Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In these times of higher fuel prices, I know of a surefire way to reduce fuel consumption by 10 percent to 20 percent or more for all drivers. And drivers need not modify their vehicles or the number of miles they drive.

My savings method is traffic light synchronization. There are too few instances of traffic lights being coordinated for the load of traffic being directed.

What would it take for local jurisdictions to implement this simple and cost-effective method to reduce fuel costs and ease ever-increasing gridlock? Isn't this the age of computers?

Tim Scott

Glenn Dale

This is a popular subject. When I ask officials about it, they uniformly say that lights are synchronized, or are about to become more coordinated.

Two of the obstructions to a free field of green lights are (a) saturation gridlock, where such timing is meaningless because of the creep-and-crawl, and (b) an equal demand on the signal from cross streets, such as at many intersections in the District, where it would not be practical to designate which street should have green light priority.

Traffic lights are usually synchronized to a certain speed. If that speed cannot be maintained because of congestion at the moment, the benefit of synchronization disappears.

One reader told me about a system in Amsterdam where overhead electronic signs tell motorists what speed to travel to make all the green lights. The Dutch may be on to something.

In Virginia, a federal grant allowed the Department of Transportation to put video cameras at major intersections along Route 7, between Tysons Corner and Leesburg, to observe and adjust lights according to traffic demands. I haven't heard that it has made much difference. That corridor is overwhelmed with vehicles.

We simply have too much traffic in the area, with more on the way.

Under the Overpass

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

After years of complaints, a fence finally was installed in the median of Route 410 (East West Highway) to block jaywalkers from crossing the busy road between the Mall at Prince George's and the Prince George's Plaza Metro station.

I applaud you and so many local drivers who complained about this major safety issue. It finally has been addressed.

The remaining problem is that some of the crossing pedestrians still refuse to use the overpass. They are now using a nearby traffic light, whose median is not large enough for them to stand on while waiting for light changes. The sad part is that, most of the time, they are parents with children.

All I can say is thank you again for bringing this dangerous situation to light. The rest is up to the pedestrians, and to the police to ticket the jaywalkers in the name of safety.

Beverlee Dawkins


This has been an interesting dilemma. A pedestrian overpass was built to connect the mall with the Metro station, but people don't like to climb stairs and are afraid of being accosted there at night. Authorities find it a maintenance problem for trash, ice and snow removal.

So people have been crossing busy Route 410 in droves, right under the overpass. Now the state has put up a fence in the median there.

The state recommends that pedestrians use the overpass or cross at one of the nearby traffic lights.

Overpasses have proved to have mixed results. Arlington County officials have found some of them to be more a headache than a convenience, and they are tearing some down in Rosslyn.

Pride in Prince George's

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to the letter from John Binford of Silver Spring [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 29] knocking Prince George's County, I feel that Binford was offensive to Prince George's residents.

I have lived in Prince George's County for 20 years and have worked in Montgomery County for the same length of time.

While I have worked in Montgomery County, my vehicle has been broken into while parked in one of the public parking garages, and I have been in an accident with a hit-and-run driver.

I live in one of the many beautiful areas of Prince George's, and I never could have gotten as nice a home for the price in Montgomery County.

I just want to say that no location is completely safe and to thank you for suggesting that your e-mail couple -- one works in Annapolis and one in Manassas -- consider living in Prince George's County.

Beverly Lanham


Such community pride is an important element in one's quality of life. It's good to hear. Thanks for writing.

Md. Is a 2-Plate State

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

There's another reason you might see front license plates "missing" from cars in Maryland, as distinguished from Maryland-registered cars, which must have both front and back plates [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 29].

The Washington-Baltimore area has a lot of active-duty military servicemen and women and their families stationed here and in neighboring Virginia. Under the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, active-duty service members may keep their cars registered in their home states.

So if you don't see a front tag on a car in Maryland, glance at the rear plate before you get all excited. It may simply be a member of the military (or a visitor) from one of those rear-tag-only states!

Bill Santiff


Twenty-one states do not issue front tags: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Might it not make sense for Maryland to eliminate the requirement for front license plates on vehicles? I see no benefit to having front plates in today's society. The advantages could include cost savings for the state and elimination of stolen front plates and associated problems. And your vehicle will look better, especially with today's body styles.

