Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Do you have any info on the Ninth Street bridge in Northeast Washington? I used to use it every weekday.

Brad Piepmeier


City officials tell me the bridge should be reopened by tomorrow. Some foundation erosion has caused it to be closed temporarily for repairs.

Wrong Signal

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A pedestrian signal turned the wrong way is creating a dangerous situation at Massachusetts and Cathedral avenues.

The traffic light pole on the northwest corner has two pedestrian signals mounted on it. One is timed for pedestrians walking north on Massachusetts and crossing Cathedral; the other is timed for pedestrians walking west on Cathedral and crossing Massachusetts. But both are facing the same way -- aimed at the pedestrians walking north on Massachusetts -- and giving pedestrians mixed messages.

As a result, the erroneously turned signal is flashing a walk symbol when in fact the crossing traffic has the green light.

I have seen groups of people step into traffic that has the green light, and it seems only a matter of time before a pedestrian is struck.

Tonya Ugoretz


I reported this immediately to Bill Rice, spokesman for the District Department of Transportation. He said they'd get right on this one. The department puts a high priority on safety fixes, so I'd look for a quick correction.

A Suburban Problem?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding the difficulty a Capitol Hill resident was having finding parking to unload groceries: The problem is with commuters from the suburbs.

Let's be realistic. First, you live outside the Beltway, and thus it continues to be very clear that you have a very large conflict of interest, as well as prejudice, regarding the problems of Capitol Hill residents and where we park.

Second, much of the parking problem on Capitol Hill can be attributed to the fact that commuters from outside the Beltway are given preference over residents. There are several Capitol Hill streets that should allow parking on both sides: Independence and Constitution avenues, the streets surrounding Stanton Park and Lincoln Park, and others.

Unfortunately, this city has such a low opinion of itself that we fail to extend even the basic courtesies to ourselves. Here are a few sample courtesies that this city seems to be lacking:

1. Commuter traffic should never be routed through residential streets.

2. New construction in established neighborhoods should be required to offer parking for the new residents or businesses that are being created.

The person unloading groceries is most likely a tax-paying resident. Why would the city fine that person for something that is perfectly logical? It was probably only the non-tax-paying commuters who were creating the traffic-clogging problem. Fine the commuters for clogging up residential streets in the first place.

Barbara M. Leach


Residential parking permits are designed to favor D.C. residents over commuters from the suburbs. Signs limit parking to two hours unless a zone sticker is displayed. Is this system not working?

Bicycle Commuting

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I commute by bicycle from Lee Highway near the Courthouse Metro stop to 20th and L streets NW. It takes less time than using Metro.

I take the Custis Trail (runs parallel to Interstate 66) across the Key Bridge. From the bridge, I enter tiny Francis Scott Key Park and walk my bike down the stairs and ramp to the street-side path along the C&O Canal. From there I ride until the trail ends and circle up to Pennsylvania Avenue near the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. Then the dangerous, adrenaline-rush, life-threatening part of my commute begins.

What I usually do is make the slight left turn onto L Street, which is safer than trying to make it through the "Circle of Death" (Washington Circle).

Elissa David


I commend you for an inexpensive commute that is also wonderful exercise.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In passing along help for bicyclists [Dr. Gridlock, March 25], you might have included a map or list of major bike routes, advice from cyclists and references to helpful groups such as the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and

Jack Cochrane


This column has never suffered from a lack of ideas from bicyclists. I'd like to hear your favorite resources.

Law on Right on Red

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Concerning your advice to give a simple, short toot for those not turning right on red where permitted [Dr. Gridlock, May 6]: I remember reading in your column a long time ago that right turn on red is permissible and not mandatory. In other words, one does not have to turn right on red but can wait for a green light or arrow.

As a result, whenever I am behind cars that are not turning right on red, I do not honk, even briefly, figuring that the driver might be uncomfortable making the turn.

What do law enforcement authorities advise for drivers behind cars that do not turn right on red where traffic permits such a turn?

Rany Simms

Fairfax Station

It's not a question of law, because there is no law that requires a vehicle to turn right on red. One law enforcement source I talked with said he usually gives a slight toot in case the motorist is daydreaming. That's what I do, too.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The law that permits a right turn on red does not require it. Only the driver at the intersection is in a position to determine whether the action is safe.

Honking at the lead vehicle usually does not help, because the most natural response is to look behind, not forward.

Barbara Peters


Mid-Block Light a Pain

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The mid-block traffic light on 18th Street between K and L streets NW is a royal pain at 5:30 a.m., when there is no traffic emerging from the private parking garage.

Bill Brykczynski


A private concern bought its own traffic light from the city and stationed it mid-block so garage customers can more easily enter 18th Street. The problem you highlight is one more reason the city should not sell traffic lights.

Metro Emergencies

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I, too, think it is ridiculous to evacuate an entire Metro train and hold up trains all along the line to evacuate a sick passenger [Dr. Gridlock, April 4].

You say you don't want someone dragging you off the train. I don't think anyone would advocate "dragging" anyone off the train, but I see nothing wrong if Metro personnel assisted someone off in a method determined on a case-by-case basis.

Wendell House

Silver Spring

Metro evacuates the car and, in some cases, cleans the car before putting it back in service. Medical professionals handle the treatment of the ill passenger in the car.

I'd hate to be on the receiving end of treatment, and possibly injurious attention, from untrained Metro personnel.

Interstates Through Cities

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been to most major cities in the country, and the one common feature is interstate highways through the middle of the cities. East to west and north to south. Washington and Baltimore are the only exceptions I am aware of.

I remember seeing the original layout of Interstate 95 and it went right through Washington, not around it. I say, put that highway back where it belongs. Also, connect Route 50 to Interstate 395 to help solve the east-to-west problem.

Gerry Ridgeway

Severna Park

I-95 was designed to go through the city, but city leaders decided they didn't want it. So the road money was transferred to the Metro system. Who is to say that was a bad trade?

Is it better to have cities compartmentalized into interstate grids, like Los Angeles, or simply cut in two, like Atlanta, where the state capitol and the Martin Luther King monuments are only a few blocks away but are divided by an interstate highway?

There is little chance that I-95 will now be routed through the nation's capital.

Police Behavior

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

About 6:15 p.m. May 4, I was driving in stop-and-go traffic along Bladensburg Road toward New York Avenue in the District. At one point, as traffic slowed to a halt, the car ahead of me pulled through the intersection of Bladensburg Road and Rand Place NE, and I stopped before the intersection so as not to "block the box."

I looked in my rearview mirror to see where a honking horn was coming from and saw directly behind me a District police officer in his cruiser, gesturing as he honked that I should pull up so he could make the right turn onto Rand Place.

As traffic ahead of me had not moved, I put my hand out the window and pointed over the roof of my car to the prominently posted "Do Not Block the Intersection" sign. In response, he turned on the cruiser's flashing lights and blared the siren as he continued to gesture.

Luckily, at almost the same moment, traffic moved and I was able to pull ahead without having to ponder whether to stand on principle.

Two blocks later, the same cruiser pulled out in front of me while turning back onto Bladensburg Road from T Street and then turned into the gas station at Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue to stop at the convenience store there.

Some kind of doughnut emergency, I suspect, caused him to abuse his authority to beat a couple of blocks of traffic and encourage a law-abiding resident to break it.

Steve Daigler


Are you a confrontational driver? If a police officer gestures to move ahead, I'd do it pronto and save the lessons about not blocking the box.

I'd give police the benefit of the doubt. Assume that they are responding to something and that the apparent doughnut stop is really an officer looking for a suspect.

That's my way of coping with police activities that seem not in character with police work.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.