Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have lived in the Owen Brown village of Columbia for over 25 years. For most of those years, the "T" intersection of Homespun Lane into Cradlerock Way was a daily annoyance, and at least a moderate risk.

Cradlerock traffic had the right of way; Homespun traffic faced a stop sign. Lines regularly formed on Homespun, awaiting an opportunity to turn left onto Cradlerock. Some drivers were overly cautious, making the backup build unnecessarily.

Others grew impatient and daringly jumped out, risking a broadside accident. Left turns from Cradlerock onto Homespun were sometimes equally risky.

This all changed with the installation of the Cradlerock roundabout. It has taken a little while for some people to get used to it, but by my observation, almost all drivers handle it very well. Traffic never backs up on Homespun any more. And the slight slowdown forced on Cradlerock traffic is a good thing on the curved horseshoe-shaped road.

Howard County experimented with a temporary roundabout before constructing the permanent version. I feared that the vote would go against a permanent version, but local residents saw the improvement and voted for the permanent roundabout. The larger circle works very well. We made the right choice.

Bob Golibersuch

Columbia

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I use the roundabouts on Route 29 and Route 216, and also Route 29 and Johns Hopkins Road. They are really great, save time and gas, but can be confusing to newcomers.

The only complaint I would have is that you cannot trust everyone to yield to those cars in the circle. Twice on both these circles I had cars dart in front of me and, if I hadn't applied my brakes, would have had a collision.

Inge Stocklin

Fulton

How to Exit

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is there a direct exit from the Anacostia Freeway (D.C. 295 South) to Pennsylvania Avenue west over the Sousa Bridge? What is the best way to do this?

Eric Weingart

Arlington

There is no direct link.

You don't say whether you want to link to (a) the Southeast-Southwest Freeway or (b) Pennsylvania Avenue west.

If (a), stay on D.C. 295 to the Howard Road/Downtown exit. Turn right onto Howard Road, proceed one block, turn right again at the next traffic light. That will carry you onto the South Capitol Street Bridge, which connects with the Southeast-Southwest Freeway (Interstate 395).

If (b), take the East Capitol Street Bridge exit from D.C. 295, go around RFK Stadium onto Constitution Avenue, which will merge into Pennsylvania Avenue near the Capitol.

D.C. Can Fine Md. Driver

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live in Maryland, and my car is registered in Maryland. I was recently cited and fined there for not having a front license plate (it got mangled in a parking incident). In the meantime, I'm awaiting two new plates.

Just the other day, D.C. parking enforcers also cited me for not having a front license plate. Do they have the jurisdiction to fine me for a Maryland infraction? I find the whole thing ridiculous.

Dean Schleicher

Owings

Sorry, they do. I've been told the D.C. Parking Control aides have a list of all the states that require only one license plate. Maryland isn't one of them, and they can write the ticket.

Getting Even Is Dangerous

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As a cautious driver with a mild temperament, I rarely get upset while driving. In recent weeks, however, I have become annoyed with drivers who come to the front of a line of cars that are waiting to merge into traffic.

This morning, as I approached the South Capitol Street Bridge from Howard Road, I remained in line but not completely in my lane -- thus blocking cars from passing me and proceeding to the front of the line.

Rufus Horton

Landover

I know it's frustrating, but I don't recommend blocking these rude drivers; we just don't know what ugly consequence might develop.

A little farther north, on the access to northbound D.C. 295 from eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue, two lanes merge into one. Large yellow signs, on the left and the right, announce: "Alternate Merge," and readers tell me it works. Drivers take turns merging. I'd like to see more such signs.

A Merge That Works

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

An "Alternate Merge" sign is in place on the entrance ramp from Dulaney Valley Road to the outer loop of the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695). That's on the north side of Baltimore, near Goucher College.

I've used the ramp in busy periods, but not at peak times, and it's surprising how well drivers take turns getting in line. The sign is a good reminder to "play nice."

Duncan Munro

Beltsville

Helpful Motorists

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On Jan. 25 I had the misfortune of having my car break down at the very heavily traveled intersection of Muncaster Mill and Airpark roads in Gaithersburg.

While waiting in the cold for a tow truck to arrive, numerous motorists stopped to ask if I needed a ride or would like to use their cell phones. I lost count of the number of people of who offered such assistance in the approximately one hour I was stranded.

My initial inclination when the first of these strangers stopped was that they were slowing to curse me for blocking a busy intersection. It is very comforting to know that there are so many courteous caring individuals out there.

I'll think twice before I pass a stranded motorist in the future.

Richard Barna

Potomac

That's it; pass the favor along.

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.