The Washington Post

Bethesda bridge set to reopen Friday

The Cedar Lane bridge over Rock Creek, an important link in the road network that will have to absorb the extra traffic created by the military base consolidation at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, is scheduled to reopen Friday.

The bridge was closed to traffic in June to rehab its deteriorating concrete beams and piers. Montgomery County planners and the surrounding communities decided that it would be better to shut the bridge completely and get the work done in several months, rather than keep it partially open to traffic but extend the length of the project.

The work went even faster than scheduled, and if the bridge reopens as planned Friday, the project will have beaten its target date by three weeks. That’s in time for the reopening of schools as well as the arrival of staffers and patients being transferred from Walter Reed Army Medical Center later this month.

When the bridge reopens, RideOn bus route 34 will end its detour and go back to its original route on Cedar Lane.

I’ve been paying some extra attention to the roads around the medical center this week after several commuters asked for advice on getting between Bethesda and Columbia. That’s a tough commute to begin with, and it might become more difficult this fall because of the base realignment program in Bethesda and also because of several road projects along the Capital Beltway in Montgomery County.

So I’ve been testing some of the alternatives to the Beltway/I-95 commute, but none includes the option of using Cedar Lane to link with Rockville Pike, since I’ve been doing the testing during the shutdown. (You can see my suggestions Sunday on The Post’s Commuter page in the Metro section.)

One of the other changes to meet the challenge of the base realignment traffic is the activation of the new signal on Rockville Pike at North Wood Road, where many drivers use the medical center gate.

In the mornings, I’ve noticed a considerable backup around there in the left lanes heading south on Rockville Pike. Afternoons, I’ve seen heavy northbound traffic around there on the pike and long lines of cars leaving the medical center. The Maryland State Highway Administration is monitoring the impact of that new signal and could make adjustments if needed.

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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