Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In my neighborhood, I've recently noticed that many vehicles are parked at the curb facing the wrong direction.

Is this illegal? Can I do something about it?

Don Short


It is illegal in Prince George's County to park your car facing the wrong direction, according to Cpl. Kim Brown, a spokeswoman for the police.

The fine is $50. You can request a police officer to come to the scene by calling 301-336-8800, Brown said.

Lumps in the Road

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What's with the asphalt lumps every 45 feet or so across all lanes on the Capital Beltway outer loop between St. Barnabas Road and Route 5?

Like minor speed bumps, they are extremely uncomfortable, and you can't avoid them.

Michael R. Kelley

City of Fairfax

What you're seeing and feeling is patchwork on the Beltway. The Maryland State Highway Administration is going to resurface the inner and outer loops of the Beltway between Routes 210 and 5. First comes the patching, then the overlay.

Elsewhere on the Beltway, the highway department is doing the same work from the Prince George's-Montgomery county border to Route 193 (Greenbelt Road).

Each of those projects is about three miles long and scheduled to be finished next spring.

HOV Alternative

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I travel Route 50 in Maryland between Davidsonville Road and New York Avenue every day. There are HOV-2 lanes between Route 197 and the Capital Beltway, yet at least half the cars in the HOV lanes have only a single occupant in the vehicle.

What agency is responsible for HOV enforcement in Maryland?

Are there any plans to create HOV lanes on Route 50 inside the Beltway?

Andrew Wilson

West River

There are no plans to extend the HOV lanes, according to Chuck Gischlar of the Maryland State Highway Administration. The Maryland State Police are responsible for policing the Route 50 HOV lanes. They're having no more success than the Virginia State Police are with their HOV lanes. The violation rate is about 25 percent in both states.

That is unacceptable. The federal government and states are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build express lanes used by too many traffic violators.

The next wave of express lanes in Maryland, express toll lanes, will attempt to address the problem by walling off new interstate lanes, charging a toll through electronic transponders and using cameras to catch toll violators. Those lanes would be open to everyone, meaning no need to enforce HOV lanes.

The state is considering adding two of those lanes in each direction for all or part of the Beltway in Maryland, Interstate 270, and Interstate 95 between the Capital and Baltimore beltways.

It's too soon in the planning to have dates yet, but the express toll lanes seem like a reasonable way to address the problem of chronic HOV violations.

Interchanges, Please

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Route 210 (Indian Head Highway) runs from the Capital Beltway to Indian Head in Charles County, a distance of about 30 miles. Unfortunately, the route has about 13 traffic lights.

Both Routes 5 and 50 are speedways compared with Route 210. Why? Because their traffic lights were replaced with interchanges.

Are you aware of any plans to relieve the congestion on Route 210?

Mark Williams

Indian Head

Sadly, the state doesn't have plans for much in the way of road improvements on Route 210. The state is looking at addressing a couple of intersections in the future, but it's too far off for dates, according to Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

What you can do is press your county officials to support the installation of interchanges in the Route 210 corridor.

The state has done a wonderful job with replacing traffic lights with interchanges on Route 29 in Howard and Montgomery counties, and on Routes 4 and 5 in Prince George's County. I would think Route 210, with its many traffic lights, should be a high priority for interchanges.

Anti-Theft, to Boot

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Here's an idea to discourage car thefts that's no more odd than others I've seen. I wonder how much it would cost to buy a "boot" such as the ones the District government attaches to one of your vehicle's wheels if you're too much of a scofflaw.

Seems to me that it would be bulletproof and ought to discourage a car thief.

Mark LaBarre


That's a novel approach. What does it say about the number of cars stolen in our area that we now have to boot ourselves for protection?

I haven't heard of citizens booting themselves to keep their vehicles from being stolen. Anyone out there have any knowledge of that?

Accident Cleanup

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Who pays for cleanup of road accidents?

A recent accident on Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg closed the road for many hours and required extensive cleanup and pavement repair because a large amount of pesticide or herbicide spilled onto the road.

This accident was caused by a truck rear-ending two other trucks.

James Ireland

Great Falls

The cost will be the responsibility of the trucking company that caused the accident, according to Ryan Hall, a Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman. The accident occurred at about 1 a.m. on July 7 when a tractor-trailer truck rammed into another truck. The driver of the tractor-trailer was killed, and his load of corrosive chemicals was propelled through the cab and onto the pavement.

The accident closed southbound I-95 for 28 hours and the northbound lanes for nine hours. A VDOT contract crew worked overnight in the rain to repair the road surface, Hall said.

Once the cleanup contractor submits a bill to VDOT, the department will send it along to the insurer of the tractor-trailer, Hall said.

Drivers, Be Patient

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm responding to the letter from the driver who was annoyed at children dawdling while entering and exiting school buses [Dr. Gridlock, July 7]. That driver should chill out. Maybe the children in his area are getting on the bus slowly, but perhaps there is more than meets the eye.

My son looks like any other young child waiting for the bus, but looks can be deceiving. He is autistic and requires a few extra moments when getting on the bus.

My son is unavoidably delayed in boarding the bus by our efforts to improve his social skills and secure him in his seat. The bus is not legally allowed to move until he is strapped in.

Those two efforts take little time, but there have been several instances when drivers have honked at the bus and, on at least one occasion, the bus driver was reported to the Anne Arundel County transportation office for standing too long.

I ask all drivers to be patient. Please allow yourself a few extra minutes when you know you're going to encounter a bus along your route.

And in the end, treat each bus as if it is carrying your own most precious cargo, your children, and give the school bus drivers a break.

Lori Skalitzky


Amen. Here's another view.

Adjust Priorities

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I suppose that after decades of watching the increase in aggressive driving and biking in the Washington area, nothing should surprise me. Every rush hour is a circus of drivers who refuse to use turn signals or who make "interesting" maneuvers with a cell phone pressed to their ear.

However, James Evans's complaints [Dr. Gridlock, July 7] about students who "just take their sweet time" boarding a school bus, "not caring about the drivers they are delaying," was more than a little over the top.

You were absolutely right in your advice that Mr. Evans explore an alternate route to work. But I am disturbed that a commuter took offense at such a situation, where the law is clear and the safety of youngsters is at stake.

Please, folks! If the timing of your commute is so strict that a delay triggers an aggressive response where children are present, think about leaving home 10 minutes earlier, changing your working hours, telecommuting and, most of all, adjusting your priorities.

Lee Nesbit


Thank you for a solid response.

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.