Maryland roads lined with work zones

Robert Thomson
Columnist May 5, 2012

Planners and politicians love to talk about new bridges over the Potomac River, transitways linking communities and new highways to relieve congestion on old highways. You may not see any of those things in your commuting lifetimes.

What you will see are projects such as the ones listed here. It’s mostly little stuff. But not only is it real, it can also be really annoying.

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. View Archive

Today, we’re looking at some of the more than 100 projects the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) will be supervising this spring and summer.

Top five

These stand out from the pack, because they may be very disruptive for commuters in the D.C. region, or because they’ll have a big impact when done, or just because they’re weird.

●Work zone: Capital Beltway bridge over the Northwest Branch, Silver Spring.

●Project: Replacement of the eight-lane bridge began last spring and is scheduled to be completed this fall. Over the past year, tens of thousands of drivers have experienced the congestion that can result from lane narrowings and shifts, even at peak periods when all the lanes are open. About 55,000 drivers have received speed camera tickets for violating the 55 mph limit, which is impressive considering the number of hours that traffic is bumper to bumper.

But the work so far has been relatively easy on drivers. The concrete barriers have been off to the sides. In coming months, the work zones will move into the middle of each Beltway loop. Rush-hour drivers still will have four open lanes, but they’ll have to maneuver around those middle barriers.

●Work zone: New Hampshire Avenue bridge over the Beltway, Silver Spring.

●Project: A year-long rehabilitation started this spring on the ramp that takes traffic from northbound New Hampshire Avenue over the Capital Beltway and to the outer loop. Project managers decided there wasn’t enough room to keep part of the ramp open during the current phase, so they shut it until midsummer.

Drivers must detour down the inner loop to the College Park park-and-ride lot at Interstate 95, then get on the outer loop. The SHA estimates it adds at least 15 minutes to normal commuting times. Some drivers are trying to dodge the detour by continuing north on New Hampshire Avenue and making a U-turn onto another outer loop ramp. It’s a tricky maneuver in heavy traffic, with a short light cycle. Not recommended.

●Work zone: Intercounty Connector, Interstate 95 to Route 1, Laurel.

●Project: The eastern part of the six-lane highway will be under construction from this spring through late 2013. Although only a mile long, this is the biggest new thing on the list, taking a highway discussed for more than a half-century to its eastern limit.

The final segment will have a partial interchange at Virginia Manor Road and an intersection controlled by traffic signals at Route 1 near the Muirkirk MARC station. This phase also includes construction of separated, parallel lanes along I-95 between the ICC and the Route 198 interchange, so traffic can merge safely at exits, the SHA said.

●Work zone: Rockville Pike at Cedar Lane and Jones Bridge Road; Connecticut Avenue at Jones Bridge Road and Kensington Parkway, Bethesda.

●Project: The utility relocations and roadway-capacity improvements begun this spring will continue into summer 2013. The changes are designed to ease traffic congestion generated by the federal base realignment program at the now-consolidated Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

●Work zone: Baltimore-Washington Parkway at Arundel Mills Boulevard, Hanover.

●Project: The parkway interchange is being rebuilt quickly this spring and summer to accommodate traffic generated by the opening of a casino, scheduled for June 6. This is the one that looks weird, to those of us who aren’t highway engineers. They call the result a “diverging diamond interchange.

The purpose is to put traffic to and from the parkway in an alignment that leads naturally to the correct destination and avoids left turns. Roundabouts on either side of the diamond-shaped interchange will be eliminated.

Best of the rest

Just because they’re not in the top five doesn’t make them leftovers. Maryland drivers are likely to pass through at least one of these work zones routinely. And these work zones deserve your attention not only because of the impact on travel but also because minor bridge repairs, sidewalk construction and repavings often put workers behind orange barrels or cones, rather than concrete, leaving them more vulnerable.

Slow down, stay off the phone and concentrate in these zones.

This is a sampler. A list including similar projects can be found on the Maryland State Highway Administration Web site at www.roads.maryland.gov.

●Work zone: I-95 at Contee Road, Laurel.

●Project: Interchange construction, beginning this spring, is scheduled to be done in summer 2014.

●Work zone: Kenilworth Avenue bridge over the Beltway, Greenbelt.

●Project: A deck replacement that started last spring is scheduled to end this summer.

●Work zone: Beltway, D’Arcy Road to Arena Drive, Landover.

●Project: Resurfacing, spring into summer.

●Work zone: I-270, Beltway to Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda.

●Project: A resurfacing project that got underway last year is scheduled to be done this summer.

●Work zone: Connecticut Avenue, Washington Street to Saul Road, Chevy Chase.

●Project: Sidewalk construction, spring and summer.

●Work zone: Norbeck Road, Hurley Avenue to South Adams Street, Rockville.

●Project: Resurfacing scheduled to begin this summer and wrap up next spring.

●Work zone: Rockville Pike, Strathmore Avenue to Cedar Croft Drive; Old Georgetown Road to Nicholson Lane, Rockville.

●Project: Resurfacing, summer into fall.

●Work zone: Georgia Avenue, Emory Lane to Old Baltimore Road, Olney.

●Project: A resurfacing project just north of the Intercounty Connector is scheduled to begin in the summer and end in the fall.

●Work zone: Route 29 bridges at Route 40, Ellicott City.

●Project: Bridge deck replacements, spring into fall.

●Work zone: East-West Highway, New Hampshire Avenue to Park Avenue, Takoma Park.

●Project: Resurfacing, spring into the summer.

●Work zone: Annapolis Road, Beltway to 85th Avenue, New Carrollton.

●Project: Sidewalk and pedestrian-safety improvements are scheduled to begin this spring and end in the summer.

●Work zone: University Boulevard, Rhode Island Avenue to South Way, College Park.

●Project: Resurfacing, summer into fall.

●Work zone: Largo Road, Homestead Drive to Prince George’s Community College, Largo.

●Project: Resurfacing, summer into fall.

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