City Desk

The Needle: The Beach Tolls For You Edition

Bridge Loan: As May rolls along toward Memorial Day weekend, visions of the Delaware and Maryland beaches start dancing in District residents' heads—until those visions turn to nightmares of being stuck in traffic on Route 50 for hours and hours. Add to those nightmares this year a new fright: the $5 Bay Bridge toll. Current tolls, charged only on eastbound trips, are $2.50, so that sounds like a big jump. But since the rates haven't been raised since 1975, and the current cost is actually less than the $2.80 charged for a round trip when the bridge opened in 1952, it's not such a bad deal—especially since in 1952, there was only one bridge. -2

When You Walk in the Door, You Want to Win for Sure, Play What?: No matter what all the books about how to beat the system will tell you, playing the lottery and expecting to emerge with a profit in the long run is a bad move. Need proof? The D.C. Lottery's latest scratch-and-win game, "Smokin' Hot Dice," features a $1,000 grand prize—with 0 percent odds of winning, according to a published notice in the D.C. Register. Turns out the notice actually rounded down; the odds of winning are, in fact, 1 in 240,000. Virtually guaranteed! -1

Be a Dentist: Certain jobs seem like they could easily be done without the need for any government licensing—running a weekly newspaper, for instance, which is the sort of thing any idiot can do. Then, there's things like dentistry, where you sort of want to make sure the person drilling your teeth actually knows what they're up to. A Leesburg, Va., couple apparently decided licensing was optional, according to Loudon County authorities, and set up a dental office in their basement. The office had a waiting room and reception desk, but without official certification, it's not clear whether they could get their hands on one critical tool of the trade: Novocaine. -1

Home for United?: The District's only team in the five most popular U.S. sports leagues to win a championship in the last 20 years is D.C. United, which has done it four times since Major League Soccer got started in 1997. (Even if their performance the last few years makes the glory days seem like fuzzy memories.) So naturally, the District's only team in the five most popular U.S. sports leagues that desperately needs a stadium, but can't find a place for one, is also United. The team has looked at four sites in D.C. and several in Maryland. But now things may have gotten so dire that officials are taking an offer from Baltimore seriously. Suggestion to United management: Apparently the way to find a permanent home in D.C. is to keep losing. It worked for the Nationals, the Capitals, and the Wizards! -3

Yesterday's Needle rating: 72 Today's score: -7 Friday bonus: +2 Today's Needle rating: 67

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