Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metro was supposed to have upgraded its buses to accept SmarTrip cards. Do you have any information on the status of that project?

Michael Rosen

Gaithersburg

Metro has been introducing SmarTrip gradually. The entire bus fleet should be equipped by Aug. 8.

FBI Roadblock

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I hope you can intercede on behalf of a bicycle commuter. I take advantage of the bike trail system to commute from Falls Church into the District, but I've been frustrated that the only bicycle lane in the city available to me is obstructed by the FBI.

For the past year, at least, the FBI has blocked the lane on Ninth Street NW, adjacent to its headquarters, with patrol cars, unmarked cars, vans, etc.

Can you please ask the FBI to stop parking their vehicles in the bicycle lane?

Bill Byrd

Falls Church

The FBI has impinged on the roads around its headquarters, including metered parking, to thwart terrorist threats, particularly truck bombs.

You have to admit that FBI headquarters would be a desirable target.

You're entitled to ride in a lane of traffic or dismount and walk your bike on the sidewalk around the area. Consider it your contribution to national security.

Toll Road Scramble

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I travel the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) on a daily basis and have a Smart Tag to expedite travel through the tollbooths. I find it frustrating that the Smart Tag lanes are not universally on the right or left side of the toll plazas.

At the main toll plaza near Tysons Corner, the Smart Tag lanes are on the left and clearly marked. At the other end of the toll road, near Dulles Airport, one is in the middle and sometimes one is on the far right.

At the Dulles end, drivers are frequently switching lanes at the last minute to get in the proper lane.

Can't something be done to put the Smart Tag lanes universally on the far right or left to help traffic flow more smoothly?

John Bello

Oakton

Poor signing on the Dulles Toll Road has been an issue with readers, and with Dr. Gridlock, for years. I'm told the varied Smart Tag locations are necessary because Smart Tag was developed after the tollbooths were built. But this is a signing problem. Please read on:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was wondering if Virginia could let drivers know the toll amount further in advance of the tollbooth.

Recently, I used the Dulles Toll Road for the first time in years, and I didn't know how much the tolls were. If I had known far in advance that the tolls were a quarter to enter at a ramp, and 50 cents at the end of the toll road, I would have tossed my quarters in buckets at the exact change lane instead of using a booth that made change.

The signs informing drivers of the tolls are too close to the booths and too small, causing drivers to switch lanes at the last minute.

Chuck Murphy

Springfield

These are reasonable requests. The way the toll road is now signed is confusing and causes sudden lane switching. The 50-cent toll sign at the main toll plaza is about 10 feet from the basket -- too late to help uncertain motorists into the exact-change lane.

How hard is it to help motorists with better signing? It shouldn't be that hard, considering signs are a lot cheaper than building new roads, which are not in the new budget anyway.

How hard would it be to post the charges well in advance of the tollbooth? How hard would it be to post purple signs overhead for the Smart Tag-only lanes?

As it stands now, the signs are all black on white, and some lettering is too small. It forces unfamiliar motorists to stop and read, and then to get into the desired lane from a dead stop.

The Virginia Department of Transportation had a contract to overhaul the sign system, but the winning bidder walked off the job. Meanwhile, some temporary "50 cent" signs, and some temporary colored "Smart Tag" signs would be a much-appreciated way to show that VDOT cares about helping confused motorists.

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 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.