Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Officials have been stating for a while that their goal is to eliminate all the traffic lights on Route 29 in Howard County. The completion of the overpass at the intersection of Johns Hopkins Road and Route 29 leaves only one traffic light left.

It lies on the southbound lanes, just below Routes 29 and 32. It serves as the entrance to a small community hemmed in by Route 29, Route 32 and the Patuxent River.

What are the plans and schedule for the elimination of this light?

David W. Lawrence

Millersville

That half-light exists only on southbound Route 29 to hold up traffic so drivers can cross southbound Route 29 and make a left turn onto northbound Route 29.

The state has no immediate plan to do anything with it, although officials are talking about how much it would cost. "It's such a minimal delay, and we have five major intersections in Montgomery County that are not funded," said Dave Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The other traffic lights on Route 29 in Howard County have been eliminated with recent overpass-underpass interchanges.

Interchanges awaiting funding in Montgomery County include Fairland Road, Greencastle Road, Stewart Lane, Industrial Park Way/Tech Road and Blackburn Road. The state just a few weeks ago began work on a Route 29 interchange at Randolph Road/Cherry Hill Road (targeted completion, September 2004), with funding secured and a start next summer on an overpass-underpass interchange at Briggs Chaney Road (targeted completion, end of 2005). Also underway is a new interchange at Routes 198 and 29 (targeted completion, September 2004).

That is a lot of interchange work and should eliminate many Route 29 traffic lights, from Route 650 outward.

Similar work is underway for the Route 5 corridor and the Route 210 corridor in Prince George's County.

Motorists can applaud the MSHA for these efforts.

Takes on a Gas Tax

In the Dec. 8 column, I asked readers what they thought about a nickel increase in the gasoline tax, with the extra revenue going to mass transit. Some responses:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I would support a gas tax as long as the money would go toward developing mass transit and not building more roads.

Karin M. Krchnak

Bethesda

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I keep hearing people suggest that increasing the gas tax will give us more money for roads, etc. Gas taxes, cigarette taxes, etc. are regressive taxes that are felt much more by lower-income families than by higher-income families.

The politicians passing these tax increases make in excess of $100,000 a year, so these increases barely have an effect on them. But to the family bringing in $45,000 on two salaries with two kids to raise, it affects them deeply.

These families are stuck in the middle. They make too much to get assistance, but they don't make enough to ever get ahead.

If you want more money for roads, have the government spend what it has more efficiently and there will be more money left to put toward roads, schools and so on.

I, for one, feel that I am paying far more taxes than I should. After you subtract federal, state, local and Social Security taxes from your salary, there isn't a whole lot left over.

Then you have to pay property taxes, vehicle taxes (registration, licenses, emissions, etc.), sales taxes and gasoline taxes.

I am sure I am forgetting at least a few dozen more taxes that are out there, but my point should be clear. We already pay too many taxes!

If the people who make up the existing government cannot manage with what we are currently giving them, then they need to resign their position and allow someone in who can.

Jay King

Gaithersburg

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read in today's Post that Maryland is considering raising the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon, making us the highest-taxed state in the country on fuel. This would be fine if it would eliminate the traffic problem, but who really believes that will happen?

If new funds are used to build bigger and wider roads, developers will simply follow and overbuild houses, clogging the roads even before they are built.

It's time for the Metro area to bite the bullet and do whatever it takes to build the Purple Line around the Beltway.

Let's tie the spokes of this wheel together and start going in circles for a reason. I much prefer to see people drinking, eating, reading and applying makeup sitting on a rail car than driving slow in the fast lane.

Rick Rogers

Upper Marlboro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The only way to truly relieve traffic congestion in the Washington area is to follow the suggestion of Mark Reese in your Dec. 8 column that the Metro system be dramatically extended.

The Green Line needs to be extended out to Laurel because MARC runs only mornings and afternoons. Extend other lines to Indian Head, Waldorf, Crofton, Dulles airport, etc., with adequate parking.

The Orange Line parking facilities at New Carrollton are full by 7:30 a.m. Ditto Landover. The Cheverly parking facilities are pathetic. The whole system appears to have been designed by a "committee" that had no concept of foresight about these needs.

Willis Mann

Laurel

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I like your proposal of an extra nickel tax on fuel, but I'd go further: Increase the federal gas tax 10 cents a year for the next 10 years (total increase: $1 per gallon).

Half of the additional income should be used on transportation infrastructure (rebuilding bridges, roads), with the other half going to mass transit, including passenger train travel.

Americans use large amounts of gasoline, because with cheap prices for fuel, consumption has not been an issue. Other nations have made gasoline expensive to encourage conservation. There can be a rebate of taxes for those with low income.

There is no reason 3 percent of the world's vehicles should consume 25 percent of the fuel used in the world.

Chris Miller

Waldorf

Clear Off That Snow

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I noticed a disturbing trend after the recent snow. While traveling to and from work, I encountered quite a few minivans and SUVs with snow-covered roofs.

While I did see a couple of smaller cars with the same problem, the majority of the "offenders" were driving minivans or SUVs.

I can only assume that because the roof is so much higher on these vehicles, it is harder for the owner to brush off the snow. But this snow poses a hazard for other drivers on the road (like me, in a regular-size car with no snow on my roof).

Could you please point out this hazard to drivers of all cars?

Maureen Murphy

Severna Park

Accumulated snow and ice on a vehicle can imperil other drivers, especially if there are chunks of ice flying loose on an interstate highway.

Take a broom and push the snow off your roof, hood, trunk, sides and windows.

Time for Resolutions As the year draws to a close, I am once again accepting your New Year's resolutions for local transportation officials and commuters.

Here are some examples:

* Resolved, that D.C., Maryland and Virginia officials will more swiftly replace burned-out streetlights and step up ticket writing for those illegally parked during rush hour.

* Resolved, that motorists will allow one merge a day in front of them. If everyone did this, there'd be a lot less stress on the roads.

I need your nominations fairly quickly. Thanks, and happy New Year!

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.