Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Will Southern Maryland ever have carpool lanes? Routes 5 and 4 both are clogged with traffic through numerous lights, and the commuter buses (operating at or near capacity) must sit in traffic with single-rider cars.
As bus fares increase, more and more people get back in their cars because the only benefit of public transportation is the cost savings.
For example, I can drive to work from Waldorf to my office in D.C. in just under an hour. On the bus it takes an hour and a half!
I still ride the bus, but sometimes I despair of my future. I spend three hours a day commuting, round trip, and there's no relief in sight.
Recently another traffic light was added on Route 301/5 for a new housing development in Prince George's County between the county line and Brandywine. Morning traffic now backs up on Route 5 from the light at Brandywine (Route 381) to the light at Cedarville Road, almost continuously. Evening traffic backups are almost as bad.
I wish I had better news for you and other Southern Maryland commuters.
The state's budget woes mean paring down new highway construction projects. Although the state would like to replace traffic lights with overpasses at major bottlenecks along the Routes 4, 5 and 210 corridors, there are no funds to do so.
Neither are there any plans to widen those roads, or to install HOV lanes.
The state has more right of way along interstate highways, and the current priority is to widen roads with express toll lanes that would be built using state or private financing and would be reimbursed through toll fees.
What's being discussed are extra toll lanes along Interstate 270 and on I-95 between the beltways, with this service in place by about 2010.
If there's any good news for some Southern Marylanders, it is that a new, 10-lane Woodrow Wilson Bridge -- plus new Maryland interchanges for I-295 and Route 210 (including the "S" curve that connects Route 210 with I-295) -- are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008.
That will make it much easier to get to and from the District through the Route 210 corridor.
Reading Turn Signals
I want to catch up with your responses to a May 2 column in which I asked why drivers don't use turn signals. Here are some of your thoughts:
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
It seems to me that the problem is twofold and simple.
First, there simply are laws (driving or otherwise) that go unenforced. How many times have you seen a hazardous lane change without a signal, one car length in front of a police cruiser, without any action from that police cruiser?
Second, there is a lack of solid testing in order to obtain the privilege of having a driver's license. It seems that most people are simply uneducated on the basics of driving and the laws that are established (despite their going unenforced).
Safe driving and following the rules of the road not only keep others safe, but also save on insurance costs.
Get Bikes Off Parkway
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
On Rock Creek Parkway this morning, southbound traffic suddenly slowed to a crawl between the Connecticut Avenue and P Street exits. The rare rush-hour backup on Rock Creek is usually attributable to a broken-down car that can't get off the road, but today's slowdown was because of a cyclist who was on the parkway rather than on the bike path.
I understand the need to share most roads with cyclists, but it seems absolutely ridiculous (not to mention rude and a little insane) for a cyclist to use Rock Creek Parkway -- a relatively high-speed, curvy road -- when a safe path is available right next to it.
I'm curious about the law here, as well as your take on this from a safety and driving ethics perspective.
Bicyclists are entitled to use a lane of traffic, as are operators of motor vehicles. However, the situation you describe sounds dangerous for the bicyclist. The driver of a motor vehicle coming around a curve may not see the bicyclist in time to stop.
Of course motorists should be more careful, and should share the road, but that will be of little consequence to a flattened bicyclist.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Southern Maryland Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at email@example.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.