The trouble spots for traffic in the D.C. region have grown smaller in mid-August, even in the traditionally bad areas such as the Capital Beltway junction with Interstate 95 in Maryland. Some changes in traffic patterns have helped, too, including the opening up of the outer loop lanes between Springfield and the Telegraph Road exits in Virginia.
However, all the big projects — among them the 495 Express Lanes, Telegraph Road interchange, Northwest Branch Bridge, 11th Street Bridge, Arlington Boulevard interchange — will remain very active in late summer. Plus, there are many smaller paving projects, though most of the paving work is done overnight to limit the impact on traffic.
The Capital Weather Gang’s weekly forecast for commuters is pretty good: No excessive heat, and only a few chances of scattered showers and storms.
Here’s more about what you’ll see on the roads and rails this week. Join me at noon Monday for our weekly discussion of traffic and transit issues.
495 Express Lanes
Commuters on the west side of the Beltway in Virginia will see a variety of vehicles driving along in the 495 Express lanes between Gallows Road and Route 123.
The new lanes won’t be open to the public till late this year. The vehicles in the lanes are testing the toll equipment, the electronic signs and the traffic sensors. All the new activity may cause some confusion among drivers and lead to some gawking, which could slow down everybody. But at least it’s being done at a time when traffic is relatively light, because of summer vacations.
95 Express Lanes
Drivers on I-95 in Northern Virginia will see some trees coming down to clear the way for Virginia’s next high-occupancy toll lane project, the 95 Express Lanes. Construction may occur day and night, but project managers plan to keep the HOV lanes open during rush hour.
Driving the Beltway’s outer loop from Springfield to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge was a much more pleasant experience last week following the full opening of the THRU and LOCAL lanes. This uncorked the longtime bottleneck at Telegraph Road and allowed drivers to take full advantage of the widened bridge.
The reconstruction of Telegraph Road is the last big task remaining, and project managers are trying to get most of that done by the end of the year, although some work could continue into early 2013.
Arlington Boulevard interchange
The Virginia Department of Transportation plans lane closings this week for another of the region’s big highway projects, the untangling of the interchange linking Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) with Courthouse Road and 10th Street.
Monday through Friday, closings will occur on westbound Arlington Boulevard from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on the eastbound side from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastbound lane closings also are scheduled for 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.
I-295 lane closings
The District of Department of Transportation plans to close the right lane of southbound Interstate 295 on either side of the Howard Road exit (3B) on weekdays between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. from Wednesday through Aug. 24. The Howard Road exit will remain open throughout this time.
DDOT is doing some early testing for what will eventually become the South Capitol Street Corridor project. The project still has many steps to go, but if it fully develops, the work will include building a new six-lane Frederick Douglass Bridge; turning South Capitol Street into a six-lane boulevard; creating a traffic circle east of the Anacostia River that connects South Capitol Street, Suitland Parkway and Howard Road, and rebuilding the I-295 interchange with the Suitland Parkway.
Route 15 paving
The Maryland State Highway Administration is beginning a milling and paving project along 5-1 / 2 miles of southbound Route 15 (Catoctin Mountain Highway) in Thurmont. The work is scheduled to begin Monday and will take about two months.
The project area is between Roddy Road, north of Thurmont, and the pedestrian bridge for the Catoctin Furnace Trail over Route 15. This is near Cunningham Falls State Park and the Catoctin Iron Furnace, south of Thurmont, a summer escape for many people from the D.C. area.
Dulles Connector Road
The Dulles Metrorail project plans to close the eastbound Dulles Connector Road (Route 267) between the Beltway and Route 123 from 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night.
The detour will take drivers to the southbound Beltway, then to Exit 46B to northbound Route 123. Then they will return to eastbound Route 267.
During the closing, workers will be installing acoustical panels on the bridge over the highway.
New lane marks on I-66
A driver who uses Interstate 66 near the Capital Beltway asked during last Monday’s online discussion about “a section of the right green arrow lane around Route 123 [that] seems to have been painted orange.”
The coating is the color of red clay, VDOT says. It should help motorists distinguish between the lanes that are open all the time and these part-time lanes.
This is a safety feature applied in coordination with the new paving on I-66 between the Beltway and Route 50, a project scheduled to be done in November. In my July 28 column, we discussed another of those features: the double white line set down along the border of the High Occupancy Vehicle lane. The lines mark areas where lane changes can be disruptive and dangerous, so don’t cross them.
VDOT bridge project delayed
Replacement of the Beach Mill Road bridge over Nichols Branch in Fairfax County is going to be delayed from this summer to next summer so that school buses won’t have to use a six-mile detour for several months, VDOT said.
The bridge was destroyed in September by Tropical Storm Lee, and a temporary replacement has been in use.
Drivers may have seen signs alerting them that the bridge would close for the replacement project on Monday. Those signs should be gone now.
Waiting until next summer means the work can start as soon as school is out and can be done by Labor Day 2013.
Bay Bridge best times
Planning a weekend getaway to the Eastern Shore? The best times to use the Bay Bridge this summer are Thursdays and Fridays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m., Saturdays before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m., and Sundays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
Metro weekend work
The major disruption on Metrorail over the weekend will be on the east side of the Red Line. Buses will replace trains between the Silver Spring and NoMa stations. The Rhode Island Avenue, Brookland and Takoma stations will be closed, as will the Red Line platform at Fort Totten.