Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Are there any proposals to widen Maryland Route 50 inside the Beltway?

When headed west, the highway goes from three lanes to two inside the Beltway, then, when you get up to the D.C. line, it goes back to three lanes again.

Traffic always slows at this bottleneck, and then opens up once in the District.

It seems the District has it together on this, but Maryland is lagging behind making this improvement.

Matt Allan

Annapolis

Seems to me that widening this chokepoint should be a top priority. However, Prince George's County officials apparently do not agree. They listed this improvement as only 11th among the county priorities sent to the Maryland State Highway Administration in September 2003. There is no money set aside even for planning.

Some higher-ranked county projects have received funding this year, so the Route 50 bottleneck might move up higher on the next list.

Some of those higher-priority projects that have been funded include:

* Improved access between the Capital Beltway and Branch Avenue, the Branch Avenue Metro station and Auth Road. Construction is to start in fall 2005 and be completed in fall 2007.

* A new interchange at Route 4 and the Suitland Parkway, eliminating traffic lights. Scheduled to start in 2008 and be completed in 2011.

* An upgraded Arena Drive interchange at the Beltway to allow all traffic to use it at all times. It is currently open to traffic only for Washington Redskins games. The project is scheduled to start in 2006 and be completed in 2008.

If you would like to lobby Prince George's officials for your pet project, contact County Executive Jack B. Johnson by fax at 301-952-3784; by phone at 301-952-4131; by e-mail at countyexecutive@co.pg.md.us; or by mail at the County Administration Building, 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Dr., Upper Marlboro, Md. 20772.

N.Va. Suffers for 'No' Vote

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The voters of Northern Virginia had a say on transportation a couple of years ago. They voted NO!

Bill Williamson

Kingstowne

Yes, they did. The proposal was for a half-cent increase in the sales tax to raise billions for Northern Virginia transportation projects.

So guess what happened? The General Assembly this year voted in the half-cent increase in the sales tax anyway, with NONE of it marked for transportation.

And some legislators, aware of the voters' rejection, figured that Northern Virginians don't want transportation improvements (they should read my mail), so they didn't send the area any transportation funds this year.

There continue to be political creatures roaming the area, crusading against raising funds for roads and Metro. Beware of them.

A Chance to Tell Metro

All right, those of you who have complaints about Metro, here's a chance to speak up and be heard.

Metro will hold a town hall meeting Nov. 16 at Metro headquarters, 600 Fifth St. NW. "We are looking to dialogue with our customers on a range of issues that are important to them," said Robert J. Smith, chairman of the Metro board.

"While customers can contact us through e-mail and phone calls, they have little or no opportunity to speak directly to the board on issues of vital importance to them. This town hall meeting provides a wonderful opportunity for our customers to let us know their concerns on the topics and issues that they want to bring to our attention," he said.

The meeting will provide information on rail expansion projects, customer service and plans to begin running eight-car trains. Information also will be distributed during an open house, from 6 to 7 p.m. The town meeting is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m.

This seems like a rare chance to speak to the top people at Metro. I'll be looking for feedback.

Online Chat

Dr. Gridlock will be conducting an online chat tomorrow from 1 to 2 p.m. Log on to www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline with your questions and comments.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails to drgridlock@washpost.com or faxes to 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.