My column of Oct. 16 contained a complaint from Linda Rabben about rowdy teenage behavior on Metrorail. Ms. Rabben suggested that teachers instruct students how to behave on public transportation. She made no mention of the role of parents in teaching manners.

That touched off some passionate letters from teachers, who say that they have enough to do and that this should be a parental responsibility. Please read on.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The letter regarding 15 screaming middle schoolers causing problems on the Metro Red Line was sad in its conclusion [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16]. The writer thought that the "school staff should teach children how to behave on public transportation."

That incident occurred during rush hour, which leads me to think that it was not connected with a school-sponsored event.

Why is this something the school staff should teach? Doesn't anyone remember what parents are supposed to be for anymore?

Teaching manners, including behavior, starts at home. Parents, instead of taking responsibility for their children, are stepping back and letting the schools, states, churches and peers raise them.

Mary Shifflette

Prince Frederick

Some parenting is woefully inadequate. Seems to me teachers could take a moment to talk about how to behave on public transportation.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In reply to your column titled "Facing Metro's Precocious Terrors" [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16], why would a teacher be with "15 screaming middle schoolers" during evening rush hour?

When did it become the job/duty/responsibility of teachers to ride public transportation with students at the end of the school day?

This apparently was not a school-sponsored field trip. It was evening rush hour! These children were on their way home, and the school day was over. Teachers were off duty. Their responsibility to teach had ended for the day.

Teachers have enough to do in the seven hours they have students at school each day. Why would the burden of teaching children to act appropriately on public transportation after hours be placed on teachers, or any school staff members?

Would this not be the job of parents/guardians? Metro police? Community leaders?

I am even more appalled by the Metro proposal to offer free passes to school staffers to baby-sit for children on public transportation before and after school.

Why not offer the free passes to the people responsible for these children: the parents? Let the parents get a firsthand view of how their children behave in public.

I am furious at the belief/assumption by some that teachers should carry this responsibility. How preposterous!

Benay Hawkins

Upper Marlboro

Of course the parents have the primary responsibility for teaching their children how to behave on public transportation. However, there are lots of home situations where parental supervision is inadequate.

It seems to me that teachers, although already carrying a heavy load, might take a moment to comment on the subject.

Update on Arundel Projects

Here is an update on two of the largest state highway projects in Anne Arundel County:

(1) A new interchange at the junction of Routes 2 and 50 will provide easier access for vehicles traveling to and from the two roadways in the fast-growing Parole area.

The $13 million project also provides improved connections at the confluence of nearby Routes 2 and 450 and Jennifer Road.

Construction started in spring of 2003 and should be finished by the end of this year. The project is running a few months behind schedule because of inclement weather.

(2) New bridges on Rowe Boulevard over College Creek and Weems Creek, leading to the statehouse, are on schedule. This project involves the replacement of the crumbling College Creek Bridge and redecking of the Weems Creek Bridge. Both are about 50 years old.

The state has sought extensive community involvement and pursued an extraordinarily long (two years) design phase to be sure the bridges are aesthetically appropriate for the major entrance to the state capital. "The bridges will look fabulous," says Dave Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

You can view artwork of the finished bridges by logging on to and typing "Rowe Boulevard" in the search bar.

The new bridge work will include bike lanes in both directions, connecting to existing bike paths. It is good to see consideration of bike lanes in road projects. With rising gasoline prices, more and more motorists are looking for alternative transportation modes.

This $30 million project began in April of 2004 and should be completed by the end of next summer.

The Blue-Bubble Exemption

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Two days ago, I was motoring at 9 a.m. on eastbound Interstate 66. HOV-2 regulations were still in effect. From Manassas to Nutley Street, I was in front of a four-door Ford with a male driver inside, one or two extra aerials on the car and a blue, bubble-shaped light on the dashboard.

Was this a policeman in a unmarked car? I would wager that it was. He was in the HOV lane, all by himself, all the way to Nutley. If he is a police officer, is he exempt?

Jed Duvall

Amissville, Rappahannock


The use of blue lights is supposed to be restricted to law enforcement. Fire equipment and ambulances use red emergency lights. Because unmarked police vehicles come in all forms (Prince William has used sports cars), I'd assume that was a police vehicle. And if so, yes, law enforcement is exempt from Virginia HOV restrictions, whether on or off duty.

If any of you are aware of a vendor who sells blue lights to the public, I'd like to know about it.

Unfinished Sound Walls

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What is the status of sound walls being erected along Route 29 in the Ellicott City area? After considerable activity, progress seems to have come to a standstill, and the project is only partially completed.

I suspect some sort of contract dispute or financial difficulties on the part of the contractor. There are at least two expensive cranes that have been idle for over two weeks.

Robert Hurwitz

Ellicott City

No contract problems; construction has been slowed by the abnormally heavy October rains, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.

There are two sound wall projects along Route 29 in the Ellicott City area:

* Along southbound Route 29, between Frederick Road and south of Route 103, the state is constructing sound barriers for about a mile and a half to help protect the High View and St. John's Manor subdivisions. That project should be completed by the end of the year, weather permitting, with final landscaping done next spring.

* Along northbound Route 29, between Route 175 and Diamondback Drive, the state is putting up sound walls on a smaller scale, for less than half a mile. That project should be done by the end of November, weather permitting.

The cost of the first project is $6.5 million, and the second is $1.4 million. The state pays for 80 percent of these noise projects, with Howard County contributing 20 percent.

For more information about sound walls and how to get them in your community, log on to and click on "Improving Our Community," then click on "Sound Barriers."

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in The Extra and Sunday 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.