Asmall victory on this big holiday: The Virginia Department of Transportation, at last, will be putting up signs on Interstate 395 to designate ramps to the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
For years, there have been no such signs. Motorists looking for the parkway -- a major route to Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Reagan National Airport, Rosslyn, McLean and the Capital Beltway -- have been out of luck.
The first I-395 offramps in Virginia from the 14th Street bridge say: "Exit 10C Arlington Cemetery" and "Exit 10B National Airport/Mount Vernon." Heading into the city, the signs say, "Exit 10A-B Boundary Channel Drive/National Airport" and "Exit 10C Memorial Bridge." Nowhere do the signs name the parkway, which is the other major road at this interchange.
This has led to confusion for local drivers, as well as for visitors who have been told to take the parkway only to find, alas, they can't find it -- not from I-395, anyway.
VDOT has had two rather remarkable reasons for not posting the needed signs:
* The existing sign structures won't bear the weight of an additional sign that large.
* There is no room for a stand-alone structure; it's too cluttered in that area.
To clear things up, VDOT will embark on a $1.5 million reorganization of road signs in the Pentagon area. VDOT wants to reduce the clutter and confusion and to make the signs "user-friendly," said Joan Morris, a VDOT spokeswoman.
As part of the project, the ramps to the parkway will be designated from I-395, she said. The re-signing project will begin in the fall and should be completed in a year.
Better late than never.
One-Way Bridge Etiquette
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I live in the Vienna/Great Falls/Reston area, where there are a number of one-lane bridges on once-rural country roads.
Most drivers treat them like stop signs and alternate going across. However, sometimes several cars in the line -- or the whole line -- will go at once.
I have heard arguments supporting each practice. I'm wondering what the rules of the road are in this instance.
This isn't covered by state traffic law. I would say take turns, but a case can be made that traffic will flow more efficiently through such a bottleneck if a whole line of commuters goes through, never stopping.
Sgt. Richard Perez, a spokesman for the Fairfax County police, offers this advice:
"Proceed to the bridge when you think it is prudent, without causing a hazard to yourself or oncoming traffic."
I recognize that it can be frustrating when commuters flood country roads and no one is quite sure what to do on a one-lane bridge. Someone on the other side should stop and wave you on.
Which Way to Atlanta?
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Having moved from Germantown to Atlanta, we've made many trips between the two places and can make the following recommendation:
Taking Interstate 66 to I-81 to I-77 to I-85 is about 30 miles farther than taking the I-95 to I-85 route but takes about the same amount of time.
The truck congestion on I-81 never seems as onerous as the general congestion on I-95 between Fredericksburg and Springfield.
By the way, the growth of the Atlanta suburban road network has been driven by individual localities, with interconnection avoided.
The result has been four-lane, limited-access highways across counties that become two-lane, undivided at county and city lines. Signals favor the locals.
Several years ago, the situation became so onerous that one unknown commuter fired several shots into a traffic signal controller cabinet. When investigations were made, it was found that the signal timing had been rigged to create unacceptable delays for commuters entering from an adjacent county.
Marylanders and Virginians should be very grateful to their state road administrations for coordinating road improvements between jurisdictions.
Randall C. Parker
Let's hear it for our transportation departments!
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at firstname.lastname@example.org or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.