Frank Ahrens [Style, Aug. 26] captured the essence of the problem many of us experience in getting around Washington on the roads.
His example of Elizabeth Cooper and her commute was not such a good example of the angst of it all, however. She leaves the house at 7:26 a.m. and gets to work by 7:55. A commute of only 30 minutes at that hour is truly a luxury.
I commute from Herndon to downtown Silver Spring -- 26 miles one way. If I don't get on the road by 6:30 a.m., I extend my commute by five minutes for about every one minute I delay leaving. Coming home is even worse, especially September through May -- 40 minutes in the morning and usually 55 in the evening, and those times represent the lighter traffic of summer in August.
And it's only going to get worse as more buildings go up along the Dulles corridor, more town houses go up in Herndon and Reston, while no more roads are going in to handle all these people coming to and from these places.
I've never been so happy as to know that I'm going to start working from home in three weeks and won't have a commute at all. I wish lots of luck to all those unlucky commuters who will take my place and try to fit their three or four cars into the space my one car is leaving.
When the cost to build one interchange is more than $400 million and a single bridge costs $2 billion, when the 20-year plan for Northern Virginia talks about spending $26.7 billion only to have the congestion get worse, then it is time for some new thinking about how to solve our transportation problems. Instead, Northern Virginia politicians and a new business-development group called Region want to throw more money away. Use the budget surplus, take on more debt, tax us even further with sales taxes.
Like most parents and taxpayers in the area, I'm tired of having to drive everywhere, and I'm tired of fighting traffic. But I know that building more roads isn't the solution. Families need better choices for where to live and work and how to get around. We need more affordable homes closer to work and transit. We need real communities where our children can walk to the store without crossing busy highways, where the grocery store is a couple of blocks away.
We need more Metrorail, bike lanes and sidewalks. We need communities with real downtowns. Don't just raise our taxes; change the way our communities are built here in Northern Virginia.
Some states, such as Oregon, have been successfully focusing growth patterns and infrastructure. It seems that Virginia planning is little more than reactive and behind.
WILLIAM R. STEWART
Paeonian Springs, Va.