Thursday, January 15, 2015
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.
Each January, I present a year-ahead look at the top 10 issues most likely to affect travel in the Washington. region. But many commuters don’t experience a “region.”
Rebuilding the District’s 16th Street bridge this year will affect tens of thousands of drivers and bus riders, but that’s not a big deal to the tens of thousands experiencing the new 95 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia.
Here are some projects, programs and developments that I ranked just below the top 10 in regional significance, but that will rate No. 1 status for many local commuters.
Route 50 widening. Route 50 is being widened from four to six lanes over 3.7 miles between Poland Road and Route 28. This is an area west of Route 28 where the development of Loudoun County has increased traffic congestion. The four-lane segment south of Dulles International Airport was inadequate.
The project, which began in 2011, added a lane each way in 2014, but all the work to put the lanes into their final configuration, and to finish the trails, signals and paving, is scheduled to be done by the end of this year.
Interstate 95 auxiliary/shoulder lanes. The 95 Express Lanes project is the big story, but not the only story along the interstate in Northern Virginia, which is fair because it’s one of the most congested corridors in the entire region.
This project along seven miles of I-95 in Prince William County began in 2013 and is scheduled to wrap up this summer. It’s adding auxiliary travel lanes and widening the shoulders to ease choke points on the interstate and improve the safety of the traffic flow.
Interstate 395 auxiliary lane. Farther north, the Virginia Department of Transportation will wrap up a project early this year adding an auxiliary lane on the interstate’s northbound side around the terminus of the express lanes. This should ease that transition zone, and also help with the traffic heading to the Mark Center at Seminary Road.
Interstate 66/Route 15 interchange. As with I-95, the traffic congestion problem on I-66 is too big for one fix. While the Virginia government studies the potential for adding high-occupancy toll lanes and opens the Active Traffic Management system this year, VDOT also will begin rebuilding the interchange at Route 15 in Haymarket.
This congestion relief project, 29 miles west of the Capital Beltway, illustrates how big the Washington region is getting. Scheduled to begin this spring, it will create what engineers call a “diverging diamond interchange.” The resulting traffic pattern eliminates left turns into oncoming traffic. (The Maryland State Highway Administration built one at the Baltimore Washington Parkway/Arundel Mills Boulevard interchange.)
Southeast Boulevard. The District sneaked this one in at the very end of 2014, so many drivers won’t experience the effect until this year. Southeast Boulevard occupies the space between 11th Street SE and Barney Circle that used to be a leg of the Southeast Freeway. The sunken freeway was brought up to the level of the surrounding streets and reconnected with the neighborhood. There’s a new intersection at 11th Street. For commuters, it reestablishes the route between Pennsylvania Avenue at Barney Circle and the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.
South Capitol Street Corridor. One of the biggest projects in the District is about to advance through more planning stages that eventually will lead to reconstruction of the Frederick Douglass Bridge over the Anacostia River and the creation of traffic circles on both sides of the bridge.
New management. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) named Leif Dormsjo to be director of the District Department of Transportation. He’s familiar to Marylanders who follow transportation issues. Dormsjo was the assistant secretary for planning and project management at the Maryland Department of Transportation during the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who leaves office this month.
BRAC improvements. Travelers along Route 355 near the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health will see more road work by the Maryland State Highway Administration to ease the extra traffic generated by the federal Base Realignment and Closure program.
The work, scheduled to start this spring, includes construction of a new through-lane on eastbound Center Drive, to the west of Route 355; improvements to a pedestrian/bike trail next to NIH; and upgrades to traffic signals and sidewalks. That’s scheduled to be done in fall 2016.
This summer, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation plans to select a contractor to build the underground link between the Medical Center Metro station and Walter Reed, across Route 355. That project is scheduled to be done in fall 2018.
Route 201 interchange. This project, scheduled to begin in the summer along a major commuter artery in Prince George’s County, will convert the Indian Head Highway intersection at Livingston Road/Kerby Hill Road into an interchange. The congestion-easing project is scheduled to be done in spring 2018.
Bethesda Metro. Work started in October, but the project to replace the three very long escalators at the entrance to the Bethesda Metro station will continue through this year and beyond. Since it’s impossible to completely shut this entrance to the busy station, the program takes out one of the three escalators at a time.
That’s an inconvenience for riders and a major safety challenge for the transit authority, which must keep extra staff on standby to keep the remaining two escalators in service.
POSTED: 11:56:00 AM