Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I was a longtime resident of the Washington area, having grown up for the most part in Prince George's County in the 1960s and '70s. I returned to the area in 1985 and lived in Northern Virginia until July.
I now live in Palm Bay, Fla., and have not regretted the move at all. There is no traffic to speak of; people are courteous and nice; customer service is very evident; and I rarely see any examples of aggressive driving or road rage.
For me, all the great quality of life the D.C. area purports to have was offset by the terrible commutes, a too fast-paced lifestyle and generally very rude, self-centered and aggressive drivers.
Having said that, it's only fair to point out the downside of living in this area. It being a beach community and the South, the lifestyle is verrrrrrry laid-back.
But the D.C. area has nothing on this area when it comes to red-light running. It's fairly common here to see people blowing through red lights for five seconds or more when your light has already changed to green.
Still, I'm very pleased with my relocation. Honestly, why do so many people there seemingly wake up angry at the world and do battle with one another on the roads?
Palm Bay, Fla.
I'm glad you found your place in the sun, Mr. Fraley. Your questions will have to be weighed by each of us when we contemplate retirement.
Route 4 Interchange
Here's a bit of good news for Route 4 commuters: The Maryland State Highway Administration is going to build an interchange at Route 4 and the Suitland Parkway. This means the installation of an overpass/underpass and elimination of traffic signals at a severely congested intersection.
Now, the bad news: Work will not begin on the $73 million project until the fiscal year that starts July 2007 and ends in June 2008. Interchanges usually take two to three years to build, meaning it might not be done until 2011.
It's good the state found the money, but it's a long time to wait for a much-needed project.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I recently saw a Maryland state trooper on Interstate 70 past Frederick come up at high speed within a car length behind a car "cruising" in the left lane, hang there for 15 seconds, apparently trying to intimidate the driver to change lanes, then change to the middle lane to pass, before continuing in the left lane.
The siren and lights were never used. This looked like aggressive driving, and the situation could have been solved by passing at a safer distance.
I complained to Col. Thomas Hutchins, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, who passed the information to Lt. Michael Cain, commander of the Frederick Barrack.
Kudos to Lt. Cain for calling and letting me know that the state police are actively discouraging aggressive driving in their ranks.
There is no Maryland law against going at the speed limit in the left lane of a highway, though slower traffic is advised to keep right.
If people actually did that, it would discourage people from playing slalom. It works in Europe.
It goes to driver's education and the driving culture. People in Europe don't dare cruise in the left lane because they might get run over. People here can and do cruise in the left lane, and that's a shame. They should keep right, except to pass.
Alternative Route to Va.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I noted with interest your response to Marilyn Lynch of Chantilly regarding finding Interstate 395 from D.C. 295 south (Dr. Gridlock, Aug. 26).
You had advised Ms. Lynch to exit at the poorly signed Howard Road exit (3B) and proceed over the South Capitol Street Bridge and through several traffic signals to get to the entrance to I-395.
I may have a better route.
Although I'm a Virginia resident, my family and I often travel to Maryland.
To get to Virginia from southbound D.C. 295, we take the first exit past the Howard Road exit, or 3A, marked Suitland Parkway/Navy Yard. We stay in the off-ramp lane, which then becomes the freeway on-ramp to D.C. 295 north. We thus get back onto the freeway heading north. We have essentially made a legal U-turn. The next exit on D.C. 295 north is the 11th Street Bridge, which takes drivers to I-395 (either north or south). The exit is marked as leading to I-395.
It's a great solution to the dilemma of finding I-395, and you and your readers might want to try it.
Thanks for the tip. I'll try it next time.
Isn't it a shame you have to go north in order to go south, and put up with confusing signs to boot? Please read on.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Marilyn Lynch from Chantilly asked a good question about a return route to the District from D.C. 295 south.
Now the question is, why doesn't someone fix the sign? How hard is it to add a piece to the Howard Road exit sign, saying "To I-395"? There is a major problem regarding road signs in this area, and I am not sure who is to blame.
The D.C. area is a tough place to drive in and around, but if the signs were marked better and posted at a distance far enough to allow drivers to safely maneuver, it would ease frustration for those of us who live here and for the enormous number of visitors we receive. Does a local Department of Transportation even exist here? What does it do? This problem is not unique to the District, but also can be found in Maryland and Virginia. Is there a central agency, along the same lines as Metro's transit system, that handles all road issues?
E. Scott Howard
There is no regional agency. Each state and the District has its own transportation department. They can work with one another, as they are doing on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.
The Howard Road exit sign is a bad one because it doesn't include a "To I-395" or any reference to the South Capitol Street Bridge, a major entrance into the city.
This has been a sore point in this column for two decades. Apparently, city officials just don't care about this bad sign.
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 email@example.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.