Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Is there money in the bank yet for the Metrorail Silver Line in the Dulles corridor?
The 23-mile line from the Orange Line to Tysons, Reston, Herndon, Dulles International Airport and two stops in Loudoun County is to be funded 25 percent with state funds, 25 percent with local funds and 50 percent by the federal government.
The money isn't literally in the bank, but state and local governments have agreed to come up with their shares, at least for the first phase of the project, an 11-mile segment between West Falls Church and Tysons Corner.
The federal government has not agreed to pay construction funds. A decision on that is expected in fall 2006, after the feds have more details on the operation and its cost. If everything falls into place, the Silver Line could be running to Reston's Wiehle Avenue by 2011 and to its terminus at Loudoun County's Route 772 by 2015.
Matters have been complicated in recent months by new cost estimates for the first phase to Tysons Corner, which grew from $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion. Project managers say they do not yet have a plan to fund the estimated $300 million in additional costs.
Flashing Red for Rage
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I had a disturbing and potentially violent encounter with a fellow driver earlier this month. It left me with a few questions.
I approached a suburban intersection in Burke where the light was flashing yellow. It's my understanding that this means proceed with caution and does not mean stop and wait your turn.
As I went through the intersection, someone on my left began leaning on his horn. Turns out he had been waiting to enter the intersection and felt it was his turn. He followed me, leaning on his horn and making an obscene gesture.
When I stopped at the next light, he began screaming I was a "typical Northern Virginia driver." It was clear he felt I had gone out of turn through the intersection and thus deprived him of some inalienable right. He also invited me to get out of my vehicle and face him in what would have no doubt been a physically disastrous encounter for me, since he was about 15 years younger and much larger.
I yelled that the flashing yellow light had given me every right to proceed. I then got out of there.
My questions are:
Was I correct in believing that a flashing yellow meant that I didn't have to stop and that he must have had a flashing red light, which meant that he had to wait until there was no cross traffic?
If I'm wrong, I owe him an apology (from a safe distance). But either way, his behavior appalled and, frankly, frightened me.
I hope you publish this letter. People seriously need to calm down.
You don't have to stop for a flashing yellow light. The intersecting motorist has to stop for a flashing red light and remain there until it is safe to enter the intersection. But you should approach the intersection with caution, and look at the cross traffic to see what it is doing.
If there is a power outage, people routinely run through flashing red lights, according to many of my readers.
You were smart to stay in your car. What if you had faced off and he had a weapon?
Charging Rotund Riders Extra
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Obese people should be charged double to ride Metrorail. Are these people aware that the seats on Metro cars are only 22 inches wide, and when they are also using half the seat next to them, it is unfair to fellow riders?
Even when they stand, they block the aisles and doors.
Southwest Airlines (and perhaps others) will have large people sit in airline seats to see if they fit. If they don't, they are charged for two seats.
But Metro handles 650,000 trips a day. It is unlikely the transit agency could enforce an arbitrary size limit on passengers.
For those who object about a fellow passenger's size, smell or personal habits, remember: It's mass transit.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.