Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Can you find out what is going on with Old Georgetown Road between Democracy Boulevard and Cedar Lane?

Contractors have been cutting out sections of a lane, putting fresh asphalt down and then moving on to the next section.

It appears they are working in both directions of the road at different times.

The new surface is not smooth, and this has been going on for over a month now. I know that some storm drain areas and sidewalks were redone earlier this spring, but this work has me baffled.

Diane Condrick


The state highway department is resurfacing three miles of Old Georgetown Road in several projects, according to highway administration spokesman Chuck Gischlar. These projects include new or rehabilitated sidewalks and new curbs and gutters.

You are seeing rough pavement because the final overlay has not been applied. The work is scheduled to be completed this fall.

Signs Too Temporary

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am wondering whether it is legal to post parking restriction signs where people have already legitimately parked and then ticket the cars for violating the restriction.

The location was outside DAR Constitution Hall in Northwest Washington. Montgomery County holds about 18 public-school graduation ceremonies there over two weeks in the late spring, with two or three ceremonies on most days. One day, I arrived at noon for a 2:30 p.m. ceremony, the second ceremony of the day.

I drove all around, from 17th Street NW to Virginia Avenue and from C Street to E Street, looking for a parking space, but all were filled because of the earlier graduation ceremony.

When that ceremony ended, many spaces opened up, including a couple of spaces where there were no parking meters or restriction signs. Drivers arriving for the second ceremony took those spaces.

However, at some point after we went into the hall, District employees taped "No Parking" signs on the street poles and on the parking meters. Apparently, the parking enforcement squad then came through, ticketing those who were parked there.

That seemed low, even for the District's traffic enforcement department.

David Eckstein


I am sorry that happened to you. I got a bit of a runaround from various District agencies about it. Seems that several agencies can post these temporary signs, including the police department, the fire department and the Department of Transportation. Further, officers from dozens of agencies can write traffic tickets.

Normally, the Department of Transportation is supposed to allow 72 hours' notice before those signs become effective. But this is a situation that is out of control.

The DDOT is trying to implement a system in which every sign displays a phone number and date of posting, so there can be some accountability. I remember a time when people could buy such signs at a hardware store and put them up on their own streets to provide more parking.

Meantime, it seems to me that the issuing agency should have to provide some evidence that its sign was legally posted -- that is, with 72 hours' notice or for a genuine emergency.

Behind the Times

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metro extended the Blue Line to Largo in December. However, the brown pylons on the station platforms and the large signs over the escalators still list Addison Road as the final destination.

People who are unfamiliar with the system are constantly asking other riders whether the Largo train is the same as the Addison Road train.

When is Metro going to update the signs?

Eric Jackson

Silver Spring

Says Lisa Farbstein, spokeswoman for Metro: "We have not updated the signs. It's very expensive, but it's something we will do, definitely."

Tollbooth Bust

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Recently I was driving south on Interstate 95 and about to enter the Fort McHenry Tunnel. The far-right tollbooth's green light was on, but I found the booth door closed and no attendant present.

I wasn't going to back up, so I went through and heard the buzzer. What should I have done?

Bob Koenig


You did the right thing. Officials don't want drivers backing up in traffic, because other motorists wouldn't be expecting it.

The buzzer indicated you had not paid the $2 toll. A photograph of your license plate was taken, and you will receive a bill for the toll. It is important to pay that promptly, according to Bryon Johnston, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Johnston said it is unusual to find a booth unstaffed except in a dedicated E-ZPass lane. He wonders whether you got into an E-ZPass lane.

Helping Hands

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As some of us grow older, our hands and brains are less quick. My husband and I used to do as much car care as we could ourselves. But with his brain foggy from chemotherapy and my hands weak from arthritis, I hope to use your column to thank the following:

(1) The Advance Auto Parts service employee in Rockville who on June 12 found a replacement part and attached my new windshield wiper.

(2) The Rockville Pike/Rollins Avenue Shell service station workman who on June 13 unscrewed a dead turn signal bulb and put in the new one I had bought elsewhere.

Linda Silversmith


I suspect there is a lot more help out there than we hear about.

Create a Crosswalk

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am very glad you are publicizing the dangerous conditions for pedestrians crossing between the Mall at Prince George's and the Prince George's Plaza Metro station.

I live nearby and often drive or walk along East West Highway, and almost every day I see a potential accident.

I think the solution is simple: Make the area under the pedestrian bridge a ground-level pedestrian crosswalk.

Traffic signal lights could be hung below the bridge, and the lights could be timed so drivers would not have to sit through an additional traffic stop.

The pedestrians crossing between the Metro and the mall have spoken with their feet. They want a ground-level passage. Why not give them what they want?

I am amazed that letter writer John M.B. Essex [Dr. Gridlock, June 16] was mostly concerned with the danger to "those driving down East West Highway."

When pedestrians and cars collide, the pedestrian inevitably gets the worst of it. Do we need to wait for a fatality before something will be done?

As Hyattsville becomes more urbanized, the rights and needs of the walking public need to be respected.

Martin Burke


First, it should be noted that during a recent state survey of 1,600 pedestrians crossing East West Highway at that point during rush hour, 90 percent went across a median, and 10 percent used the overpass.

Dave Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said there are pedestrian signal lights a few hundred feet from the overpass, at Belcrest Road to the east and the main entrance to Prince George's Plaza to the west.

Plus, there is the overpass at mid-block, with signs around it warning of the danger of crossing the road there and urging use of the pedestrian overpass, Buck said.

"We try not to put mid-block signals on any road, especially one that would be right under something that is working fine," such as the overpass, Buck said.

You have a point, Mr. Burke, but so does Dave Buck. Pedestrians wanting to cross East West Highway have safe options and should reconsider the dangerous mid-block crossing.

Ease Customers' Way

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Yes, the pedestrians crossing East West Highway to get from the Prince George's Plaza Metro to the Mall at Prince George's create a hazard for themselves and drivers. But the enclosed overpass feels unsafe and forces people with baby carriages and packages to climb up and down many steps. It's no wonder that 90 percent of the 1,600 people crossing in a single rush hour chose to remain at the street level.

Major development is planned for this area, and Prince George's County is pushing for more shopping. Why not welcome and respect customers who travel by Metro? Instead of complicating their trip to the mall, perhaps developers and business owners could work with Metro and government authorities to extend the station underground, with an exit/entrance on the mall side of the highway.

Sheila Bernard


SHA spokesman Dave Buck says that if strollers and packages are a burden, pedestrians should go to one of the signal-equipped intersections on either side of the pedestrian overpass.

I don't see Metro's creating an expanded entrance when several pedestrian crossings are nearby.

Trains Too Short

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I use the Blue Line to get to and from work and am astounded that at the height of rush hour, either 8 to 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m., Metro runs four-car trains.

Besides overloaded trains, this causes waiting passengers who spread out on the platform to run after the train and tackle other passengers who are positioned in front of the train doors.

What criteria does Metro use to determine how many cars run on a particular line? Also, who in their right mind would run four-car trains during rush hour?

Kristin St. John


"We don't have any more cars," said Lisa Farbstein, Metro spokeswoman. "Right now, the Blue Line is the least crowded, so four- and six-car trains are all they need right now.

"More cars are due to arrive later this year, and on into 2006, and we will decide where they go.

"Our first priority is to make all four-car trains into six-car trains, and some of those into eight-car trains."

So, by that standard, you should see those four-car trains turned into six-car ones by the end of the year. Good news, I think.

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.