Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What happened to the plans to upgrade Route 5's intersections with Surratts, Brandywine and Accokeek roads to overpasses and underpasses? Are there still plans to go ahead with these upgrades?

Darrell Francis

Fort Washington

No small question, with 80,000 vehicles a day passing through those intersections, but the state has not funded interchanges at Surratts, Brandywine and Accokeek roads.

The state did install some turn lanes at Surratts a couple years ago. Currently, a developer is installing more turn lanes, and the state is trying to get the developer not to work during morning rush hours. His work is causing additional inbound traffic congestion, according to Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

One-Plate Mystery

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The number of Maryland registered vehicles carrying only a rear license plate is a widespread problem. I have probably seen a dozen Maryland vehicles each day with only one plate.

I have also seen several vehicles with expired tags, only one registration sticker or no stickers.

Tom Lansford

Laurel

The Maryland MVA says it is not aware of such problems. I wonder if readers could get more details, such as the license plate number, which plate is missing and where the vehicle was spotted. I can then ask the MVA to look into the matter.

Machine Guns on Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm responding to the question regarding armed police officers on Metro. When I saw that image in the news last week, I was shocked. We are almost living in a police state.

It's ridiculous to think that machine gun-toting officers are going to deter would-be bombers. After all, these bombers usually kill themselves, along with others unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity.

What makes Metro officials think a terrorist -- trained to welcome death as a quick trip to martyrdom and paradise -- would be afraid of dying by a machine gun? An officer couldn't even begin to grab his weapon before a terrorist could detonate a bomb.

I also think it's a ridiculous idea for a police officer with a machine gun to be on a standing-room-only Metro train. How effective and safe could that officer be in such a situation?

As a resident of neighboring Prince George's County, I can attest that the last thing this region needs is more guns on the street or on Metro trains.

Darnell Privott

Capitol Heights

A Police Pretender?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I know you're probably tired of hearing complaints about HOV offenders on westbound Route 50, but here's a new one.

This morning, my wife and I were in the HOV lane heading to work in the District. Traffic was flowing fairly smoothly, for a change, so there were few, if any, solo drivers in the HOV-2 lane.

We had just passed Freeway Airport in Mitchellville when I noticed a green Ford Taurus coming up behind us.

As it got closer, I noticed a woman driving solo and a weak red light flashing on the dashboard. This was definitely not a police car. The light looked like one available at Lowe's hardware store.

This woman did not pass us until the very end of HOV at the Capital Beltway. Farther down Route 50, where it narrows to two lanes, I passed her in traffic and noticed the light was no longer on the dash.

I reported the incident to the Maryland State Police as an impersonation of an officer. When an officer ran the tag, the number came back as unknown.

The officer explained that a federal agency probably owned the car and the driver was misusing her position -- i.e., using HOV -- for her own needs. This was just another case of me-first.

Barry P. Catelinet

Bowie

It could also have been a legitimate use of the HOV lanes by a law enforcement officer.

Do stores really sell portable red or blue lights that can be put on dashboards? As I understand it, blue lights -- not red -- are used in police work.

Parking Impasse

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

While driving one-way 18th Street NW between F and G streets during a recent morning rush hour, I noticed a car parked in the left lane, which is supposed to remain clear during rush hours. Blockage of these rush-hour lanes can cause severe backups. When I noticed a police officer looking at the car, I thought, "Good! That illegally parked vehicle will be removed."

The next morning, what did I see but the same car parked in the same place, apparently unmoved since the previous morning! The car was not identified as a government or official vehicle, but it was displaying handicap plates.

Now, if it were up to me, I wouldn't even give the president a pass on parking illegally during rush hour. Do you know why this vehicle was allowed to remain in its illegal spot?

Rick Johnson

Burke

No, but you can report such chronic problems to the mayor's command center at 202-727-1000. Keep track of your report. If nothing happens in a few weeks, please write back to me, with license plate numbers and vehicle location, and I'll contact the police.

Illegal parking is the single biggest cause of downtown gridlock, and police should be all over violators.

Coordinated Lights

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is there anything we can do to coordinate the traffic lights on Route 5 in Brandywine? In the morning they back up traffic from Waldorf for miles. There are two lights together, and they don't always change at the same time.

It would seem that Prince George's County could improve this situation or create an interchange there like the one in Clinton.

Whom could I contact about this?

Kimberly Grotenrath

Waldorf

You can call the Maryland State Highway Administration for Prince George's County, at 301-513-7300, and ask for Prince George's traffic operations.

Also, see the related letter from Mr. Francis in today's column.

We all marvel at the Route 5 interchanges built at Allentown and Woodyard roads, closer to the Capital Beltway. Pardon us for clamoring for the same treatment closer to the Charles County line.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursdays in Extra and Sundays in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.