Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Can you provide any information regarding the proposed installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Routes 234 and 619 (Bristow Road) in Prince William County?

I drive this area almost daily, and it appears that it will be at least another year before the Route 234 widening project reaches this intersection.

In the meantime, this is a dangerous intersection with a horrific accident just waiting to occur. It is not uncommon for those turning left onto Route 234 off Bristow Road to have to wait 10 minutes or more. That is especially true during soccer season, with all the games being played at the soccer fields located at this intersection.

I suppose one could argue that 10 minutes is not unreasonable, and that patience is in order when at this intersection. And I agree to a point. But what I see instead is drivers taking grave risks by making hasty, unsafe turns at this intersection out of pure frustration because they see no break in the traffic that would allow them to make the turn safely.

I am hoping a traffic light can be installed there now rather than waiting until Route 234 is widened to this point. I think this is a matter of public safety.

I e-mailed Dennis C. Morrison, the Virginia Department of Transportation's Northern Virginia District administrator, on May 11 asking for information on my concern but have not heard back from him.

Mike Featherstone


Route 234 is being rerouted from Snowfall Drive to just south of the county's animal shelter, a distance of 11/2 miles. This is a new road. The current Route 234 segment will have a new name. Its intersection with Route 619 will not be getting a traffic light, according to Ryan Hall, VDOT spokesman.

Each end of the new road -- Snowfall Drive and just south of the animal shelter -- will have a traffic light, he said.

I wonder if the danger you cite, Mr. Featherstone, is rather a result of the Board of County Supervisors approving far more residential growth than the transportation system can handle.

A Curfew on Highways?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

While other readers have been busily observing cheaters in the HOV lanes, I have been observing the regular lanes instead. And what strikes me as very odd (and correctible?) is the many out-of-state 18-wheelers going through our area during peak commuter hours.

Each truck takes up the space of three or four automobiles and emits clouds of sickening fumes. And the irony is that these drivers are paid by the mile, which makes the decision to time their trips to coincide with and exacerbate commuters' suffering doubly stupid.

I wonder if a meeting of the minds between representatives of the trucking industry and traffic/highway authorities could not come up with some ideas that would benefit both the truck drivers and our local commuters.

If interstate truck traffic on interstate highways within 30 miles of the U.S. Capitol were restricted, say, to the hours between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., I think we'd see improvements immediately, without costly road improvements.

Just a thought.

Rita Mattia


As I understand it, the commercial life of our area requires access to businesses. To prohibit traffic for 12 hours a day sounds like too much of an impediment to the flow of commerce.

Trucks in HOV Lanes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

After reading Jim Zahrt's letter [Dr. Gridlock, May 12], I felt I had to add one comment. Yes, the HOV violators have taken over the HOV lane during the morning and evening commutes. During some evening commutes on Interstate 66, my husband and I are the only legal car out of 10.

But I see the use of the HOV lane by commercial trucks to be equal to the violator problem during the morning commute.

As development and congestion in Loudoun County continue, we have found that daily use of the HOV lane by dump trucks, moving vans, etc., can bring the HOV lane almost to a halt.

Most of these trucks are not even capable of going the speed limit. On a recent morning, a long line of traffic was stuck behind a dump truck going about 40 mph.

With the congestion in the other lanes, there is nowhere for the legitimate HOV traffic to go. HOV cars do everything they can to get around these trucks, which can be frustrating and extremely dangerous.

Can anything be done to ban this truck traffic from the HOV lane?

Diane Merna

Potomac Falls

Let's look at the definition of a truck and at trucks' use of the HOV lanes.

The Virginia Department of Transportation defines a truck as weighing over 7,001 pounds. The vehicle has the word "Truck" on its license plate.

Such vehicles are banned from the I-66 HOV lanes, inside or outside the Beltway, according to Ryan Hall, a VDOT spokesman. Signs are posted along the HOV lanes prohibiting their use by trucks.

However, trucks of any size are allowed on the HOV lanes on Interstates 95 and 395, so long as they have the required minimum number of passengers, Hall said.

