Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Maryland has done it again with its usual "throw up a traffic light" solution to a problem. The new Capital Beltway intersection at Oxon Hill Road is a true nightmare. Traffic now backs up in all directions, and northbound Route 210 traffic must cut across two lanes of gridlocked traffic to access the Beltway northbound.

Thanks for a great column. After taking 40 minutes to make what used to be a 10-minute trip and seeing two drivers almost get into a fistfight at the new intersection, I felt it was time to finally contribute.

Paul Thomas

Oxon Hill

Thanks. I feel your pain. You are encountering changing traffic patterns to build new Capital Beltway interchanges at Interstate 295 and Route 210 as part of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.

The project already includes ramps constructed to link northbound Route 210 traffic to the Beltway's inner loop and outer loop, so I'm not sure why northbound Route 210 traffic has to cut across two lanes of deadlocked traffic. What is gridlocking your morning commute is the sheer volume of traffic on the Beltway, according to John Undeland, spokesman for the project.

The ramp onto the inner loop feeds into three Beltway lanes, one of which is for right-turn-only traffic. The bridge project will be finished in Maryland in 2008, at which time the Beltway will have been widened to five lanes in each direction. That should ease your connections at I-295 and Route 210.

Meantime, you can follow the lane changes and detours by logging on to

Alternative Route Sought

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I commute from White Plains in northern Charles County to the Branch Avenue Metro station every day.

I usually take Route 210 north to Palmer Road (which turns into Allentown Road) over to Branch Avenue.

One day, when traffic on Route 210 was horrendous, I turned right at Swan Creek Road in Fort Washington and was able to follow another driver through various back roads to Allentown Road.

I am unable for the life of me to find that route again. I am hoping that you or one of your readers will be familiar with that route and can help me out. I appreciate any advice for any route from southern Maryland to the Branch Avenue Metro -- excluding Route 301 north.

Daria Harrison-Riley

White Plains

Someone out there must know of a back way from Southern Maryland to the Branch Avenue Metro station. Care to share?

Parents Are Best Teachers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

We recently moved to Virginia and are interested in recommendations for a commercial driving school. How much should it cost for classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction?

Jeff and Joanna Carra


I suggest that parents take charge of basic driver training. Take trips during spring break and in the summer. Ride with your children until you feel they are ready to drive solo.

Put them in all sorts of basic and challenging driving situations: changing lanes, merging, interstate driving, nighttime travel, the Capital Beltway, stopping for an animal, snow, ice, rain, passing on a two-lane road, running off a road and getting back on, city driving, recognizing red traffic lights and parallel parking.

Simply reaching a 16th birthday is not a good reason to get a license. I suggest that completing 1,000 miles of local driving and 1,000 miles of interstate driving is a better barometer.

A Good Start

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

This is a fan letter to you and the Car Guys. Long before my daughter was old enough to drive, I decided she would take one of those daylong defensive driving classes you are always recommending. She took the Car Guys class on Labor Day weekend, and this morning it really paid off.

My daughter, who is still driving on her learner's permit, handled a very dangerous situation with skill and aplomb. Her dad and I are still scared, but she was fine.

She was driving south on Interstate 270 this morning from Gaithersburg to her bus stop at Tilden Middle School. Usually she stays in the right lane, but this morning we were running late, and my husband suggested she get in the carpool lane to save time. Just as she was moving into the lane, another car attempted to enter it. He was aimed right at us.

My daughter quickly steered the car to the left and partly onto the shoulder, then smoothly pulled it right back. This is a traffic challenge that new drivers often mess up. They oversteer and go off the road, or they panic as they go off the road and jerk the steering wheel too far in the other direction. My daughter handled it like a pro.

Thank you, Car Guys, and thank you, Dr. Gridlock, for recommending them. I now have some reassurance that my daughter may be a safe solo driver when she gets her full license.

Melissa Yorks


Thanks for the feedback. Car Guys of Rockville can be reached through 800-800-GUYS.

I trust that you will continue with her training and will allow a license only when you are comfortable that she has the necessary skills to go solo. Sounds like she has a good start.

A Vote for Cab Meters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm not a cab driver or a frequent rider, but anyone who can count can see that what's fair is fair. A cab ride in rush hour is going to take longer and prevent the driver from accepting other fares. It should cost more -- otherwise, we're likely to find cabs disappearing during rush hour because they can't afford to run at a loss.

Riders do not want to pay extra to be stuck in traffic, but if cab businesses or employees are instead forced to absorb that cost, then they'll have to either raise overall rates to compensate or stop providing the service.

Meters are the way to go.

Mark D. Hall

Mount Vernon

Somehow, cabs using the zone system are available during rush hours.

No Butts About It

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Another pet peeve is smokers who toss lighted cigarettes out open automobile windows. This is personal, because I have experienced a lighted cigarette coming into my car and burning my seat. It is a dangerous practice and could cause harm to others.

Rosalie Goosby

Dale City

What a disgusting habit.

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.