Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read recently about the problem of making Tysons Corner pedestrian-friendly.

I certainly have had problems walking in that area.

Wouldn't it be possible to build several short tunnels at intersections so cars could continue unimpeded through Route 7?

If that were done, the relevant cross streets could be turned into crosswalks where pedestrians would not have to contend with Route 7 traffic. There might have to be some left-turn and right-turn tunnels. That might be somewhat difficult but probably feasible.

Paul Rothstein

Falls Church

Maybe if Tysons Corner had been developed as a package, with roads, we could have a village square today that entices people to mingle between shops and homes day and night.

But what we've got is a transportation and design nightmare, a forlorn place where buildings don't touch and you have to drive everywhere, a place where businesses, including Tysons Corner Center, cannot be seen from the major roads that serve them.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has no money and no plans to make any improvements on bumper-to-bumper Route 7 in Fairfax County, spokesman Ryan Hall said. "The idea of a tunnel hasn't even come up," Hall said.

I suggest you try better-laid-out locations, such as Reston Town Center, Fairfax Corner or Shirlington. Through sound design, transportation access and attractive shops and restaurants, they make you want to be there.

Red-Light Transgression

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Recently I received one of those automated "notice of infraction" mailings with three color photos of the south end of my car headed through an intersection in front of Washington Hospital Center. It had all the details of my transgression and a form to complete.

Ouch! They got me.

But before I mail in my check, consider this, just for perspective.

In this town, where professionals account for time in hours and years, that 0.4-second, $75 infraction works out to an hourly rate of $675,000, or an annual rate (assuming a 2,000-hour year) of $1.35 billion.

We read about high-paid lawyers and lobbyists in this town, but we'd be hard-pressed to find one commanding those rates.

Where does this money go? Well, I got a slick notice. And it must have been approved by roomfuls of traffic enforcement representatives, lawyers, graphic arts professionals, computerized optical instrument geeks, equipment providers and consultants. So we can figure they got their cut.

Is Washington safer? Does traffic flow better? What about the octogenarian diabetic I was taking to her 10 a.m. appointment at Washington Hospital Center -- how is this going to help her?

It won't take too many more of these "gotchas" to discourage me permanently from volunteering this kind of help in the District.

Paul Slattery


Thanks for your unusual take on a red-light ticket. But the fact is, wherever cameras catch and ticket red-light runners, red-light running at those intersections declines dramatically. I'm all for them. Drivers should not run red lights.

Driving Through Alexandria

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The HOV-2 lane on Washington Street going through Alexandria is in effect from 4 to 6 p.m. With the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction, traffic is at a standstill.

When HOV hours end at 6 p.m., you have cars parking in the HOV lane, which makes traffic much worse.

Can they extend the HOV hours to 7 p.m. for the next couple of years? It might get a few more folks to carpool and eliminate the problem with parked cars.

William J. Brown


Extending the evening rush hours of the curb (HOV) lane would adversely affect the many restaurants along Washington Street, said Richard Baier, head of the Alexandria Department of Transportation.

Extending HOV hours would also discourage cross traffic and people trying to get out of Washington Street alleys and driveways, he said.

I know commuters are going through agony in that corridor, what with all the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction. But Alexandrians have a right to that road, too, and it shouldn't be turned over to commuters entirely.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Are you aware of the status of the traffic lights on Washington Street in Alexandria, and what is being done to remedy an unsatisfactory situation?

In the last few weeks, they have changed from being one of the most nicely synchronized lights anywhere to being a major impediment to traffic flow.

In the early morning, it used to be that I'd stop at a light on the south end of town and then, if I'd drive about the speed limit, I'd just roll through. Some days, no stops.

In the last two weeks, the best I've done is five stops. I had one morning with eight, and averaged six lights . . . and they're one-minute lights.

Is Alexandria trying to support the oil companies by making us drive an extra five minutes?

John Wright


Why do commuters from Fairfax County and those farther south think they should have pass-through priority on a street owned by the City of Alexandria? Where do these commuters get that entitlement?

And then they criticize Alexandria officials as incompetent for not giving them all the green lights they want.

I think Alexandria officials have shown restraint in allowing this commuting corridor to exist on downtown Washington Street, with an HOV-2 lane yet. I might be tempted to block it off altogether from these ungrateful, me-first commuters and turn it over to city residents.

Roadkill Contact

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Who is responsible for removing dead deer from the public roads? This spring a number of deer have been killed along Route 123, and they are just left to rot. Surely this is a health hazard.

One morning I called about one that was still alive but struggling, and it was dead and in the same place on my trip home.

As I write this, there is one deer carcass rotting on the southbound side of Route 123 between the Fairfax County Parkway and Lorton, and another on the exit from the Fairfax County Parkway to West Ox Road.

Renee Brown


The Virginia Department of Transportation is in charge of removing dead animals from the roadways. To report one, call 703-383-VDOT.

We should drive cautiously at night along roads flanked by forests. Deer can run into our path without warning.

A Lesson From Paris

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I recently had the good fortune to spend a week in Paris and used its Metro frequently. Its solution to seating near the doors seemed quite intelligent.

There were eight hinged seats near the doors that were used when the car was not crowded. Then, when a large group entered, the people on those hinged seats stood up, making room for the other passengers.

When it became less crowded, they sat back down. It worked well and provided flexibility within the cars.

Cathy D. Knepper


Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said Metro considered the Paris model but decided not to use it. Seems that it might have been useful here.

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-mail, 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.