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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 08:50 AM ET, 07/19/2011

Beltway bridge projects shorten merges

There are several work zones along the Maryland side of the Capital Beltway this summer, and a traveler asked about one of them during my online chat Monday.

Kenilworth Avenue: Currently there are several orange safety/traffic barrels that make the westbound entrance to the Beltway from Kenilworth very short ... It didn’t always look like the entry was that short. Is there a plan to remove the barrels and make the merge/entry lane longer?

DG: Yes, said David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, which is rebuilding the bridge over the Beltway. But it will be a while.

Buck saw the question about the Kenilworth Avenue (Route 201) bridge reconstruction on the chat and responded afterward. He said the current phase of the $4.8 million project to replace the bridge deck over the Beltway in Greenbelt includes work on the bridge abutments and piers on the outside shoulders of both Beltway loops.

The project recently shifted traffic to the left and erected temporary barriers to protect the work area to the right of the travel lanes. The traffic shift and the placement of the protective barriers required the shortening of the acceleration lane.

Drivers coming down from Kenilworth Avenue follow a circular ramp and then need to accelerate quickly into the Beltway traffic. They should be extra careful doing this, but drivers in the right lanes of the Beltway also should be alert for this slower-moving traffic entering the lanes..

Buck said that when the project is complete next spring, the acceleration lane will go back to its original configuration.

The change was necessary to protect both motorists and construction crews in the work zone, but “we’ll be keeping a very close eye on this location,” Buck said.

Work on the Kenilworth Avenue bridge began in spring 2010.

This spring, the state began another bridge rehabilitation project about six miles west, where the Beltway crosses over the Northwest Branch between University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring.

That work zone also has produced some temporarily shortened merges. There’s one from University Boulevard onto the inner loop. But many more drivers encounter the shortened right-hand lane on the outer loop.

This was always a difficult area, where many drivers use the merge lane to speed past vehicles in the right-most travel lane before the Northwest Branch bridge. But now that merge lane disappears around New Hampshire Avenue as the travel lanes begin their shift into the work zone.

Commuters should prepare to encounter a third construction area just to the west, between Route 29 and Seminary Road, where the state is about to start a resurfacing project scheduled to be done by Thanksgiving.

Buck said that lane closings now scheduled to begin July 30. But before that, drivers should watch for preparatory work, including the placement of project equipment and installation of temporary signs.

By  |  08:50 AM ET, 07/19/2011

Categories:  Capital Beltway, Maryland, Construction

 
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