Would Maryland law need to be changed to eliminate front tags, or could Maryland state officials accomplish this?

James Williamson


Changing the two-plate requirement in Maryland Vehicle Law would require action by the General Assembly and governor. Bills have been introduced in the past that would require only a rear license plate, but they have failed amid opposition from law enforcement, which believes front and rear plates make for easier identification.

Law enforcement support is generally cited as the reason the majority of states still require front and rear plates, according to Jason King, spokesman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

Georgia and Randolph

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Do you know when Montgomery County will begin work on the Randolph Road/Georgia Avenue interchange (running Randolph under Georgia)?

Moira Ratchford

Silver Spring

That would be a state project. The state handles the major routes identified by numbers, such as Route 97 (Georgia Avenue).

I'm afraid I have bad news. There is no funding for construction of that project, according to Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

What you can do is lobby your Montgomery County Council and County Executive Douglas M. Duncan -- in person, by phone or by letter -- to place this project at the top of the county's annual wish list for state action.

That wish list helps the state prioritize projects within counties. Good luck!

D.C. Traffic Enforcement

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Having read recently about the ineffectiveness of the District's red light cameras, I am wondering how long it will take the city to realize it is speeding that is the problem.

It seems that the police have completely given up on controlling speed in this city. Traveling 20 mph or more over speed limits in the city appears to be common practice and is the real danger on our streets.

Is policing speeders just an impossible task?

Bill London


Apparently it is an impossible task, considering the extent of the city's traffic enforcement. Do you know how many officers the Metropolitan Police Department assigns to traffic patrol in the downtown commercial center? Zero. They could be methodically enforcing traffic laws, such as speeding and intersection blocking, but they are not.

The Department of Public Works handles the parking control aides who write most of the parking tickets but do not issue tickets for moving violations. The two dozen traffic control aides who are posted at downtown intersections also work for the Department of Public Works and also do not write tickets for moving violations.

District police do have a dozen or so fixed speed cameras and mobile cameras in cruisers to cite violators. Those cameras record license plate numbers, and police issue citations by mail. And, the city has about 50 cameras at various intersections to catch red light runners.

Is that effort enough? If you drive in the city, you know the answer.

Signing Up for E-ZPass

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

How, with a District-registered vehicle, can I sign up for E-ZPass to use at Interstate 95 toll gates en route to New Hampshire? I know there are a few exceptions where cash payment must be made. But automatic payment at the majority of tolls would be a big help.

Any information you can offer to point me in the right direction would be appreciated. I am leaving again on a trip in a few weeks.

Patricia J. Kelliher


Sign up with the Maryland Transportation Authority. You don't have to be a Maryland resident. Log on to or call 888-321-6824.

Maryland does not charge the $1-a-month administrative fee that some other states charge for E-ZPass.

E-ZPass, whose small electronic device mounted in your vehicle registers and deducts tolls from your prepaid deposit, has proved popular among motorists.

A Metro Tragedy

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was on a Metrorail train on the Yellow Line to Huntington on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 1. At 4:05 p.m., between the Braddock Road and King Street Metro stations, there was a thud and perhaps a metallic clang. The train stopped, and the power was turned off. We sat for 80 minutes. At the time, we were told that the train had hit someone.

We then were told a number of contradictory things about what was going to happen next: We would be offloaded to another train, we were going back to Braddock Road, etc. The train finally moved on to the King Street station, where it went out of service.

We were all told to leave the station, which was then closed briefly. There were plainclothes officers asking if we had seen anything.

I would like to know the full story of what happened. There has been nothing about this incident on the Metro Web site or in the newspaper. Did the train hit someone? Who? Did he survive?

David A. Vandenbroucke


This is a tragic story. Your train apparently did hit someone: a Metro employee who was trying to remove something from the tracks. Michael Waldron, 47, of Riverdale, was hospitalized for two weeks before succumbing to his injuries.

The Post reported the incident Oct. 2, and reporter Lyndsey Layton wrote a follow-up story in the Oct. 18 Metro section after the worker died. Metro reported the death on its Web site,

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursdays in the 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, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.