Here are some of the latest construction projects (and their estimated completion dates) underway in Fairfax County, as provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
* Burke Lake Road: Widening from two to four lanes from Lee Chapel Road to the Fairfax County Parkway (1.2 miles). Completion: fall 2005.
* Dulles Toll Road: Sign improvements. Some readers complain that the printed toll information is too small and not provided until the collection points, and that the Smart Tag lanes are not clearly marked. Completion: June 2005.
* Dulles Toll Road/Beltway: Widening connecting ramps from one to two lanes. This should ease congestion for traffic getting on and off the Beltway. Completion: September 2005.
* Interstate 395: Sign improvements between Washington Boulevard and the District line. Some readers have complained about the absence of a destination sign for the George Washington Memorial Parkway. That will be addressed in this project. Completion: end of 2005-spring 2006.
* Lorton Road: Widening from two to six lanes between Route 1 and Silverbrook Road, including a new bridge over Pohick Creek (1.06 miles). Completion: August 2006.
* Route 1: Widening to six lanes, divided, with trail on the east side and extra turn lane, from Telegraph Road to Armistead Road. Completion: November 2005.
* Route 28 interchanges: A public-private partnership is building six interchanges in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. They are:
1. Air and Space Museum Parkway: completed.
2. Route 625 (Waxpool and Church roads): fall 2005.
3. Route 606 (Old Ox Road): winter 2004-spring 2005.
4. Westfields Boulevard: fall 2005.
5. Route 846 (Sterling Boulevard): fall 2006.
6. McLearen Road: fall 2006.
These interchanges, involving overpasses and underpasses, will eliminate most traffic signals at what are now heavily congested Route 28 choke points.
These construction timetables certainly seem aggressive. Hopefully, they are realistic.
* Route 123, Phase 3: Widening to four lanes, divided, from North Davis Drive to Route 722 (1.9 miles). Completion: May 2006.
* Springfield Interchange: The project, in its final phases, is on schedule for completion in 2007. For lane closures, maps, photos and commuter options, visit www.springfieldinterchange.com.
* Telegraph Road: Construction of retaining walls between Newington Road and Beulah Street to correct a landslide. Completion: December.
* West Ox Road: Widening from two to four lanes between Ox Trail and Lawyers Road (1.1 mile). Completion: September 2006.
* Woodrow Wilson Bridge: Replacement project is on schedule, with two six-lane drawbridges to be in place in 2008; the Interstate 295 and Route 210 interchanges in Maryland completed in 2008; and the two Virginia interchanges, at Route 1 and Telegraph Road, completed by 2012. For more information, visit www.wilsonbridge.com.
It is good to see VDOT is making so many needed improvements. And that the present highway commissioner, Philip Shucet, has made it a point to keep projects on time and on budget.
For more information about construction projects in Northern Virginia, visit www.virginiadot.org/projects/nova/nuts-and-bolts-PWC.asp.
Some Ticketing Unjust
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I'm a taxpayer who is opposed to unjust ticketing, so I had to write in support of Pat Julien's letter about speed traps [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 16].
Ticketing drunk drivers is not the same as ticketing a careful driver going with the flow of traffic at 40 mph in a 35 mph zone on a four-line highway.
Part of the problem is that many speed limits are unjustly low. On some roads, 90 percent or more of the cars are technically speeding. Very few of those drivers will get tickets, but a speed trap could be set up at any time to bring in revenue to the government.
That is unjust; the speed limits should be fair, rather than artificially low, and should be enforced fairly.
If you disagree, I challenge you to watch your speed closely over the next few days and see whether you are always driving under the speed limit. If not, you are a criminal, along with most drivers in the area. Is that right? I don't think so.
To be fair, many police officers do use good judgment in deciding when to ticket. But artificially low speed limits are still unjust, do not affect the flow of traffic and only make it easier to ticket safe drivers.
Tickets should be given to stop unsafe drivers, not given arbitrarily to bring in revenue.
I haven't heard of police ticketing a driver for going only 5 mph over the speed limit. Those who are going faster are subject to a speeding ticket, and that represents only a small portion of those who are speeding.
Many readers of this column support more enforcement of traffic offenses, not less. Please read on.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Pat Julien's note about the high number of traffic courts (four) to handle traffic offenses seemed to contain the same old complaint that the public is being gouged by speed or red light camera "traps."
Which part of "speed limit" don't people understand? A limit is the highest speed one is supposed to achieve. How can it be a "trap" for law officials to notice that someone exceeded a limit and to cite them for it?
