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Saturday, March 5, 2011; 6:56 PM

Test drives on connector

Maryland's new Intercounty Connector, now open between Shady Grove and the Olney area, remains free this weekend, but the electronic tolls become effective Monday. When I went for a drive last Sunday, there was very little traffic on the connector or near the entrances and exits. Another Sunday driver, Jim Wingo of Woodbine, reported seeing a small group of deer in the eastbound lanes in the Olney area, despite project managers' efforts to keep wildlife away from the travel lanes. So use caution. The speed limit is 55 mph.

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Starting Monday, passenger vehicles and light trucks will pay $1.45 during peak hours (6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays), $1.15 off-peak (5 to 6 a.m., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 to 11 p.m. weekdays; 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends) and 60 cents overnight (11 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily).

Connector congestion

Driving the Intercounty Connector is a breeze, but I've seen rush-hour traffic congestion at the highway's junction with Norbeck Road (Route 28). Other travelers warn drivers to be on the lookout for crowding at several other points. One is on eastbound Norbeck Road approaching Georgia Avenue. I suspect that's related to the congestion I saw on the other side of Georgia Avenue.

Max Handelsman of Olney reported seeing traffic from eastbound Norbeck blocking the box at Georgia Avenue. Handelsman said it was taking much longer - five or six light cycles rather than the usual two or three - to get through the Norbeck intersection on northbound Georgia Avenue.

Drivers over on the western side of the ICC say they've been caught in heavy morning traffic trying to get onto Interstate 270, then in heavy afternoon traffic trying to get from I-270 to the short stretch of I-370 leading to the connector.

Maryland transportation officials say that they are monitoring the traffic to see what adjustments are needed but that they expect to see some changes in volume once the free ride ends Monday.

Beltway HOT lanes

Workers on the high-occupancy toll lanes project are rebuilding interchanges and bridges along 14 miles on the western side of the Capital Beltway between Springfield and the Dulles Toll Road. Most of the lane closings are done overnight, but watch for single-lane closings from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays.

None of the temporary lane closings occur during rush hours. But commuters continue to complain about slow traffic at a construction bottleneck on the eastbound Dulles Toll Road, just past the toll plaza, where they get onto the Beltway.

Tysons Corner-Beltway

The triple-lane closings on the Beltway's inner loop at Route 123 in Tysons that were scheduled for Sunday have been canceled. The lane closings are scheduled to resume Monday through Friday, from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night. The closings are likely to continue through March. They leave only one lane open on the inner loop, so congestion is likely.

Workers are using the overnight hours to build the bridges that will take the new Metrorail line over the Beltway. When the lanes are closed overnight, crews also close the exit ramps from the outer loop to Route 123.

Route 202 work

The Maryland State Highway Administration will be working on the Route 202 bridge over the Beltway from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Expect single-lane closings.

Bridge inspection

Drivers may see some extra equipment and personnel on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and its suspension cables as the Maryland Transportation Authority conducts its annual inspection. Any lane closings for the inspection will take place during off-peak daytime hours Mondays through Thursdays, the authority said. The annual inspection is scheduled to continue through the spring.

For more transportation news, go to washingtonpost.com/transportation .


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