Drivers in Northern Virginia are seeing some of the biggest highway projects in the nation, including the high-occupancy toll lanes and the last phase of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project. On the Maryland side of the Washington region, the view is less spectacular. The one mega-project is the Intercounty Connector , and because it’s a brand new road, rather than the redevelopment of a highway, much of the action takes place away from a driver’s view.
But drop down a notch from the mega level and there is plenty of action in Maryland. Here’s a report on the connector and some of the other road projects in the D.C. suburbs.
While the main construction zone, now between Norbeck Road and Interstate 95, is mostly hidden from drivers, the opening of the first segment did expose some motorist concerns.
Transportation officials have addressed some of the early issues with toll road signs and lane markers, but many drivers still get confused — or angry. Here’s a tip for drivers on the Gaithersburg side: Don’t wait a long, long time for the left-turn arrow from eastbound Shady Grove Road onto the connector. Instead, stay right and take the ramp for westbound I-370. Remain right, and you’ll soon see a ramp to the eastbound connector.
On the eastern side, drivers complain about the state’s elimination of one of the two left-turn lanes from northbound Georgia Avenue onto westbound Norbeck Road. Meanwhile, drivers continuing north of Norbeck complain that with little warning their left through lane becomes a turn lane onto the connector. There is a sign, but many drivers aren’t seeing it. At the last moment, they veer right across a solid white line to reach a northbound through lane.
Nearby, workers last week opened a new bridge taking Norbeck Road over the connector. The pavement in that area is still rough, and it’s slow going and a bit confusing.
The other connector segments east to I-95 are scheduled to open late this year or early next.
Like so many bridge rehabilitations, necessary for safety and preservation, the one just starting on the Capital Beltway over the Northwest Branch will have a high impact on traffic, but when it’s done, drivers won’t notice much difference, other than a smoother ride.
This northern arc of the Beltway is one of the busiest portions of the D.C. region’s Main Street. Planners had to figure out how to do the job without shutting any of the Beltway’s eight lanes at rush hour. That means setting up lane shifts starting well before the bridge and narrowing the lanes so that concrete barriers can be placed around the workers. The construction area will shift across the bridge as the project advances. It’s scheduled to be done by spring 2013.
Drivers who have been through the area during the setup phase have seen 55 mph speed limit signs with the words “Photo Enforced” added. Automated enforcement is not yet in effect, and no date has been set for the start. But drive carefully, as though you were already on camera. There are plenty of workers, orange cones and new lane stripes between University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue.
Once the enforcement program begins, drivers whose vehicles are caught on camera will be sent warning notices for the first three weeks. After that, drivers photographed exceeding the speed limit by at least 12 mph will get $40 citations.
These are some of the other top jobs for the Maryland State Highway Administration:
Branch Avenue: Widening, resurfacing and signal work between Accokeek and Brandywine roads began in fall 2009 and is set to end this summer.
Beltway: Resurfacing between Seminary Road and Colesville Road is scheduled to begin this summer and be completed next spring. Resurfacing and restriping of ramps at the Branch Avenue interchange began this spring and is scheduled to end this summer. Resurfacing the inner loop between D’Arcy Road and Branch Avenue began this spring and is set to end in spring 2012.
Colesville Road: Traffic signal reconstruction and upgrades between East West Highway and Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring began in spring 2010 and are to be completed this summer.
East West Highway: Resurfacing between Riggs Road and Queens Chapel Road began this spring and is scheduled to end this fall.
Forestville Road: The bridge over the Beltway is being replaced in a project that began in summer 2010 and is scheduled to end in fall 2012.
Georgia Avenue: Resurfacing between Connecticut Avenue and Glenallan Avenue got underway this spring and is scheduled for completion this fall.
Interstate 270: Resurfacing between the Beltway and Old Georgetown Road is scheduled to begin this summer and end next spring.
Kenilworth Avenue: The bridge deck over the Beltway is being replaced. Work began in spring 2010 and is scheduled to end in spring 2012.
Landover Road: Replacement of the bridge deck over the Beltway began this spring and is scheduled to end in spring 2012.
New Hampshire Avenue: Intersection improvements at Adelphi Road/Dilston Road begin this summer and are scheduled for completion next summer.
Old Georgetown Road: Resurfacing between Wisconsin Avenue and North Brook Lane began this spring and is scheduled to end this summer.
Piney Branch Road: Resurfacing between University Boulevard and the D.C. line is scheduled to begin this summer and end next spring.
University Boulevard: Resurfacing between Arcola Avenue and Colesville Road got underway this spring and is scheduled for completion this fall.
Veirs Mill Road: Resurfacing between University Boulevard and Andrew Street is scheduled to begin this summer and end next spring.
Wisconsin Avenue: Resurfacing between Bradley Boulevard and the D.C. line is scheduled to begin this summer and end next summer.
For those seeking a break from the road work and congestion, the list includes guides to Maryland’s scenic byways.