There is a $1 toll at the I-84 bridge over the Hudson River at Newburgh, N.Y. Gorgeous scenery throughout (especially this time of year), less congested and less expensive, too. Let the doctor know how this works out.

Cracking Down on Blockheads

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I just got back to Annapolis from vacation, and your Thursday column was the first thing I turned to. The letter from Robin Gilmore, about drivers parking in fire lanes, sounded as if I had written it myself.

I thought that the "make your own space" phenomenon was a facet of modern life, but maybe it's an Annapolis thing. I've lived here for 20 years and I've never seen anything like it. People leave acres of parking spaces empty while they crowd into fire lanes. Where there are no defined fire lanes, they park anyway, thereby forcing passing cars to veer into the opposing lane of traffic to pass them.

And if that isn't enough, these people don't merely park in the fire lanes; they block the sidewalk ramps. So if you are in a wheelchair, have a stroller or merely wish to wheel your cart to your car, you are pretty much out of luck.

I have actually seen, at the local Staples, a man in a wheelchair forced to bump over the curb because some clod had completely blocked the curb cut. By the time I had parked and walked up to the store, the man had managed to get to his own car and depart.

I debated saying something to the manager but concluded that I would probably sound like a crank.

However, 30 minutes later when I finished my own shopping, I saw that the car was still there. I realized that this offender had not, as I had supposed, momentarily stopped in front of the store to pick up a bulky item: this person was in there shopping.

At that point, I did march back in and complain. From my rearview mirror I saw a man hurry out and move the car, so the Staples manager must have handled the situation promptly. But there's no guarantee that the guy didn't go back to his old habits at the next store he visited.

Do these people think that when they're running late, they're running later than I am? That when it is raining, it's raining harder on them than on me? That when it's cold, it's colder in their vicinity than mine?

Or can it be that they don't think?

But just in case these guys truly believe that their convenience is more important than everyone else's, let me offer a reality check: You are not entitled to special treatment. Use the marked spaces!

If creative parking bothers people, steer clear of the Graul's and Rite Aid on Taylor Avenue. Or the Giant in the Festival Shopping Center. I have hardly ever been to those stores without seeing at least one car in the fire lane.

On the other hand, the Safeway on Forest Drive took a more active role in trying to keep the fire lanes clear by putting out small no-parking signs in the fire lanes. This solution seemed to work: Most regular cars don't have the gall to park in the face of such overt opposition, and a firetruck, of course, would simply mow down the signs. The signs also mark off the curb cuts so they are kept clear.

Marian Hessman

Annapolis

These blocker blockheads are a pain. I suggest we do as you did: Tell the store manager, and look for another store with fewer blockheads.

A Tailgating Target

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is there a profile for people who tailgate? It happens to me quite often. I drive a small four-cylinder car. When the air conditioning is on, my car will not accelerate quickly.

Do I forfeit my right to drive on I-95 because of this?

I do the speed limit, but a tailgater will attempt to push me faster in the right lane.

Laurel Jade

Columbia

The fact of driving life in our area is that no matter what lane you're in, or how fast you're going, some nut will try to run over your car. Maybe readers can help you.

The Source of Va. Tags Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A reader asks why there is such a large number of cars commuting from the Southern Maryland area with Virginia tags [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 3].

This probably has something to do with the Navy transferring its Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters from Crystal City to Patuxent River a few years ago.

This would also include the contractors who support this Navy activity. I suspect a large numbers of these employees lived in Northern Virginia.

Darrell Bachman

Kent Island

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Mystery solved! Most of those Virginia license-plated cars Douglas Taylor sees commuting in morning rush hour in Southern Maryland are coming from Virginia's Northern Neck, across the Gov. Harry W. Nice (Route 301) Bridge.

Check the map -- it's a straighter shot to the metro area than going to Fredericksburg and I-95.

Dave Rutherford

Woodbridge

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Anne Arundel Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 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. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.