The Maryland State Highway Administration is closing a quarter-mile segment of Muncaster Mill Road near Route 28 for 10 weeks beginning today, in order to complete construction needed to address flooding problems.

The work will be on a segment between Route 28 and Sweetbirch Drive. Muncaster Mill Road will be raised, and culverts will be added.

Hazard Ahead

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was driving yesterday on the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County when I noticed a stopped truck farther ahead in my right lane, with workers doing a litter pickup in front of the truck -- but there were no cones, no signs, etc.

Luckily, there was another car in front of me that was slowing and stopping, but I was sure that I was going to be hit from behind. Luckily again, I wasn't.

Is that legal? It was very scary.

Ellen Kasnett


I ran that by Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman Valerie Burnett Edgar. She said the normal practice would be for a state truck to pull off the shoulder or median and put out signs reading "Litter Pickup Ahead" on the shoulder. Litter collectors would be wearing safety vests.

What you describe, Ms. Kasnett, sounds like a hazard. To report any such incidents, call the MSHA at 800-323-6742.

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


Here's a way to avoid almost all of I-95 from Bethesda. 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 Tidewater area of Virginia and eastern North Carolina.

Stop for School Buses

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I agree with Ann Cornejo [Dr. Gridlock, June 2] that even the holiest-of-holy traffic rules -- stopping for a stopped school bus -- is in the dustbin, along with stopping at red lights, using turn signals and looking before you pull out into traffic.

I wrote to you a few weeks ago to relate an instance in which a driver in front of me blew by a school bus displaying flashing lights and the extended stop sign on Kensington Parkway in Chevy Chase.

I caught up to him at the next light and told him that he'd passed a stopped school bus. His answer -- in front of his young son -- was: "Lady, don't tell me what to do. I pay my taxes."

I guess I missed the footnote in the Maryland code where it says that people who pay their taxes can do whatever they darned well please.

Ellen Paul

Chevy Chase

You can just hope that person gets a fat ticket one day. If you had had a cell phone with you, you might have dialed #77 to report the incident.

Please read on.

Civility's Last Gasp

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I saw in your column today [Dr. Gridlock, June 2] that you've never seen vehicles blow by a stopped school bus.

I see it all the time in Montgomery County, especially where I live, in Rockville.

K.A. Gambrell


Maybe this is the desperate sign of a civilization choking on its own congestion.

Signs Set Straight

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 spokeswoman.

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 policymakers 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 require an environmental impact statement. Construction is years away.

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.

Two New Metro Garages

Here's some good news for Prince George's County Metrorail users. Metro is opening two new large parking garages, one on the Green Line at College Park on June 25, and one on the Orange Line at New Carrollton on Oct. 29.

The College Park garage will have six levels and 1,345 spaces. The parking structure is located over the original Kiss-and-Ride surface lot, according to Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman.

The New Carrollton garage will have eight levels and 1,850 spaces. It is located next to an existing garage.

"Additional parking at these stations in Prince George's County will make Metrorail more user-friendly and will allow even more individuals to take advantage of public transit," said Metro board member Charles Deegan.

That is correct. Single drivers are clamoring for more parking, particularly at facilities where parking is full by 9 a.m.

Keep building parking garages, Metro. Take vehicles off the road.

Photo Finish

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I enjoy your columns.

With a blurry photo as evidence, the City of Baltimore will soon give me a court date for a red light violation.

It is a fuzzy image, and it was not my car in the photo. How does one prove one's innocence?

Ward Anderson


You have to go to court, according to Officer Troy Harris of the Baltimore Police Department. Bring your current registration and especially your proof of automobile insurance, which should list all your vehicles, he said.

Good luck. Let me know how this turns out.

Off-Duty Traffic Cops

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I second Michael Ahern's complaint [Dr. Gridlock, June 2] about the Prince William County Sheriff's Office's handling of the church traffic exiting and entering Route 28 every Sunday.

The situation is grossly unfair to drivers traveling through the area, and the rent-a-cops in charge are totally uncaring of that fact.

At a minimum, the officers directing traffic should coordinate their actions with the traffic light intervals visible at the nearby Route 28 and Routes 619/215 intersections, but they don't.

I suggest your readers contact the large church involved. Let's see if the church leaders will require that the officers restore some fairness to the situation.

Richard Wallace


That would be nice. A better solution would be for the county police and sheriff's offices to forbid their officers to be used as rent-a-cops.

If a church is paying them, where do we think the officers' loyalties will lie when directing traffic on Sundays?

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.

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.