If you are seeing dump trucks poking along at 40 mph in the HOV lane, that could be an enforcement problem. That's nothing new. Violators are the main cause of congestion in the HOV lanes. It has been a chronic problem for so long that state highway departments must think of a new way to build HOV facilities.

The Maryland State Highway Administration, for instance, is looking at express toll lanes along the Capital Beltway and Interstates 270 and 95 that would allow everyone to use them -- for a fee deducted by an electronic transponder, much like an E-ZPass. Maryland has concluded that law enforcement cannot efficiently control the number of HOV violators, so that state is looking at different kinds of lanes.

Virginia has a way to go. The commonwealth could start by insisting that federal funds for HOV facilities include a robust component for law enforcement.

Counting Children

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Much has been written about HOV violators and whether they or hybrid-car drivers are more to blame for clogging HOV lanes. What about people transporting children not of driving age? That kind of trip is not eliminating another vehicle from the commuting lanes, nor is it reducing emissions as hybrids do.

How does Dr. Gridlock feel about changing the HOV laws to require two or three driving-age adults in the vehicle in order to qualify for HOV status?

Rob Pixley


Not good. It's hard enough to enforce the existing laws. Cheaters are the major source of congestion in the HOV lanes. Trying to fine-tune the law by age strikes me as too much. Besides, the law draws no distinction. A person is a person.

With You, Not the Car

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A recent article in The Post about auto theft recommended not leaving one's vehicle registration card in the auto. I had understood that it was necessary to keep the registration with the auto to prove ownership. What do you advise?

Martha Mathis


Put it in your wallet or purse.

Be Aware of Bikes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Thanks for printing "Be Aware of Bikes" [Dr. Gridlock, May 22]. When I took the mandatory defensive driving class in high school, I learned that after parallel parking a vehicle, it is best for the driver to slide over to the passenger door to exit. Otherwise, be certain to check for passing traffic before opening the left door, as you are liable for anything that hits your door.

In elementary school bicycle safety class, I was taught to check every parked car I passed for occupants to ensure that a door would not open on me. For many years, that strategy worked. I was only "doored" once by a motorist, and his insurance readily paid for the damage.

These days, with headrests and tinted windows obstructing views, and with more motorists not checking for passing cyclists, it is no longer practicable to bike near vehicles.

I regret that I now must cycle out in the right lane and possibly annoy motorists.

Tim Bouquet


You're entitled to that lane. If that's where you feel safest, take it.

Avoid Harassment

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding your answer to Kirstin Nickerson from Silver Spring [Dr. Gridlock, May 26], about the commercial vehicle drivers who are harassing her: Switching her walking route to another street is not the solution; reporting the drivers to their employers is.

Most of these vehicles are labeled with the company's name and phone number. All she would need to do is take notes and call the companies when she gets home.

No one -- man, woman or dog -- should have to change their route to avoid rude truck drivers.

Monique Kline

Silver Spring

I get complaints all the time about bad driver behavior. People want the problem fixed. They want me to fix it. They want the police to fix it. They want God to fix it. But, of course, it doesn't get fixed.

So when I get a letter with a problem that the complainant can so easily fix herself -- by walking her dogs on a different, quieter route -- I jump at that solution. That's the advice I'd give my adult daughters.

A number of people, including one of my editors, criticized my view, saying, as you have, that the woman should notify the trucking companies and not be driven off her route. To which I say: The truck drivers know her route. They could retaliate.

Like pulling right to let a tailgater go by, better to walk away from a confrontation.

No Parking on Sidewalks

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been told that it is illegal to park across a sidewalk that crosses your driveway. However, in many Montgomery County neighborhoods, I have noticed vehicles blocking the sidewalk.

This practice seems dangerous, given that most pedestrians will walk into the street rather than into someone's yard to get around the car.

Also, it seems dangerous for people using wheelchairs, the elderly, and children to have to walk in the street to avoid someone who does not want to park on the street.

Why don't the police enforce the law and give those people tickets? And why do I have to shovel snow from my sidewalk within 24 hours when my neighbor can just block the sidewalk with his car all the time?

Elise Rumford

Takoma Park

Go to your nearest police station and report the locations of chronic abuse. Drivers have no right to block sidewalks.

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.