Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was told that someone recently wrote to you about the 1,500 surviving emergency call boxes that are scattered across the city. The writer suggested that they are unsightly and should be removed.

Perhaps you have already heard that community groups and city agencies are working to spiff up the boxes. Depending on neighborhood tastes and preferences, art and local history are being added to our sidewalks.

"Art on Call" is a project of the D.C. Heritage Tourism Coalition, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District and the Mayor's Office.

In the Dupont Circle area, there are 22 boxes that will be renovated with local artists' views of the circle fountain and information about local history. The unveiling is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Mount Pleasant has already completed work on its boxes, and community groups across the city are at work on the boxes in their neighborhoods.

The D.C. Heritage Tourism Coalition can be reached at 202-661-7581 or

Gerald Allan Schwinn


Thanks for the links and the update on the beautification efforts.

Signs Set Straight

Back in February, Metro's electronic signs began showing when the next three trains would arrive at a station. But Metro stopped giving the number of cars in an upcoming train, information that some customers had relied on to know where to stand on the platform to be near the doors.

After a survey, Metro reinstated posting the length of trains over the Memorial Day weekend.

The new displays indicate the color of each rail line, the number of cars operating in a train, the train's endpoint and the number of minutes until a train is expected to arrive, according to Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman.

A number of readers wrote to encourage Metro to reinstate the length of train information. You have been heard.

Good Care, and Luck

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I also drive a car with hundreds of thousands of miles on it (250,000, to be precise), and I can attest that an oil change every 3,000 to 6,000 miles has little or nothing to do with the fact that the vehicle is still running.

Consumer Reports was dead accurate when it said this recommended oil change frequency is purely a ploy by auto manufacturers to get consumers to cough up more cash in maintenance.

I change the oil approximately every 10,000 miles depending on wear, sometimes as infrequently as every 15,000 miles.

A lot of the reason any particular car lasts as long as it does is not only good care but a healthy dose of luck.

Kyle W. Thompson


Avoiding I-95 South

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I learned about the following route from a good friend before I recently drove to Burlington, Vt.: Take Interstate 95 north to Exit 11, the Garden State Parkway, and from there travel all the way up the New York State Thruway. That proved to be a low-stress and enjoyable route in early May.

Now, how can I reach the Outer Banks beaches in North Carolina this summer and avoid Interstate 95 south as much as possible?

Robin Dougherty


Take the Capital Beltway to Interstate 66 west in Virginia. Get off at the Route 29 exit in Gainesville and head south, around Warrenton, to the Route 17 intersection at Opal.

Head east on Route 17 to Fredericksburg, then join I-95 south for a few miles, then get off I-95 to rejoin Route 17 east to Route 301 south to Interstate 295, and head south to the exit for I-64 and Norfolk.

From there, I can't help you. It seems roads there funnel into fewer options, all leading to one bridge over Currituck Sound.

Perhaps some other readers can share a recommended route for negotiating the Virginia Tidewater area and eastern North Carolina.

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.