Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Can you please tell me why the George Washington Parkway entrance onto the Key Bridge into the District is closed each morning during rush hour?
This morning I had to drop my cat off at a vet in Arlington, and trying to return to my home in the District was a nightmare. I was routed over the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge with all the traffic headed downtown.
Why seal off a key entrance into the city in the morning, when everyone is trying to get in?
Dr. Gridlock asked your question of Bob Marbourg, the veteran traffic reporter for WTOP radio. He said the District requested the ramp be closed to prevent even more morning rush-hour traffic from flowing onto Georgetown streets.
At the same time, he said, Arlington has closed Route 50 westbound at the District line in the morning to prevent nonresident commuters from flooding that key artery and connecting streets.
This reminds Dr. Gridlock of Fairfax County's past unwillingness to improve roads that would benefit Prince William County cut-through commuters, and Montgomery County's use of one-way streets and speed bumps to discourage rush-hour commuters from other neighborhoods.
As development spreads ever farther out and roads fill, it seems only natural that governments and citizens will be annoyed by traffic from the next jurisdiction.
What next, border patrols?
Illegal Parking, Valet-Style
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I desperately need your advice about how to fight a parking ticket that was issued after a valet illegally parked my car.
I was surprised to receive a notice from the District stating I had failed to pay a parking ticket, and the fine had doubled to $40. I could not recall receiving any tickets in the District, and then I remembered: On the night in question, I was at a Georgetown restaurant for a bachelorette dinner and used valet parking. The ticket was issued for a parking infraction in the same block.
The notice states, "Under District law . . . the registered owner of a vehicle is responsible for a citation issued to his/her vehicle, even if the owner was not the operator at the time the ticket was issued."
However, I have to think that the valet company knew full well that they parked my car illegally, and I am outraged that I have to pay the $40 for a parking violation I did not commit.
Any advice on how to fight this?
Pay the fine. Send your letter to the manager of the restaurant so he/she can look into it. The restaurant certainly doesn't want this happening to its customers -- they may not come back. I am aware of instances where a restaurant has reimbursed the customer.
Parking for valets is sometimes as tough as it is for customers. It is inevitable that these employees will sometimes park cars illegally -- knowingly or not -- and that the owners will get tickets.
With so many restaurants in our metropolitan area that have ample on-site parking, we might think twice about frequenting one with valet parking.
Advanced Signage -- in Europe
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
In Europe, one of the nice advantages of international signing is the striped posts on the roadside approaching an exit. They have three, two and one diagonal strippings sequentially as you approach an exit ramp, at 300 meters, 200 meters and 100 meters from the ramp. As a result, you know exactly where the exit is, even on a foggy morning.
There are many advantages to international road signs. This is just another one that could ease confusion and save lives.
It sounds like they are advanced in signing for safety and driver convenience. We in this area are nowhere near that level of sophistication.
Northern Virginia can't give drivers uniform lighted intersections with overhead signs on major arteries (such as Route 50) so that motorists can find a cross street in the dark.
Maryland is slow on the uptake in providing interstate highway signs displaying the next three exits, with mileage to each, so motorists have more time to make a safer merge to their exit lanes.
The District has had too many intersections with no street signs.
We're a long way from the striping you refer to, Mr. Bransfield, but it sounds like a noble goal.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mail at email@example.com, or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.