Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding the proposed convention center to be built in Rockville, a few years ago I attended a small seminar at which Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan was the guest speaker.

During the Q&A period, I expressed my concern for the traffic congestion on Rockville Pike should the convention center be built. Mr. Duncan replied, "Well, Rockville Pike has a lot of 'character' and yes, perhaps it is a little crowded on weekends." But he did not see this as a problem.

Right then, Mr. Duncan lost my vote forever.

Marilyn Rose

Bethesda

Planning for Growth

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have always enjoyed your work and am following it with even greater interest since I was elected last fall as an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council and now serve as chair of its Transportation and Environment Committee.

Naturally, your Jan. 30 column on the relationship between the fall elections, growth and transportation drew my eye.

I attach for your reading pleasure a copy of the county's annual growth policy. Previous Montgomery County councils have adopted this, in one form or another, every year since 1986 as an effort to balance infrastructure, jobs and housing production.

Montgomery County is actually a national leader in planning for growth and development in order to preserve the quality of life that caused many folks to choose to raise families here in the first place.

Past councils have left few stones unturned in forging mechanisms for dealing with growth and congestion. Planned land use is one piece of the puzzle, but so, too, are our efforts to build needed roads and more transit to meet the needs of existing communities.

I encourage you and your readers to bone up and learn about exactly what policies Montgomery County already has in place. Then, as you point out, speak up and participate in the public process that will lead to informed decisions. The more, the merrier!

Nancy Floreen

Montgomery County Council member at-large

In my experience, Montgomery County has the most congested road system in the area. Hope you can make a difference.

Where to Park

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

This is an answer for Carolyn Carter from Gettysburg, Pa., who needs to park midmorning near public transportation in the Montgomery County area.

The Carter-Baron Amphitheater parking lot at 16th and Colorado is free and underutilized.

She just needs to walk from there to 16th Street NW, and take an S1 or S2 bus down to K Street. She could get on Metro there or transfer to another bus.

Naomi Goring

Silver Spring

Nice try. But according to the National Park Service, which runs the amphitheater, the parking lot is not open for use by the public outside of an event at the venue. Please read on.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was reading Carolyn Carter's question about coming from Gettysburg, Pa., and not having a good place to park and ride in midmorning in Montgomery County.

The MARC train runs from northern Maryland to the Rockville Station, where she could transfer to the Metro Red Line. Or, alternatively, she could ride it all the way into Union Station.

Bryan Salas

Kirtland AFB, N.M.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live in Barnesville (in northern Montgomery County and halfway to Gettysburg) and have solved the midmorning Metro parking problem by using the transit center at Lakeforest Mall.

Carolyn can park free on the mall's parking lot -- there are lots of spaces and no hassles. She will find many buses per hour making the trip to the Shady Grove Station and back, even more during rush hours.

A transit center is located at the southeast corner of the mall property and is equipped with a large covered waiting area for bus passengers, with route maps and timetables.

I've found that if I am lucky enough to arrive at the transit center just minutes before my bus arrives, it takes me the same amount of time to get to downtown D.C. as if I had driven to the Shady Grove Station, parked and boarded the train there. Not bad!

Even if I have to wait 10 minutes or so for a bus, it's worth using the transit center for the low hassle and predictability.

At the Metro station where she gets on the train to go home, Carolyn should get a bus transfer for the trip back to her car.

Meg Menke

Barnesville

The Lakeforest Mall is off Interstate 270 (Montgomery Village Avenue) in Gaithersburg. Good luck.

Better Reports

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I agree with Teresa Duncan's comments that the radio traffic reporters give the traffic reports far too fast for listeners to follow. My suggestion (assuming the stations won't give the reporters more time to slow down) is to preface the announcements by stating the county in which the various problems are encountered, especially on roadways crossing multiple jurisdictions.

This would greatly help listeners visualize where the problem areas are and whether their routes are impacted. It is of little help to hear of a problem on, say, Interstate 95 north when I can't tell if they're talking about Virginia approaching the Beltway or Maryland heading toward Baltimore.

Ira Birnbaum

Annandale

I agree.

Your Ad Here

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metro is talking about raising fares, which I think is long overdue. But there are other ways they could make money: more advertising on Metro.

They could fit more ads on platforms, in bus shelters and along the sides of the rail cars, above the windows.

I know Metro wants a clean-looking system, without ads junking it up, but a few more wouldn't hurt and would generate some needed revenue.

If more ad space would mean extensions would get built and escalators would get fixed, I think people would accept it.

Dave Linn

Washington

Something to think about as Metro ponders a fare increase.

Tolls Not the Way to Go

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Yes, I'll agree with you that the tolls on Interstate 95 in Delaware are excessive (especially if you are coming back from New Jersey with the toll on the Delaware Memorial Bridge). However, I take large issue with your suggestion to eliminate the tolls altogether. (And, yeah, the $4 that Maryland charges on northbound I-95 is a bit much.)

I consider tolls in general as both a carrot and a stick to get people out of their cars. Since driving is so heavily subsidized by the government (pathetically low gas taxes, for instance), I have no problem making the people that use the freeways pay for that privilege.

In fact, Maryland should look at ways of making more freeways toll roads (especially the proposed intercounty connector). Not necessarily with large toll plazas that back up traffic, but with the mini-toll plazas on the entrance and exit ramps like what is on the Dulles Toll Road.

I think that with a reasonable toll (including an exemption for HOV people and E-ZPass), this would be very workable way to pay for the maintenance/upgrades to roads, expansion of alternative transit and to get people to begin to realize how much a trip in their car actually costs.

Now, as to your request for alternatives to bypass the tolls on I-95: Bypass I-95 altogether and go up U.S. Route 301 on the Eastern Shore. It is a much nicer drive, with hardly any traffic and none of the speed demons that fly up and down I-95. There is a toll at the Bay Bridge and a $1 toll in Delaware.

Directions: Go over the Bay Bridge, at the Routes 50/301 split, take Route 301 north towards Wilmington. Take that through Maryland and into Delaware. At the third traffic light, turn left on to Delaware Route 896. Go through the first light at U.S. Route 13, and then turn left on to Delaware Route 1 north. This will take you right up to I-95 in Christiana, a couple of miles before the I-95/295/495 split.

If you want to avoid the toll in Delaware altogether, instead of going through the light at U.S. Route13, turn left and follow that road to the entrance ramp to Delaware Route 1 (on the left).

Following this route takes about 90 minutes to get to Wilmington and just under two hours to get to downtown Philadelphia from Annapolis.

Chad Schrock

Annapolis

Sorry, I can't agree with you on making more Maryland roads into toll ones. I-95 ($4 northbound) is already a gigantic rip-off. Why? Not only to pay for maintenance of the road but also to fund a big slush fund for other transportation projects around the state, like the Port of Baltimore. Why should travelers pay for that?

Rather than add more tolls in Maryland, I'd vote to remove the ones in existence and hope Delaware, New Jersey and New York do, too.

After all, how many I-95 tolls do you see south of Maryland, all the way to Miami? I'm not aware of any.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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