Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I work for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland and regularly drive from Columbia to Leisure World in Montgomery County using Route 108. This two-lane road is invariably congested.

Are there any plans to improve Route 108?

Elizabeth Yao

Columbia

Maryland is making some improvements to Route 108, but not the four-lane, divided widening that the road probably deserves. Here are the projects:

* The intersection of Route 108 with Route 650 (New Hampshire Avenue) will be widened to create three lanes in each direction -- one for right turns only, one for left turns only and one for through traffic. Construction should start in 2007, with completion in 2009.

* Two segments in Howard County will be resurfaced: between Eliot Oak Road and Centennial Lane, in the Clarksville area, and between Route 216 and Guilford Road in the Highland area. Both projects should be completed in the spring.

* Between Centennial Lane and Woodland Road, a distance of one mile, the state and Howard County officials are studying converting this segment to four lanes, divided. There's no timetable yet.

* Intersection improvements will be made on Great Star Drive. The project is in design, but is not funded for construction.

Bridge Is Incident-Prone

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Does the Wilson Bridge attract incidents such as breakdowns, stalls or fires? I'm not asking about accidents; it makes sense that they're more likely to occur on the narrow, rickety bridge. There are typically several of these other incidents each week on the bridge. For example, there was a car fire on the bridge this morning, Nov. 21.

Obviously, traffic reports are more likely to focus on an incident at a chokepoint, where there will be greater impact, than on an incident where there is more room to maneuver. I don't hear nearly as many reports of incidents on the Capital Beltway near the bridge. So, does it seem as if there are more incidents on the bridge than on roadways?

Andy Feltman

Arlington

The bridge attracts a lot of attention because there are no shoulders, and minor incidents can create long backups. What shoulder space there is, to the left and right, is just four feet wide -- not big enough to let a rescue vehicle or a wrecker get through, according to John Undeland, spokesman for the Wilson Bridge project.

The new bridge, which will be completed in 2008, will have 10-foot-wide shoulders on both the right and left. Plus, it will have five lanes in each direction, instead of the three in each direction we have now.

Those improvements should reduce the number of serious incidents on the bridge, which was built to accommodate 75,000 vehicles a day and now carries more than 200,000.

Shopping Hunt

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I travel the Capital Beltway five days a week and tried to go to the Boulevard at the Capital Centre shopping complex in Largo, in Prince George's County.

What a surprise when I could not find my way there. The complex won't attract impulse buyers if people can't get there from the Beltway.

Why are there no signs for the exit that will take you there?

How do you get there from the Beltway?

L. Victoria Small

Clinton

The state doesn't post signs for commercial centers. It will provide signs if there is a mixed-use area that includes residential, office and government buildings, according to Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. For that reason, the shopping center is not noted in any signs, but the surrounding Largo Town Center has one sign in each direction on the nearby Beltway.

The most direct way to the shopping complex, at Arena Drive and Lottsford Road, is to take the Arena Drive exit from the Beltway, but that exit is open only during FedEx Field events. Plans are to open the exit to all traffic by 2009.

Meanwhile, here are suggestions for how to get there via the Beltway:

* From the Beltway heading south, take Exit 17 (Landover Road/Route 202) heading southeast and turn right onto Arena Drive.

* From the Beltway heading north, take Exit 15 (Central Avenue/Route 214) heading east and turn left onto Route 202, then left onto Arena Drive.

Nothing like having a regional shopping center that you can see and can't get to, but that's a problem in Virginia as well as Maryland.

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 e-mails, at drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.