Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Transportation Home  |  Discussions  |  Traffic  |  Columns  |  Q&A     |      Twitter |    Facebook   |  phone Alerts
Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 02/25/2011

ICC has problem at Norbeck Rd.

By Robert Thomson

ICC at Norbeck 2-24-11.jpg
Eastbound traffic on the connector bogs down at the Norbeck Road exit. (Thomson)

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?

Intercounty Connector opens l ICC driver's manual l Archive


By Robert Thomson  | February 25, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Congestion, Highways, Maryland  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Intercounty Connector  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Outer Loop lane blocked in MD
Next: Major VRE delays, Metro Option open

Comments

I have a question. For years, we could exit 270 onto 370 to Shady Grove Road. Will we now have to pay a toll if we get off at the Shady Grove Road exit or does the toll not start until you are further east on the ICC?

Posted by: rock-o | February 25, 2011 8:40 AM | Report abuse

@rock -NO! The Shady Grove Road exit is still part of 370. The ICC is a "turn" off of 370 Eastbound.

Hope this helps!

Posted by: jwash4472 | February 25, 2011 9:00 AM | Report abuse

What I noted about the Norbeck Road intersection is that the dual left-turn lanes seemed to make it a bit tight for people turning right on red from westbound Norbeck onto the ICC. No doubt part of that is left-turners cutting the corner, but I think part of it is also due to the right turn being a fairly sharp one. As Dr. Gridlock notes, it's a temporary intersection, so it's not surprising that it's not entirely up to snuff. Moreover, the solution for people making the turn is easy--if you don't have enough room, don't go. You shouldn't go right on red if you don't feel you can do it safely, and YOU have to be the decider on when it's safe, not the impatient guy with the horn behind you.

(I was in the left of the two left-turn lanes from the ICC, incidentally. I didn't know the right one would immediately become right-turn-only on Norbeck and I picked the left lane simply because it had the shorter line.)

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 25, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Previously those making the trip spread out among a number of different possible routes (none of them good or fast) but now the ICC concentrates them, especially with so few exit options.

Like Yogi Berra said, "nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded".

Posted by: Virginiadude1 | February 25, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

As someone unlucky enough to live right where the ICC is dumping out on Norbeck, this blows. My commute time has DOUBLED from the traffic. Go away ICC traffic!

Posted by: HappyArmyWife | February 25, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Like, 1995hoo, I think the right turn from westbound Norbeck onto the ICC is quite sharp. You're heading into a single-lane ramp going down to the ICC. (As opposed to the two lanes coming up from the ICC to Norbeck.) This turn seems likely to slow down traffic on westbound Norbeck even when the light is green for those drivers.

And regarding rock-o's question: I've been getting a lot of similar questions. Basically, anything drivers could do for free before the ICC opened on Wednesday, they'll still be able to do for free. It's possible that some new drivers seeking the Shady Grove Metro station could make a mistake and get past the right-hand exit to the station heading east and go onto the ICC, but I think the signage is pretty good.

The toll gantry is not near I-370. You'd be well along the ICC before you passed under it. However, there's no exit on the ICC before you reach Georgia Avenue, well past the toll gantry. So if you do make a mistake and get past the signage onto the ICC, you're going to pay the toll, which starts March 7.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | February 25, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock: Part of the confusion regarding the possibility of tolls on the pre-existing portion of 370 likely stems from the fact that when map/graphics for the ICC are viewed, they more often than not note the ICC overlapping 370 all the way to 270. This doesn't seem to be the real case as the ICC branches off of 370 at/after the metro. But, when the ICC is noted as laying across there, it suggests to a viewer that tolls have been added to 370.

Posted by: jiben2 | February 25, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

HAHAHA. This is proof that building roads to ease congestion doesn't work. Traffic grows to meet (and exceed) capacity. Only sensible public transportation options reduce traffic. Enjoy your toll traffic!

Posted by: oldtimehockey | February 25, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: While the traffic at Norbeck needs to be dealt with, I think the congestion proves nothing other than that traffic engineers need to look closely at that spot and figure out whether a retiming of the two signals or some other measure will ease the bottleneck.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | February 25, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

In addition to Dr. Gridlock's point, I don't see how a backup at what is clearly stated to be a TEMPORARY intersection/traffic light proves anything about easing, or not easing, congestion.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 25, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

A map of the Norbeck intersection where the congestion is taking place would really be a helpful visual aid for this article.

Two other comments:
The new Shady Grove Road signage indicates one should exit for Shady Grove Rd. *East or West* at exit 3A, immediately followed by a sign reading Shady Grove Rd. *North or South* as one approaches the intersection coming off the exit. What's up with that?

Despite the new signage on I-370, know that you can also get to Shady Grove Rd. via Exit 3B, which says Metro Station. Stay in the right lane coming off of Exit 3B, and take the immediate exit at Shady Grove Rd. At the light, you can now go east or west. (This used to be the exit for Shady Grove Rd. east.)

Posted by: DerwoodMom | February 25, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

A map of the Norbeck intersection where the congestion is taking place would really be a helpful visual aid for this article.

Two other comments:
The new Shady Grove Road signage indicates one should exit for Shady Grove Rd. *East or West* at exit 3A, immediately followed by a sign reading Shady Grove Rd. *North or South* as one approaches the intersection coming off the exit. What's up with that?

Despite the new signage on I-370, know that you can also get to Shady Grove Rd. via Exit 3B, which says Metro Station. Stay in the right lane coming off of Exit 3B, and take the immediate exit at Shady Grove Rd. At the light, you can now go east or west. (This used to be the exit for Shady Grove Rd. east.)

Posted by: DerwoodMom | February 25, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Two comments:
First, The right lane before Wintergate I believe used to be a right turn only lane, but now it appears you can proceed straight. If you look at the construction sign right after Wintergate, it says "Alternate" for a merge. They simply forgot to black out the turn arrow in the road.

Second, WHY are the speed limits set so low? The road is a designed from scratch, access controlled, all electronic deer-fenced road! There should be no reason why the speed limit be set to anything lower than 65! Also since it is all electronic, why do we need to hire more officers to patrol the road to catch people speeding in excess of the low limit? It's all electronic so just measure the amount of time it takes for an EZPass tagholder to traverse the distance between two toll collecting portions.

Posted by: ewong228 | February 25, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

The traffic was un usually heavy on Thursday. The signal timing seemed to be working much better today and traffic along Norbeck Road was progressing through the corridor much better. It will take a while for the traffic to settle down.

Posted by: Bashe | February 25, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company