Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You had directions on how to avoid driving through the New York City area. I cut them out of the paper but lost them.

We will be towing a 36-foot trailer and want to avoid that area. Thanks.

Russ Willett


Here are suggested routes around New York for various destinations:

Get to the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695) north and get off at Interstate 83 north. Follow that interstate into Pennsylvania, connecting to Interstate 81 north near Harrisburg. At Scranton, Pa., take Interstate 84 east across New York State and Connecticut. I-84 connects with Interstate 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) at Sturbridge, Mass. Head east to Boston.

For Vermont and New Hampshire, try Interstate 91 north from Interstate 84 in Hartford. Readers advise avoiding Hartford during rush hours. This route may be longer, but is cheaper and more scenic, and avoids New York City. Let me know how it works.

Completing I-95?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been asking one question for many years: When will Interstate 95 be completed?

As you know, traffic from I-95 in Maryland gets off onto the Capital Beltway, circles halfway around and then exits back onto I-95 heading south to Richmond.

When will our transportation planners complete the I-95 project?

Walter W. Woo

Upper Marlboro

I-95 was to have run right through the District, bypassing our Beltway, but city officials didn't want it. The federal money was transferred to the Metro system.

HOV on Camera

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Bob Stelmaszek wrote about the "sheer lunacy" of some frustrated commuters and suggested it is caused by drivers who drive too slowly and camp in the left lane [Dr. Gridlock, May 19].

I, too, am a solo commuter from the Annapolis area. With the standard speed on Route 50 now at 80 mph, I wonder how much faster Stelmaszek would like to go?

Also, with all three regular lanes fully loaded with cars moving between 70 mph and 80 mph, it isn't likely that people are going to move out of the left lane into the center or right lane. There is no room for them there. Roads such as Route 50 are local streets that carry auto loads beyond their designed capacity. They are not interstate highways or German autobahns, and the idea that the left lane can be left empty except for speeding passers is totally unrealistic.

Stelmaszek is correct about the left HOV lane. It is probably the most underutilized lane in the entire Washington metropolitan area. A high percentage of those using it are solo drivers, but traffic does move better on Route 50 since that lane was opened. It would create major traffic jams if police were stopping and pulling over the scofflaws who choose to use it. Enforcement of the HOV law in that lane should be by either cameras or unmarked cars with cameras, so that illegal users do not have to be stopped.

Jim McLaughlin


School Bus Scofflaws

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What has happened to drivers in Maryland when it comes to the laws regarding school buses? On my way home today, I saw a bus stopped on Route 355. The left and right lanes of traffic had stopped, but three cars in the center lane just kept driving.

Later, when turning into my own neighborhood, I stopped for a school bus with its red lights flashing. A young female driver, talking away on her cell phone, came flying up behind me, slammed on her brakes to avoid rear-ending me and then had the nerve to beep her horn at me for not moving! Not only is it illegal to not stop for a school bus, but the ramifications of not stopping do not bear thinking about. Two seconds after the driver behind beeped at me, a small girl walked across the street in front of the bus. Would it be possible for the police to crack down on school bus runners to see if it helps to remind people of the law?

Ann Cornejo


When to Change Oil

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You recently published tips from readers about how to keep their cars running longer. One was to change the oil frequently. Several years ago, Consumer Reports published an article describing how the magazine had intended to rate motor oils. What the magazine discovered was that all oils that met certain standards appeared to perform equally.

Despite meticulous tests conducted on New York City taxicabs with specially rebuilt engines and carefully calibrated pistons, the testers could not document any wear after 10,000 miles. So they instead tested for the optimum frequency of vehicle oil changes. After running up another 10,000 miles or so, they simply gave up and advised motorists to change the oil per the manufacturer's recommendations.

From the Web site today:

"Myth: Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.

"Reality: Although oil companies and quick-lube shops like to promote this idea, it's usually not necessary. Go by the recommended oil change schedule in your vehicle's owner's manual. Most vehicles driven under normal conditions can go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Some models now come with a monitoring system that alerts the driver when the oil needs changing. Depending on driving conditions, these can extend change intervals to 10,000 or 15,000 miles."

Jay Anania

Chevy Chase

Of the dozens of readers who explained to me how they kept their vehicles running for hundreds of thousands of miles, the number one reason given was oil changes every 3,000 to 6,000 miles.

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 at or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.