A lady from the Seven Corners area asks if readers have recommendations to ease her commute to and from Pentagon City. She leaves for work at 7:45 a.m. and returns at 5 to 6 p.m.

She says she has tried all major roads, only to find them equally congested.

Can anyone recommend the best driving route, or carpool, vanpool or bus or Metrorail opportunities?

She might check Commuter Connections at 1-800-745-7433, a free service that matches riders with carpools and provides vanpool and mass-transit information.

Cruising Out of Control

In the Dr. Gridlock column on Jan. 12, reader Jim Woods of Columbia had a New Year's resolution for all drivers:

"If I am in the far left lane with cruise control set for six to seven miles above the speed limit and a hundred cars blow by on the right traveling 10 to 30 mph above the speed limit, I see no reason to aid and abet those idiots by moving over."

Dr. Gridlock responded with an "Oh, no," because I knew what was coming. Nothing seems to anger our driving population more than a person who cruises in the left lane. Here are some responses:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Passive-aggressive drivers have finally found a spokesman, and his name is Jim Woods of Columbia. Is he willfully endangering lives or merely ignorant of safe driving practices? Is he aware that in Virginia it's illegal not to move right when being overtaken, regardless of the overtaking driver's speed?

By his own admission, he exceeds the speed limit. Who is he to decide exactly how many miles per hour over the posted limit is allowed?

He brags that "a hundred cars" are blowing by him on the right while he stays stubbornly, and unsafely, in the left lane.

It is NOT excessive speed that causes many of the accidents that have turned the D.C. area into traffic. It's Jim Woods and drivers like him who cling to the self-righteous belief that they alone set the speed in the passing lane, and everyone else be damned.

Shame on him.

Dave George


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your response of "Oh, no" to Jim Woods was too small a response to such an absurd statement. Woods is part of the problem. He makes it obvious that he feels the road is for his personal use alone when he decides to ignore the "slower traffic keep right" signs posted on all major highways.

Because someone is going over the speed limit, that alone does not entitle you to hold up traffic behind you when there is room to move over. You only create more havoc and danger by forcing these other motorists to then move around you.

Move out of the way and realize that there are other cars (with people in them) on the road besides your own.

Harvey Izes


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Woods's me-first attitude is major contributor to the congestion we suffer in this area. Apparently, he thinks it's okay for him to break two laws (speeding and using the left lane to cruise) to prevent "those idiots" from passing him.

I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that he gets real annoyed when he encounters someone doing the posted speed limit in the left lane and has to turn off his precious cruise control and maneuver around said offender.

Brian J. McMahon


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Does Woods realize that he is as much or more of a danger on the highways as those "idiots" he refers to?

Clearly, he doesn't understand the concept that the left lane is not a "travel lane" but a passing lane!!! Ohhh, to be back in New England, where drivers understand the concept "Keep Right Except to Pass."

Todd Thurlow


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

While driving on a Maine interstate highway two years ago, I could see several miles ahead on some sections and noted that virtually every car on the road was in the right lane and stayed there, except when one passed. It then would dutifully return to the right.

The reason? Signs every few miles that said, "Stay right except to pass," which, I might guess, were backed up by possible fines for violators.

Harry Kuykendall


Good idea. I'll mention it to appropriate state officials.

Can't Have It Both Ways

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

After much lobbying and political maneuvering, Washington has won the battle for the Department of Homeland Security. This apparently is an economic jewel for the District because it will provide thousands of additional federal jobs for the city.

But wait. Are these not the same District officials who periodically lobby Congress to allow them to implement a commuter tax because federal workers cost the government so much in additional services and infrastructure?

I think the District government should make up its mind -- are federal workers a good thing or a bad thing?

Jim Shaw


My initial reaction as well. I think what city officials would like is for every commuter outside the city to arrive by bus, Metrorail or carpool. Trouble is, parking lots on perimeters of Metro lines are already full, and most drivers choose to drive alone.

I'll remember the welcoming remarks of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) at the announcement that the department is locating in the District.

The next time she or other D.C. officials castigate commuters, I'll remind them of their welcoming remarks.

How do D.C. residents feel about having more suburban commuters on city streets?

More Driving Rules Reminders

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You recently wondered why drivers find it relatively easy to merge from two lanes to one entering D.C. on I-295 north (Kenilworth Avenue), using the alternate merge approach, as opposed to the cutthroat competition to merge from two lanes to one onto Pennsylvania Avenue SE from the Southeast/Southwest Freeway.

I'm glad you asked. The answer is easy: There is a yellow sign on the ramp to 295 north that simply says, "Alternate Merge," and drivers cooperate by doing the right thing. The other merge has no such sign.

While this should be intuitive, and drivers should not need to be led like sheep to take turns, I'm sure the sign makes all the difference.

If local transportation officials would put "Alternate Merge" signs everywhere that two lanes merge into one, it would soon become part of the local driving culture -- and courtesy.

Thomas C. Hall

Takoma Park

What you say makes plenty of sense, Mr. Hall. I'm going to mention the idea to local transportation officials. Thanks for your observation.

Meanwhile, are there other "Alternate Merge" signs in the metropolitan area, and do they lead to zipper merges in which drivers take turns?

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Alexandria Arlington Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at drgridlock@washpost.com or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.