Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Many of us oppose your and others' view against using freelance police officers to control Sunday morning church traffic on Route 28 [Dr. Gridlock, June 2].

Let's look at the issue from a more positive perspective.

Given the hundreds of vehicles attempting to enter Route 28 after two Sunday morning services, I praise the Manassas Assembly of God church for having the foresight to spend the funds to hire the professional services of deputies from the local sheriff's office.

The directing of traffic on Sunday mornings has allowed traffic in the area to run relatively smoothly. Without the officers directing traffic, the delays for cars entering Route 28 would be hours instead of 15 minutes, and the accidents would be numerous.

I can only imagine the severe gridlock that would exist without this service.

Since the church's services end at approximately 10:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. on Sundays, perhaps those unhappy with the delays can schedule their trips to avoid the area at those times.

Bruce Wood

Manassas

Please read on.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been reading the various discussions in your column concerning the "rent-a-cops" directing church traffic on Sunday mornings on Route 28. A few thoughts crossed my mind about this.

Yes, it is a nuisance to have to wait on Sundays -- as much of a nuisance as the gridlock I experience when I try to get to church Wednesday nights on the same road. Traffic is slowed by the explosion of subdivisions and by the road's narrowing a couple of lights before the church.

Perhaps the real issue is not the freelance police officers, but rather why the state and county have not done more sooner to eliminate or reduce this daily congestion.

Just a mile or two from my church, another new development promises to only burden the road and us even more. What is being done to support this increase in traffic?

It's inevitable that traffic is only going to get worse. The church is doing what it can to ensure that people safely get to and from it, and the police help.

If not for the police, I am confident that there would be accidents. It is very difficult to get onto Route 28 at times because through traffic is not willing to let in church traffic. That is not a gripe, merely a fact.

Traffic congestion complaints and concerns should not be directed at the church or the police, but rather at the county and state.

Tom Hains

Manassas

Prince William County is approving development faster than the state can serve it with transportation improvements. I agree that the focus ought to be on your county Board of Supervisors and their pace of development.

Expanding Vienna Station

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Do you know whether Metro has any plans to add a second entrance to the Vienna station, similar to the recently completed King Street station improvement?

The Vienna station can barely handle its existing customers safely. It would not be possible to run full eight-car trains safely without the second entrance.

It appears that the station's design allows for a second mezzanine on the west side of the platform.

Tony Dziepak

Vienna

A second entrance is being considered for the expansion of the Orange Line to eight-car trains. That expansion has no timetable. Additional cars are coming on line this fall and well into next year. The Metro board has not decided where to use them. The first priority will be those lines with four-car trains, such as the Blue Line.

When all 184 cars are added to the line, all of the four-car trains will become six-car trains, and about one-third of the fleet will be eight-car trains.

Teens and Motorcycles

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

From reading your column over the years, I am aware that you are a strong advocate of thorough driver training for teenage drivers. My teenage daughter will be turning 16 in March, and she is already taking classroom instruction at her school. She has her learner's permit and has proven to be a sensible and cautious driver.

She drives defensively, follows the rules of the road and treats other drivers courteously. If only all drivers were like that!

Now for the problem. Her father, my ex-husband, wants to get her a motorcycle for her birthday. I objected very strongly, but I realize that other than forbidding her to ride it in my presence, my hands are tied.

It has been suggested that I am overreacting to this matter, but I truly am not trying to rain on her parade. The thought of this terrifies me, but my main concern is not her driving ability. It's the driving ability, or lack thereof, of everyone else on the road.

I am honestly concerned for her safety. Her father has a motorcycle and occasionally takes both our children riding, but he has been driving for 35 years.

Am I overreacting? Are there any statistics that support my belief that common sense says this is a bad idea? Are there any parents out there who have been through this? And lastly, if she gets the motorcycle, are there any specific motorcycle training programs?

I would really appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Nancy Jennings

Fairfax

I'm with you, Mom. A 16-year-old operating a motorcycle scares me to death, and I wonder, if you have custody, why you couldn't prevent it until she turns 18? Don't you have to give your permission for her to get a driver's license?

Here's more from Norman Grimm Jr., a safety expert for the American Automobile Association:

"You have an inexperienced driver who needs to learn, and any parent should want to surround that child with as much protection as possible, and here they are on two wheels, with no protection other than a helmet," Grimm said. He said he wouldn't allow it, either.

Motorcycle training courses are offered at Northern Virginia Community College campuses in Loudoun County, 703-450-2551, and Alexandria, 703-845-6110.

Good luck, Mom. Keep me posted.

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

Arlington

"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.

No Longer a Priority?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am writing to see if you know why the priority/handicap seating signs have been removed from the ends of the cars on the Metro trains. There is still priority seating at the centers of the cars that is impossible to get to when one boards at the end of a car and the cars are full.

It might be possible to get to the center priority seats through the center doors, but that would require the train cars to always come to a stop at the same location, which I don't think I will see in my lifetime.

Is the sign removal a policy change?

Richard Puckett

Vienna

Metro has replaced the old signs with new ones with this approximate wording: "According to federal law, these seats reserved for persons with disabilities," according to Farbstein. That should give the restrictions more bite than the old advisory signs.

Farbstein said she is not aware of any signs that have been removed and not replaced. If you find any, send me the car number, line, date, time and direction.

Blue Lights Are Legit

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It was with interest that I read your readers' accounts of law enforcement personnel using or misusing HOV lanes. As your reply clearly stated, those individuals are permitted to use the lanes by virtue of their employment, whether on or off duty. With that understood, I saw perhaps the most flagrant and puzzling example of the phenomenon this morning.

A driver of a black pickup truck, obviously inpatient with the flow of traffic merging onto Interstate 66, charged from his travel lane across two merge lanes. Within a few yards, the inevitable happened and he ran out of road. He then lit up a flashing blue strobe light mounted on his dashboard and merged -- or rather, bullied -- his way back into the lane he'd previously vacated. Later, when I was parallel to the truck, I noticed the driver was a young man wearing a ball cap and T-shirt.

Perhaps unmarked pickups are common among law enforcement fleets. And law enforcement agencies have taken casual-attire days to a whole new level. But something seems a little fishy here.

As drivers, are we to assume a flasher on the dash -- regardless of vehicle type -- equals law enforcement? Or are some bozos out there just sporting blue strobes to make better time?

Jim Magruder

Fairfax Station

You should assume that any vehicle with a blue light on a dashboard, visor, roof bar or rear deck, or within the front headlights, is a law enforcement vehicle.

Only law enforcement is allowed to use blue lights, according to Officer Beth Funston of the Fairfax County Police Department.

It is possible that this officer was on an emergency call. If you wonder about the propriety of his driving, though, you can file an inquiry with the Fairfax County chief of police, Col. David M. Rohrer, at 4100 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax, Va. 22030.

You should get a response, Funston said.

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.

I wasn't going to back up, so I went through and heard the buzzer.

What should I have done?

Bob Koenig

Bethesda

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 lane for E-ZPass. He wonders if you got into an E-ZPass lane.

Railroad Crossing Rx

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A few years back, I remember reading in one of your columns an address where one could report railroad crossings in need of repair.

What is that address?

The railroad crossing on Route 6 in the town of La Plata is absolutely atrocious and in need of immediate attention, with many pieces of metal lying about and holes to suck up tires.

Whom can we complain to?

Andy Andrews

La Plata

CSX Corp. headquarters is in Jacksonville, Fla. Call 800-325-8182 with complaints. Please clip this out and put in the pocket of your vehicle. You may need it again.

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 drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.