Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to your recent request for alternative routes for commuting from around the George Washington Parkway south of Old Town: Sadly, there are too few routes. As you pointed out, one is to take Fort Hunt Road to Route 1 and then get onto the Capital Beltway. That route is worthwhile only if you are on it before 7:30 a.m., though, as Interstate 295 becomes extremely crowded after that time.

The only other option that I have found is to take Route 1 north, turn right onto Slaters Lane and then left onto the parkway. That allows one to bypass Old Town.

Another tip: I have been returning home by taking I-295 to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to the Washington Street (177C) exit and have found that preferable to taking the 14th Street Bridge.

I understand that this exit will be closing soon for several years as part of the Wilson Bridge project. More fun for those of us who live south of the construction!

Tod Gimbel


Thanks for your tips. If we don't help each other, who will?

Here's the timetable for replacing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge:

Completion of two new Wilson bridges (six lanes each way), and new Maryland interchanges at I-295 and Route 210 -- in 2008.

New interchange at Route 1 in Virginia -- 2009.

New interchange at Telegraph Road in Virginia -- 2011.

Dr. Gridlock feels sorry for you folks who have to commute around this massive project.

Alternate Route Northeast

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In a recent column, you printed an alternate route to New England running north through Maryland and Pennsylvania, then east through New York state.

I used to drive that route regularly when I went to visit my parents in Vermont. As you stated, it is 70 to 80 miles longer than going up Interstate 95.

But it is cheaper because it avoids the tolls along the I-95/New Jersey Turnpike corridor. I recall a 50-cent bridge somewhere in New York state, but that was the only toll on the entire trip.

Donna Kepler


I don't recall saying the alternative route is 70 to 80 miles longer. It might be, but it would depend upon where you live.

The 50-cent bridge, I recall, is the Interstate 84 bridge at Newburgh, N.Y. , over the Hudson River.

Signs Set Straight

Back in February, Metro's electronic signs began showing when the next three trains would arrive at a station. In doing so, Metro stopped giving the length of or 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 destination and the number of minutes until a train is expected to arrive, according to Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokesperson.

When a train is about 30 seconds away, the letters ARR will appear under the arrival section, signaling that a train is arriving at the station. When a train is at the platform, the arrival time for the train shows BRD for boarding, Farbstein said.

The signs will still display the next three trains coming into the station.

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

HOT Lanes Web Site

The Virginia Department of Transportation has set up a Web site to post the latest information on the proposed construction of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on Interstates 395 and 95 between Washington and Fredericksburg.

The state is considering a partnership with the private sector to construct two extra lanes in each direction. Tolls would be collected via electronic transponders, much as with E-ZPass.

Beginning in mid-July, an advisory panel consisting of transportation experts and policy makers will review the detailed proposals. The meetings are open to the public. Meeting locations and times, and the proposals, are listed on From the home page, click on "What's New."

The public can comment by e-mailing

Widening of the I-95 corridor still would need an environmental impact study statement. Construction is years away.

Law Enforcement Exception

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm curious what can be done about off-duty law enforcement personnel in unmarked cars using the Dulles Access Road or the HOV lanes on the Dulles Toll Road, with impunity.

One of these cars enters the toll road westbound at Reston every morning, joins the Dulles Access Road briefly, then turns on his emergency lights while making a U-turn on the access road before commuting the length of the access road beyond the Capital Beltway.

This same car (and others) uses the HOV lane during the evening rush hour and exits in Reston.

Others commute to and from a residence in Loudoun County.

These are not unmarked cars on patrol or Dulles airport vehicles, and they have Virginia and District of Columbia tags. I have the tag numbers if you want them.

I also don't accept that they are on any sort of official business. Their point of origin or destination is not the airport.

Under what authority would law enforcement officials be allowed to use the access road to commute between their homes and places of employment?

Leveraging the badge to shorten one's commute is just plain corrupt.

Ray Banks


Law enforcement personnel, on duty or off duty, can legally use the Dulles Access Road and the HOV lanes.

You're obviously a man with great powers of observation. Why not use those powers to focus on your Board of Supervisors and the rate at which they are allowing development in Loudoun County, one of the fastest-growing counties in the country?

CF Sleuthing

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A black Chevrolet Tahoe SUV with CF (clean fuel) plates was seen last night in a parking lot near Potomac Mills.

There was no indication if the vehicle had been converted to use CNG (compressed natural gas).

If I had a non-hybrid vehicle that had been converted to CNG and could use CF plates, I think I'd advertise just that on my vehicle, so that folks would know it was a legitimate use of the CF plates.

Sheldon Daitch


Why do you believe the vehicle is powered by CNG? As you say, there is no indication that it is.

A vehicle could be powered by a number of low-emission and no-emission systems, and qualify for CF tags and use of the HOV lanes without restriction.

Virginia does not require a vehicle owner to display what type of power a vehicle has, according to Pam Goheen, a DMV spokeswoman.

More information about this subject is available at

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


I suspect we'll hear from others on this.

Art on Call

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 of the Dupont Circle call boxes 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.

Alternate Beach Route

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

With the beach season upon us, it would be nice to have an alternate route to avoid the Capital Beltway and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. You once gave directions using Interstate 395 through the District to Route 50 east. I would appreciate those directions again. Thank you.

Ardwin Barsanti


All right. Take Route 236 east to I-395 north. Stay on I-395 into the city. Stay in the left-most two lanes to avoid being diverted to the U.S. Capitol or the 11th Street Bridge.

Take a right turn at the Pennsylvania Avenue exit, then a right turn again at the traffic light and cross the John Philip Sousa Bridge, turning left at the east end of the bridge. The ramps carry you onto D.C. Route 295, heading north.

After a short way, take a right onto Route 50 toward Annapolis, and you are set for the eastward trek to the beaches. Good luck.

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.