Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Why are the Metro overhead arrival signs so frequently not functioning or not functioning properly, especially for the Red Line at Van Ness going south, the Yellow Line headed toward Huntington at Gallery Place, and all of the signs at Reagan National Airport, which rarely work?

At Gallery Place, the Green Line signs operate perfectly. The Yellow Line is ignored except for when the train enters the station.

As soon as the Green Line train leaves that station for Branch Avenue, another message pops up immediately telling the wait time for the next Green Line train. What it should do is let passengers know what the wait time is for the Yellow Line train.

Carol Woodard

Washington

Consider this, Ms. Woodard: Metro is an agency that has had no idea how much money had been collected from its parking lots and had no idea what it was owed. That went on for years and led to a significant loss of revenue.

To cure the problem, the agency decided to eliminate cash transactions and force customers to buy a SmarTrip card for $5, and use that -- and that alone -- for parking transactions.

However, once the new policy was announced and the public started buying the SmarTrip cards, Metro discovered it didn't have enough cards.

Now you're reporting all sorts of cockeyed signs. I ask you, considering the above, are we surprised?

I'm beginning to wonder if Metro's problems are deeper than just lack of enough dedicated revenue.

Escaping I-95

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

If you're trying to avoid the D.C.-Fredericksburg corridor of Interstate 95, you can take U.S. Route 301 south through Southern Maryland into Virginia (take Maryland Route 5 from the Beltway to get to 301 at Waldorf), and then hook up with Virginia Route 207, which will take you back to I-95 between Fredericksburg and Richmond.

It's about 15 miles and 35 to 45 minutes longer, and you'll have to pay a toll when crossing the Harry W. Nice Bridge between Maryland and Virginia, but I'd imagine there are times when all that is worth it.

Andrew Zitnay

Washington

Folks who live east of the District swear by that route to escape the I-95 parking lot between the Beltway and Fredericksburg.

Futile Hunt for Exit

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Recently my husband and I went to the Eastern Shore using a route you suggested, which was far better than driving halfway around the Beltway. (We live in Chantilly.)

The route we took was Interstate 66 to Route 110 around the Pentagon, then picked up Interstate 395 north to Interstate 295 north. We didn't realize that I-395 divides, so we wound up going through the tunnels underneath Capitol Hill. But we eventually came to New York Avenue and headed east, so we were fine.

However, we tried to take your route home using Route 50 to I-295 south, then crossing the Sousa Bridge and picking up I-395 and Route 110 again. We obviously missed signs, an exit or something; we didn't see any exit off I-295 for Pennsylvania Avenue going west, only Pennsylvania Avenue east.

So we remained southbound on I-295, looking for an exit to I-395, and didn't find thateither. We wound up staying on I-295 until we got to the Beltway and crossed the Wilson Bridge into Virginia.

Help! Once we're on I-295 coming south, how do we get back onto I-395 to return to Fairfax County? Is that highway not accessible when you're coming from the east? Or is this another problem with poor signage on some of the D.C. area's freeways?

Marilyn Lynch

Chantilly

What you encountered was a combination of incomplete interchanges and bad signs.

There is no exit from D.C. 295 south to Pennsylvania Avenue west. So you can keep going south on 295 to one of the worst-marked exits in the city. That exit, marked "Howard Road-Downtown," will take you over the South Capitol Street Bridge and onto I-395, although neither of those is mentioned on the exit sign.

At the base of the exit ramp, turn right onto Howard Road and go one block through a seedy area, then turn right at the next light and thread your way onto the South Capitol Street Bridge. The entrance to I-395 is dead ahead.

The way you took, from I-295 south to the Beltway, avoids all that maneuvering but does run the risk of construction delays.

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 at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.