While the main construction zone, now between Norbeck Road and Interstate 95, is mostly hidden from drivers, the opening of the first segment did expose some motorist concerns.
Transportation officials have addressed some of the early issues with toll road signs and lane markers, but many drivers still get confused — or angry. Here’s a tip for drivers on the Gaithersburg side: Don’t wait a long, long time for the left-turn arrow from eastbound Shady Grove Road onto the connector. Instead, stay right and take the ramp for westbound I-370. Remain right, and you’ll soon see a ramp to the eastbound connector.
On the eastern side, drivers complain about the state’s elimination of one of the two left-turn lanes from northbound Georgia Avenue onto westbound Norbeck Road. Meanwhile, drivers continuing north of Norbeck complain that with little warning their left through lane becomes a turn lane onto the connector. There is a sign, but many drivers aren’t seeing it. At the last moment, they veer right across a solid white line to reach a northbound through lane.
Nearby, workers last week opened a new bridge taking Norbeck Road over the connector. The pavement in that area is still rough, and it’s slow going and a bit confusing.
The other connector segments east to I-95 are scheduled to open late this year or early next.
Northwest Branch Bridge
Like so many bridge rehabilitations, necessary for safety and preservation, the one just starting on the Capital Beltway over the Northwest Branch will have a high impact on traffic, but when it’s done, drivers won’t notice much difference, other than a smoother ride.
This northern arc of the Beltway is one of the busiest portions of the D.C. region’s Main Street. Planners had to figure out how to do the job without shutting any of the Beltway’s eight lanes at rush hour. That means setting up lane shifts starting well before the bridge and narrowing the lanes so that concrete barriers can be placed around the workers. The construction area will shift across the bridge as the project advances. It’s scheduled to be done by spring 2013.
Drivers who have been through the area during the setup phase have seen 55 mph speed limit signs with the words “Photo Enforced” added. Automated enforcement is not yet in effect, and no date has been set for the start. But drive carefully, as though you were already on camera. There are plenty of workers, orange cones and new lane stripes between University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue.