ICC has problem at Norbeck Rd.
Would you pay $1.45 to wait in this stop-and-go traffic? That's what would have been deducted from my E-ZPass as I drove under the toll gantry on the eastbound Intercounty Connector during the Thursday afternoon rush period, just before I reached the line of waiting vehicles you see in the photo above. They were all waiting to make turns onto Norbeck Road, at what is currently the eastern end of the connector.
The Maryland Transportation Authority isn't charging yet. The highway is free till March 7. So there's time to make some adjustments before people really get steamed, or just avoid the new road altogether.
The Norbeck Road ramps are temporary. They'll be gone in a year when the highway is fully open to the east. But right now, they seem pretty popular. Maybe too popular.
Late Thursday afternoon, I was cruising back and forth on the connector. The only concern I had on the western side was in taking the Shady Grove Road exit and having to move right very quickly to reach Shady Grove Road rather than enter the Metro parking area.
On my first eastbound trip, I was fine using the Georgia Avenue exit northbound toward Olney. In fact, I had no trouble scooting across Georgia to reach the double left-turn lanes at the new light to get back onto the connector heading west again.
But on the next trip east, I went beyond the Georgia Avenue exit to the Norbeck Road exit. I stopped in traffic maybe a hundred yards back from the view you see in the photo. That was at 5:24 p.m. As we slowly moved up the ramp, I could see the line behind me was growing substantially.
The traffic light at the top of the ramps on Norbeck Road favored the Norbeck Road traffic, by a lot. As I looked ahead, I noticed that drivers at the end of the group making the left turn onto eastbound Norbeck were getting stuck in the middle of Norbeck, creating a problem for westbound drivers.
Meanwhile, back down on the ramp line, one driver made a U-turn, apparently out of frustration with the wait. But turning onto the westbound side would take him all the way back to Shady Grove, since there's no westbound exit yet at Georgia Avenue.
I reached the top of the ramp at 5:33, so it took me about the same time to go up the ramp as it did to cross the rest of the connector from Shady Grove.
My car was in the right-most of the two lanes making the turn. I noticed there's quite a dip in the middle of Norbeck, so take that turn cautiously. Once on eastbound Norbeck, that right lane becomes a right-turn lane onto Wintergate Drive. It's a turn that some drivers will want to make as they continue their eastward journey, but be aware of this if your plan is to continue along Norbeck, because there will be a solid line of traffic to your left in the through lane.
Also, as we made that left turn onto eastbound Norbeck, it was clear why the trailing cars were getting stuck in the middle and temporarily blocking westbound traffic: We were immediately stopped for another red light at Wintergate Drive. So eastbound traffic coming off the ICC onto Norbeck has a very short green before it reaches the red light at Wintergate.
Later, as I continued east on two-lane Norbeck Road, I could see that the westbound traffic was backed up and moving slowly. I couldn't tell if this was worse than normal for that time, which was about 5:45 p.m.
Drivers in Montgomery County are used to sitting in heavy, slow-moving traffic. They're just not used to paying for it. And that's going to be a problem for the ICC concept if it continues.
How would you solve the congestion at Norbeck Road? Have you seen any other difficulties during these first few days of the connector's operation?
| February 25, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Commuting, Congestion, Highways, Maryland | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Intercounty Connector
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