In the Oct. 21 Dr. Gridlock column, completion dates for the Route 28-Route 606 (Old Ox Road) interchange loops were incorrect. Five of the eight new loops opened Oct. 9, and the other three are scheduled to open early next year. (Published 10/24/04)
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 not to show off our world-class entertainment venue, but 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.
If you decide to make the trip, 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 together 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 those events in 2004 occurred on weekdays.
I could explain to you how Nissan Pavilion satisfied substantial requirements that were "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 vigorously to ensure the approval of the 1998 transportation bond referendum that, at the time, was earmarked to help western Prince William County catch up with its residential development.
I do agree that there are still significant improvements to be made in the Gainesville area, many of which have already been 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 on the current situation.
As the exponential development beyond the Fairfax County line continues, residents must take part in the public hearing process and be engaged with their Board of County Supervisors to make certain that their interests are served.
Please let me know if you would like to extend your current commute beyond Fairfax so that you may experience the issues firsthand.
Your continuous misrepresentation of facts when describing the pavilion's history, 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 Pavilion. 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.
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:
After having seen hundreds of those ribbons on vehicles in the last few months, I finally got one for myself, along with a red, white and blue "Freedom Isn't Free" ribbon.
The best part is, my purchases actually supports the troops in a double way because I bought them at the Marine Corps Museum Shop in Triangle, just outside the main gate at Quantico Marine Base.
You can call 888-315-1775 or shop online at www.usmcmuseum.org and get decals or magnets and other designs, too.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
The "Support Our Troops" yellow ribbon is available in magnet form at www.moremagnets.com.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Every time you print a letter from someone complaining about tailgaters, you follow it up with a letter from some genius suggesting that the offended driver move to the right. What a brilliant idea!
Now what should I do if I'm already in the right lane or if there is only a single lane?
I travel to work on Walney Road. The speed limit is 35 mph. I usually am going 40 mph, and I almost always have a car so close behind me that I can't see its headlights.
What should I do? I refuse to go any faster.
I recommend another route to work. Route 28 and the Dulles Toll Road are better equipped to handle commuters. If you insist on staying with Walney Road, perhaps you can turn out at intersections, but that will probably be a continuous prospect.
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. (That may be outdated information, but I've not heard of any new guidelines.)
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 in order to be safe.
And, more to the point, speeding is bad. That's why there are laws against it. The speed limit signs indicate the maximum allowable speed according to the law, not suggestions. 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.
While I am sure there are some people who want to "teach tailgaters a lesson," 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.
Here are some of the latest construction projects (and their estimated completion dates) underway in Northern Virginia, 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. The signs have been a problem for some readers, who 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 the Washington Boulevard exit 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 a trail on the east side and an 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/underpasses, will eliminate most traffic signals at what are now heavily congested Route 28 choke points.
The joint venture, involving VDOT, Clark Construction Group and Shirley Contracting Co., is designed to show that public-private partnerships can get large projects done more quickly and cheaply than VDOT alone.
These construction timetables certainly seem aggressive. Hopefully, they are realistic.
* Route 123 widening, Phase 3 -- Widening to four lanes, divided, from North Davis Drive to Route 722 (1.9 miles). Completion: May 2006.
* Springfield Interchange -- The final phases of the project are underway. The project 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 that 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.
Parking Lot Mechanics
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
You recently asked if any readers had experienced roadside scams. Last month I was rear-ended, and my car was damaged in the rear and front.
The firemen who came to the accident scene told me they thought my car was drivable for a short distance. So I drove to the supermarket (in College Park) the day before my car was to go into the body shop.
As I was leaving the parking lot, two men in an approaching car waved their arms at me. I stopped and one of them said, "Ma'am, I fix your car in one day!" as he offered me a flyer.
I burst out laughing because my insurance company had said it would take at least three weeks for the work to be done, and the body shop I had chosen had said it would take at least four weeks.
I told the man that, and he was undeterred. He continued to repeat to me, "Ma'am, I fix your car in one day!"
I hope those fellows don't find any takers for their offer.
Prince George's County
You were wise to be wary of strangers offering to "fix" your vehicle in a parking lot.
This Is an Emergency
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
The traffic signal light at the intersection of Canal Road and Foxhall Road is turned in the wrong direction.
That causes confusion in case one is not paying attention to its mate on the other side of Canal Road.
Could you please ask the signal shop, or whoever takes care of the traffic signals in the District, to turn the direction of the signal so that it faces the traffic it is serving?
Rashid A. Makhdoom
According to the District Department of Transportation, that is an emergency. Reports should be filed by calling the general complaint number, 202-727-1000. Operators are trained to immediately forward such complaints to the appropriate field crews, according to Bill Rice, spokesman for DDOT.
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.