Sure sign of spring: Road work in D.C. area


Westbound drivers swing left past workers to cross University Boulevard’s Beltway bridge after the morning rush. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

The seasons are changing, and we’re not talking daffodils here. Road work projects that had been largely dormant through the winter are beginning to sprout across the D.C. region. Here are a few of the early bloomers.

University Boulevard/Capital Beltway. Since the bridge rebuilding got underway last year, this project looked like something Maryland drivers could deal with. They may rethink that after Friday’s experiences. Now, only half the bridge is open, the traffic shifts, and goes down to two lanes in each direction on this major commuter road that includes ramps connection with both loops of the Beltway in Silver Spring.

  • Be careful not to block the University intersections near the Beltway.
  • Drivers on nearby Franklin Avenue should be particularly wary of intersection congestion when they reach University Boulevard. Commuters who are homeward bound from downtown Silver Spring to the Beltway probably will be better off sticking with Colesville Road to the Beltway ramp.
  • As drivers confronted the new configuration Friday morning, those on University were doing a decent job, except for the intersection blocking. For them, it’s a lane shift and a merge. Drivers approaching from side streets and the Beltway ramps were more likely to hesitate and puzzle over how to handle the next 100 yards. Lots of honking there.

Repaving Georgia Avenue. This project also will affect traffic in Silver Spring. The Maryland State Highway Administration is resurfacing on Georgia Avenue between Eastern Avenue and 16th Street. That’s a bit over a mile and a half along another major commuter route. The plan is to finish by late summer.

The work involves replacing the top layer of asphalt, adding new asphalt and putting down pavement markings, SHA said. Crews will resurface the southbound side first, then turn to the northbound side.

They also are at work on the curbs and gutters, driveways and sidewalks along Georgia Avenue.

Drivers may encounter single-lane closings between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. They may find two lanes closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays. The work may temporarily reduce street parking in small segments of downtown Silver Spring.

Greenbelt Road repaving. Greenbelt Road in Greenbelt is a close cousin of University Boulevard in Silver Spring. They’re both Route 193, an important east-west link for the D.C. suburbs. The SHA is repaving Greenbelt Road between Rhode Island Avenue to the west of the Beltway and Southway, to the east. Work began last spring and should be done by late this summer.

Crews are working on the westbound side first, then will switch to the eastbound side. Drivers also will notice work on the signal lights at intersections. They also will notice single-lane closings from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and two-lane closings from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays.

Interstate 66 widening. Don’t feel left out, Virginians. The Virginia Department of Transportation just announced a continuation of the project that has been widening I-66 on the west side of region.

Work is scheduled to begin next week between Route 29 in Gainesville and Route 15 in Haymarket. That’s about two and a half heavily traveled miles. When the project is done in summer 2016, drivers will have three regular and one HOV lane in each direction, matching what they have to the east in the segments previously widened. The result will be 25 miles of that configuration between the Beltway and Route 15.

Another feature of the project will be the addition of a left-turn lane on the westbound I-66 ramp to Route 15, an area that’s now a bottleneck during the evening rush. That work should be done by the end of June, VDOT said, but meanwhile, watch out for left shoulder closings and off-peak lane closings in that area.

Starting the week of April 13, crews are scheduled to mill and pave I-66 on the westbound side, then the eastbound side. That’s to prepare for a traffic shift that’s part of the construction. There will be overnight lane closings to accomplish this.

Mobile work zones. In D.C., Maryland and Virginia, road workers have been assigned to various pothole-patching campaigns. Drivers should slow down and use caution in any work zone, but the crews in these short-term work areas are particularly vulnerable in traffic. They can’t get behind the concrete barriers that are part of the longer-term projects, like the one at the University Boulevard bridge.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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