Here is an update from Dave Hammers at the National Park Service on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 197 interchange.

The repair work on the retaining walls should be completed by the end of this month. Periodic lane closures will occur until then. The final surfacing of the parkway in this area has been postponed until spring.

This project has attracted lots of attention because it is the last on the 20-mile parkway rehabilitation that began about 15 years ago.

As for your suggestions of extending the entrance ramp from Route 212 onto the northbound parkway for one mile to meet the exit ramp onto Route 197, Hammers said there was no plan to do so and had not heard of the suggestion anywhere other than this column.

Perhaps when the Route 197 project is finished, more Route 212 traffic will enter the parkway at Route 197.

Lack of Safety a Crime

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Thanks to bicycle thieves and the incompetence of Union Station, I will now be clogging D.C.'s Metro, rather than riding my bike to the office.

I have devoted much time and expense to keeping a bike locked overnight at the bike racks (I ride the MARC train every morning) only -- like so many others -- to have the bike vandalized and stolen.

I had covered my five-speed bike with black tape to "uglify it," used a contractor grade lock and 5/8-inch-thick chain to protect the frame, tires, seat and even handlebars.

Judging by the remnants, the thief/thieves apparently used a blowtorch! (Just a bunch of guys standing around with a blowtorch! Why should that catch anyone's eye?)

What infuriates me is that the bike racks are used by so many people, in full view of the west side entrance of the station, the Metro, Massachusetts Avenue and the Postal Museum.

The thieves hit the same spot week after week, so much so that Union Station employees regularly cut vandalized bicycle carcasses off the racks.

Is this crime really so hard to prevent? Couldn't a security camera be aimed at the bike racks? Maybe a sting using a LoJack-equipped bike? Doesn't it make sense to encourage the use of bicycles in this crowded city?

Can you imagine how many bicycle thefts and other crimes, some of them perhaps violent, are perpetrated by the same Union Station bicycle thieves, over and over again, during the course of a year?

Let's get these guys already.

Jordan Leiter

Columbia

I'm sorry this has happened to you. Of course the government agencies involved should provide better, more secure surroundings. Bicycle commuting should be encouraged. Anyone else have a sad story to share about bicycle racks at Metro stations?

Branch Ave. Parking

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is Metro doing anything about the parking shortage at the Branch Avenue Green Line Metro station?

As big as the lot is, if you don't get there before 8 a.m., you will not get a parking space.

Pete McDevitt

Lexington Park

It breaks my heart to tell you that there are no plans to expand parking at this station. As with some other Metrorail garages, parking fills early, and some commuters who want to take their cars off the road are denied the opportunity.

Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said about 5,800 customers enter the Branch Avenue station every day. Metro offers 3,072 all-day spaces, making that garage one of the largest in the system.

Here's an alternative: Try one of the Maryland Mass Transit Administration commuter buses (888-RIDE MTA). They have reclining seats, restrooms, overhead lights and overhead storage, and can be taken to the Branch Avenue Metro station, or all the way into Washington during rush hours.

Good luck, and let me know how your commute works out.

Shady Grove Garage

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Can you find out the status of the new parking garage at the Shady Grove Metro station?

Parking at this station is impossible after 7:30 a.m. The spaces at the new garage and those freed up from construction will be a help.

Don Marlowe

Derwood

This is the most frequently asked question I get from Montgomery County residents.

The answer is March, according to Thomas D. Pogue, community outreach manager for the county Department of Public Works and Transportation.

The county's contractor broke ground for the 2,140-space garage in March 2001. When completed, the Shady Grove garage will have 5,800 spaces, making it one of the largest subway parking structures in the nation, Pogue said.

E-ZCheaper In the Dec. 1 column in the Metro section, reader Daniel Morgiewicz of Burke complained about a $1-a-month surcharge that had been added to his monthly E-ZPass account.

I suggested he figure out whether it is worth an extra $12 a year to have a transponder that allows for swift passage through the toll gates of the Interstate 95 corridor.

Readers, once again proving they are the best resource, have better suggestions.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Only New Jersey is charging a monthly fee of $1. You can sign up for E-ZPass in Maryland at www.ezpassmd.com and avoid the extra monthly fee.

Sam Levy

Rockville

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The $1-per-month surcharge for E-ZPass applies only to E-ZPass transponders obtained from the Regional Consortium, Web site www.ezpass.com. This was imposed upon them by New Jersey, whose three toll roads are members of the Regional Consortium and ran up major cost overruns in installing their system incorrectly.

The E-ZPass brand is still free, without surcharges, at numerous providers. I suggest you mention these in your next column. Surcharge-free providers include:

* E-ZPass of Maryland (formerly M-TAG): www.ezpassmd.com.

* E-ZPass of Delaware River and Bay Authority: www.ezpassdrba.com.

* E-ZPass of New York: www.e-zpassny.com.

Rush Wickes

Blacksburg

Thanks for the Web sites.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Howard 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.