Red-light cameras have reduced red-light runners in every intersection where they are deployed. Radar guns have detected speeders. There's no entrapment. The limit is posted, people ignore it, and there are consequences.
If people obeyed the limits, the courts would be penniless.
It's very simple. Save your money; obey the limits.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I am writing in response to a reader's suggestions about "vigilante" responses to tailgaters [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 7]. While I agree that moving to the right is the simplest response to tailgaters, I take exception to his comments.
I was taught in driver's education (many years ago) that you are supposed to leave a car's length of space between yourself and the car ahead for every 10 mph of driving speed to ensure that you will have enough stopping distance in an emergency.
Further, if the vehicle behind you is closer than that, you should increase the amount of space in front of you. The only way to do that is to slow down.
I realize that on our roads it is virtually impossible to keep a "safe" distance between cars, but I believe that, contrary to some views in your columns, I am well within my rights to slow down to be safe.
And, more to the point, speeding is bad. I have never seen or heard of a case of tailgating in which the tailgater was not trying to drive in excess of the speed limit.
I think the vast majority of those who advocate "vigilante actions" are simply trying to get tailgaters to move away without having to speed themselves. The tactics would not be necessary if the tailgater would just back off. Slowing down, using windshield wipers and turning on headlights are all legal. Tailgating is not.
I believe that such tactics by drivers who are victims of tailgating -- such as slowing down, tapping the brake pedal and turning on windshield wipers to spray the tailgater -- prolong a dangerous situation.
My advice is to immediately put your right turn signal on and get over as soon as possible.
Finding 'Yellow Ribbons'
Here are more suggestions from readers about where one can buy those "Support Our Troops" yellow ribbon magnets that we see on a number of vehicles these days.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Try Abe Lincoln Flags at 8634 Lee Hwy. in Fairfax. E-mail AbeFlags@aol.com, phone 703-204-1116 or fax 703-205-9881.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
"Support Our Troops" magnets are available at the Total Crafts store at Rolling Valley Mall in Burke/Springfield for $4.95.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
The "Support Our Troops" yellow ribbon is available in magnet form from www.MoreMagnets.com.
Pavilion a Public Nuisance?
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
As I have done with others associated with The Washington Post in the past, I would like to extend an invitation to visit Nissan Pavilion on a non-show evening to experience the issues about which you write.
My point is to bring a dose of reality to your suggestions that our concerts are the sole cause of the traffic issues along the Interstate 66 corridor.
You will find congestion no different from what you have described on nights that the pavilion has an event, and you will find backups similar to those experienced on other major arteries, including Interstate 95, the Beltway and Interstate 270.
We could use our time so that you may be better informed on how the pavilion averages 25 shows a year (not 100, as misrepresented in your response of Sept. 30), and how only 13 of the events in 2004 occurred on weekdays.
I could explain how Nissan Pavilion satisfied substantial requirements "proffered" upon development in 1995 in what was then an industrial community.
In addition, I could detail how the pavilion bore the cost to build the Exit 43B offramp and worked to ensure the approval of the 1998 transportation bond proposal that, at the time, was earmarked to help western Prince William County catch up with its residential development.
I do agree there are still significant improvements to be made in the Gainesville area, many of them approved and funded.
The widening of I-66 to the Route 234 bypass and the development of an east-west connector should provide significant positive impacts.
As the exponential development beyond the Fairfax County line continues, residents must take part in public hearings to make certain their interests are served.
Your continuous misrepresentation of facts, along with the lack of any insightful solutions on the issue, is the true "nuisance" for those serious about fixing the problems.
If I implied in any way that Nissan Pavilion was the "sole cause" of traffic congestion in the I-66 corridor, I apologize. Most of us know that corridor is already terribly crowded during weeknight rush hours. The Nissan Pavilion traffic, as many readers have pointed out, only makes it worse.
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors, exhibiting its disdain for commuters in the western county, authorized 100 events a year at Nissan. That there are now just 25, and "only" 13 during weeknight rush hours, is a blessing.
I'm researching who paid for Exit 43B. It would be most unusual for private enterprise to pay for an exit on an interstate highway, but I tip my hat to you for expressing the thought.
I've offered two suggestions to aid I-66/Route 28/Route 29 weeknight traffic into Prince William County: (1) Downzone future development to, say, one dwelling per 10 acres, and (2) have Nissan Pavilion declared a public nuisance and closed, a casualty of gridlock. Whether these are "insightful" suggestions I leave to you.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in Extra and Sunday in the Metro section. 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 telephone numbers.