- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2001

Alexandria Police Lt. Donald Hayes moved to the city from his home in Maryland six years ago after he grew tired of sitting in traffic for two hours each day on his way to and from work at the Alexandria Police station.
"Getting used to being in a five-mile backup every day is just insane," said Lt. Hayes, a member of the police departments community support team. "You always hear the traffic people on the radio talk about the traffic jams as though it was a normal way of life. Theres nothing normal about that."
In an effort to ease congestion, Alexandria implemented the Gridlock Reduction Intervention Program (GRIP), which places police officers at some of the citys main arteries to direct traffic during evening rush hour.
Lt. Hayes volunteered for the program; now he directs traffic at Duke Street and West Taylor Run Parkway twice a week between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
He said the program, which is in place at 10 intersections, has been successful in making sure no one blocks any part of that intersection during traffic-signal changes.
Traffic moving from north to south through the city has begun to flow much faster. But, Lt. Hayes said, getting traffic out of the city remains a problem because of backups at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
"We can get people through the city, but we cant get the traffic out of the city because of the bridge," Lt. Hayes said.
GRIP was created in the spring of 2000, and the city has included $263,163 for the program in the fiscal 2002 budget.
The District does not have a permanent program, but places police officers at intersections if traffic flow demands it, a department spokes-man said.
Lt. Hayes said the regions traffic problems are caused by a combination of factors, including too many cars on the streets and driver distraction and inattention.
"Their main concern is not driving anymore," Lt. Hayes said. "Its listening to the radio, talking on their cell phones or reading the newspaper while theyre driving. We try to do everything but drive."
Some frustrated motorists might argue they have plenty of time for other activities while traffic is at a standstill.
The metropolitan Washington region is the nations fourth-most-congested urban area, according to annual rankings released by the Texas Transportation Institute last month.
Though that was an improvement over its earlier rankings, the average amount of time area residents spend on their commutes increased from 1998 to 1999.
More than half of Washington-area commuters surveyed in the AAA Mid-Atlantic poll are so fed up with traffic that they are thinking about moving out of the region, poll results show.
While the GRIP program was easing gridlock, Lt. Hayes said, the long-term solution is fewer cars on the roads.
"Our roads cant handle the amount of cars we have on the streets nowadays," he said. "We will continue to have this problem until people decide they want to carpool. Until then, its only going to get worse."


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