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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 02:29 PM ET, 06/06/2011

Drivers will get some help on which fork to take

It’s tough for some people to commit. Ginger or Mary Ann? Paper or plastic? Me, I’m thinking about what happens when drivers reach a lane split. Maybe it’s the 14th Street Bridge work zone on I-395. Maybe it’s the Capital Beltway’s outer loop divide for the LOCAL or THRU lanes.

The one at the 14th Street Bridge is scheduled to move Wednesday to a spot that should be less taxing for the deciders. The Beltway one is going to get some new signs that should clarify what lanes go where.

The Wilson Bridge project, which is rebuilding the Telegraph Road interchange and widening the Beltway nearby, will be placing new signs before the LOCAL/THRU split on the outer loop to simplify the message motorists see as they head toward the Wilson Bridge.

The signs will tell drivers that all lanes go through to destinations beyond the construction zone after the lane split, according to an announcement from the project. The signs also will alert motorists who want the local exits that they should stay right.

This area of the Beltway is in flux, because of the construction project, and the signs are temporary, but if they work as the planners intend, they should eliminate at least some of that last-moment lane changing at the split and thereby improve traffic flow.

The new sequence of signs will first appear just after the outer loop’s Van Dorn interchange and then at regular intervals up to the split, just east of Telegraph Road.

Signs notifying travelers that all lanes go through to destinations beyond the construction area will be in black letters and symbols on yellow and orange backgrounds, the project staff said. Messaging to keep right to take local exits will be in white letters on black backgrounds.

Placement of the signs is scheduled to begin Friday night and be completed by next Monday. There will be brief, single-lane closings during off-peak hours while the signs are positioned.

The people responsible for communicating with drivers have long been concerned about quickly conveying the information about the split. They even set up a Lane Decider on the project’s Web site to make clear which lanes went where. And there was some discussion about whether they should be called “Express” or “THRU” lanes.

It all seemed to go better with drivers approaching from the Maryland side, perhaps because the permanent signs could be put in place right at the start. On the western side of the project in Virginia, that still isn’t possible.

Let me know if you think these new signs will help drivers unfamiliar with that zone, and remember what Yogi said: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

By  |  02:29 PM ET, 06/06/2011

Categories:  Capital Beltway, Construction, Virginia

 
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