A traveler’s comment from Monday’s online chat:
“Could you please address why Maryland took away one of the left-turn lanes from Georgia Avenue onto Norbeck to apparently allow traffic to enter the Intercounty Connector? The ICC entrance is over half-a- mile from that intersection, and the removal of a left-turn lane leads to extensive (and unexpected) backups on Georgia. Indeed, on Mother’s Day I witnessed the aftermath of a four- or five-car pileup on Georgia just before Norbeck that took up two of the three lanes that was presumably due to the backup from people wanting to turn left on Norbeck.”
The crowded intersection of north-south Georgia Avenue and east-west Norbeck Road was a problem for travelers long before the Intercounty Connector opened in that area, said David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. Buck saw the comment on the chat and offered these details about what the state is doing to improve the traffic flow just south of where the new connector highway meets Georgia Avenue.
The bottom line, he said is that the Norbeck/Georgia intersection will continue to be a challenge until the day comes when it can be rebuilt into an interchange. That’s in design, but there’s no money yet for right of way acquisition or construction.
Over the past few months, Buck said, the State Highway Administration made several modifications to the intersection intended to improve the movement of traffic in all directions. Those changes included removing one of the two left turn lanes provided for northbound drivers on Georgia Avenue who wanted to head west on Norbeck Road.
The goal: “balancing the traffic for all turning and through movements to make the intersection operate efficiently,” Buck said. Problems include the heavy volume coming from all directions and the nearness of that intersection to other heavy-volume intersections that also have traffic signals.
He said the state’s engineers have monitored the results of the traffic changes every day since late February and work with Montgomery County to adjust timing of the signals to get the best possible results for drivers and pedestrians.
They will continue that monitoring for the entire intersection at Norbeck and Georgia, and at the nearby intersections.
I have not experienced the same problems as the commenter at Norbeck and Georgia, though I’ve made more than a half-dozen trips through that intersection since the connector opened. There certainly is heavy traffic, and it can take several light cycles to get through heading north. But I haven’t had a special problem with the traffic on the left side of the roadway stemming from traffic spilling back from that one remaining left turn lane.
When driving south on Georgia, I did see one van in the left-most through lane cut around a car waiting to make the left, suggesting that the van driver was unaware that the lane he was in was no longer a turn lane.
It’s normal for the state and for Montgomery County to monitor and make adjustments after they make an initial change in a traffic pattern. But conditions at the intersections near the ends of the Intercounty Connector are likely to remain in flux until the entire highway is open early next year.
The traffic volumes we saw on and near the connector during the two weeks of free driving after the highway opened fell off sharply after tolling started and have not come back to those initial levels. There’s no reason they should before the connector is open to Interstate 95, unless the Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the connector, decides to cut the tolls to increase use.