Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I know you have published a scenic route from the D.C. area to New England to bypass the New York metropolitan area. I had saved it and have misplaced it. I searched your Web site and cannot locate it. Could you provide it?

Jim Aurouze

Waldorf

From Waldorf, go to the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695) north. Exit at Interstate 83 north, through York, Pa., and travel on to Harrisburg, then connect with Interstate 81 toward Hazleton and Scranton.

At Scranton, take Interstate 84 east across New York state, crossing the Hudson River at Newburgh, and continue across Connecticut to connect with Interstate 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) at Sturbridge, Mass. Continue east into Boston, or connect with Interstate 495 or Interstate 95 around Boston to continue on I-95 to Maine.

From I-84, take Interstate 91 north at Hartford for Vermont, or from the Boston area, take Interstate 93 north for New Hampshire.

All those routes bypass New York City. They are cheaper and more scenic than the I-95 corridor. But they may also be a bit longer.

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 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. The route we took was Interstate 66 to Route 110 around the Pentagon, then picking 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 eventually we came to New York Avenue and headed east, so we were fine.

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 going east.

So we remained southbound on I-295, looking for an exit to I-395, and didn't find that, either. 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.

Metro Congestion

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

At the ends of most Metro cars, there is a section without seats so that bikes, wheelchairs and large baby strollers can fit in. On the middle doors of some cars, there are small decals indicating that bikes should not enter by those doors. Why not add pictures of wheelchairs and strollers also, directing them to enter at the end doors?

On returning from a doctor's appointment, I witnessed a woman in a wheelchair almost panic when she came to her stop and was unable to get past the vertical pole at the center door. Passengers helped her. Not only was she disturbed; without help, she might have missed her stop. Moreover, her wheelchair blocked two seats for other disabled or senior passengers who may have needed those seats. The car was crowded.

That same day, when I changed trains, I encountered a woman with a huge baby stroller seated in the priority seating and blocking the seat next to her with the stroller. This car was very crowded.

As a senior with arthritis, osteoporosis and other health concerns, I find it difficult to stand, so I asked the passenger to move the stroller slightly to let me into the seat. She did so, but muttered annoyance.

Had the woman in the wheelchair and the one with the stroller entered the cars at one of the ends, both they and other passengers would have been better served.

Grace C. Cooper

Lewisdale

Thanks for the tip. If there is extra space at the ends of cars, passengers with strollers, wheelchairs, backpacks and bikes might be better off using those places.

If they are still bunching up at the middle doors, I wonder if it would make sense for you to get away from that congestion and sit at the ends of the cars.

Metro's Sign Outages

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 when the train enters the station.

As soon as the Green Line train leaves for Branch Avenue, another message pops up immediately telling the wait time for the next Green Line train, when it should 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 eliminated cash transactions and forced customers to buy a SmarTrip card for $5, and use that -- and that alone -- for parking fees.

But 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 dedicated revenue.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am commuting every day from Frederick to Washington by Interstate 270, the Beltway south and George Washington Parkway. I have a question regarding the HOV-2 lanes on I-270. Can I drive on the HOV lane with my infant?

My daughter is 4 months old. Somebody told me that I can, but somebody else told me that I cannot. It is confusing me. Could you give me an idea, Dr. Gridlock?

Hungcuong Van Nguyen

Frederick

Any living person in your vehicle counts toward HOV-2 restrictions. So you and your daughter are fine. You can use the express lanes.

A Hybrid Answer

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I don't disagree with you that a commute from Fredericksburg to the inner D.C. area is tough, but I'm surprised you didn't suggest a hybrid vehicle -- and its HOV exemption -- to the person who asked you about moving there.

A co-worker of mine lives in Fredericksburg and loves the lifestyle and cost of living. He leaves early and drives his Toyota Prius hybrid, using the HOV lanes, and gets to work in Lanham in less than an hour and 15 minutes.

Mark Cross

Annapolis

Your friend can use the HOV lanes in Virginia only until June 30, 2006, when the state legislation expires that authorized an HOV exemption for vehicles powered by gasoline and electricity.

It is not at all clear that the legislation will be renewed, since the federal government is making noise that exemptions for HOV lanes (which the feds built) should not be granted for low-emission vehicles (such as the Prius), but rather only for zero-emission vehicles.

Also, please note that Maryland does not grant an HOV exemption for gas-electric hybrids.

That said, I'm pleased your friend has found commuting happiness and grateful he is using a vehicle that consumes far less gas.

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.