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Highlights of Summer Road Work

Among the many changes our transportation departments made this summer, I picked out three that I'd like to highlight on an upcoming edition of The Post's commuter page and discuss with you here. Each affects many drivers and illustrates a different facet of road work:

Beltway Ramp: The redesigned exit from the inner loop onto southbound Georgia Avenue improved the turn onto the avenue. Drivers no longer have to turn onto Georgia and then quickly merge left into heavy traffic before the lane disappears. Now, they have a clear shot heading southbound whether they're going for 16th Street or continuing on Georgia.

Traffic line (2).jpg Traffic lines up at Georgia ramp. (Robert Thomson)

I'm one of those drivers who likes to minimize anxiety. I don't mind waiting for a light if it eliminates a merge I hated. Of course, not all drivers feel that way: Some of you say the traffic backs up onto the Beltway. The times I've tried it during morning rush and after, the line of cars sometimes goes all the way back to the start of the exit lane, which is six-tenths of a mile. The traffic moved up pretty quickly. Cars cleared the lane in a couple of minutes.

That exit has had long lines of traffic for many years. I've seen it far worse: backed up into the right travel lane of the Beltway.

Other drivers who commute on Georgia Avenue and don't use the Beltway complain that traffic is more congested because of the addition of the new light at the ramp. That may be so, but it's hard for me to tell whether the overall trip down Georgia has actually been lengthened this month. There's so much traffic and so many lights along that route.

One caution: If you take the outer loop to reach southbound Georgia, keep in might that you now might be making a left turn into a line of stopped traffic under the Beltway. That's one visible effect of the new signal light.

Route 28 Interchanges: I spent about an hour during this morning's rush driving up and down Route 28 near Dulles Airport to see the how the interchange projects were advancing and what effect their having. Over the summer, VDOT finished the Sterling interchange, opened Pacific Boulevard from Sterling Boulevard to Cedar Green Road and removed the traffic signal at Route 28.

innovation ramp.jpg New ramp at Innovation Ave. to open soon. (Robert Thomson)

The latter was the most noticeable to me. I thought traffic flowed much more smoothly through that area. Right now, traffic detours to reach Innovation Avenue, but the rebuilt interchange should open next month. Today, driving between Innovation Avenue and Route 7 was real easy, but there was congestion between the Air and Space Museum and the Dulles Toll Road, especially northbound. (The eastbound Toll Road was backed up practically its entire length.)

There are more improvements yet to come on Route 28, but the growth in that area around Dulles is just staggering. Will it quickly overwhelm all this work and investment?

Hughesville Bypass: I'm surprised I haven't heard more from commuters about this long-awaited improvement for Southern Maryland traffic. At $56 million, it was no Springfield Interchange, but it was one of the larger projects in this region.

The four-lane road, which was under construction for three years, bypasses Hughesville on the easter side and provides relief for the 41,000 drivers who use Route 5 from St. Mary's and Route 231 from Calvert for their commutes. The State Highway Administration notes that traffic could increase to 68,000 vehicles by 2025 because of growth associated with BRAC and expansion of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

So the same question about Route 28 applies here: How long will it be before this work is overwhelmed by new demand for roads? In Southern Maryland, it was good to see the opening of the bypass accompanied by some improvements in commuter bus service, but transit has a long way to go in meeting the needs of that region.

Share your thoughts about these three projects here or in an e-mail to me at

By Robert Thomson  |  September 27, 2007; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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If I might make a suggestion, please try your Route 28 experiment in the afternoon rush in addition to the morning rush. Driving northbound between Innovation Ave and Waxpool Rd becomes anything but easy.

Posted by: Ashburn Commuter | September 27, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

RE: Route 28. "There are more improvements yet to come on Route 28, but the growth in that area around Dulles is just staggering. Will it quickly overwhelm all this work and investment?"

I second the Ashburn commuter. Try doing your same field test in the afternoon when Route 28 north is more of the rushhour flow. Route 28 south runs fairly well down to the Toll Rd in the morning because there are no traffic signals. However in the afternoon, the choke points are STILL at the Waxpool interchange (the already outdated and overwhelmed single left exit lane to Waxpool Rd West) and then further north at the signalized intersections at Steeplechase Drive and Severn Way. (Frankly, I think the signal at Severn Way should simply be removed; all that traffic coming from Dulles Crossing and Walmart can use the new Nokes Blvd interchange to access Route 28 north or south.)

Posted by: xyv1027 | September 27, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock, do you know what the timeline is on the Route 28 and Frying Pan Rd interchange? When will construction start/end?

I think this interchange should have been a higher priority than several of the others, Air & Space Museum Parkway and McLearen Rd for example. There is alot of turning traffic from SB 28 to head east (left) onto Frying Pan because of the huge amount of residential and commerical development along Frying Pan just south of the Toll Rd. Plus, alot of local drivers use Frying Pan as the closest alternate and best parallel to the Toll Rd (to avoid tolls and congestion even).

Posted by: Route 28 is great | September 27, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse provides the current status on all of the interchange projects... the pictures may not get updated as regularly as I'd love to see, but the "Progress Update" and "Traffic Update" links appear to get updated.

I'll agree with the 28 travel in the afternoon test -- I've given up on using the flyover in rush-hour. The only problem with using the cloverleaf exit is that I either need to change to the middle lane shortly after Boderick Rd or get caught up in all the traffic standing still waiting for the signal to turn left onto Loudoun County Parkway. Perhaps those turn lanes could be lengthened by a couple of carlengths and the signal given a couple extra seconds?

The other thing that Waxpool (then Farmwell) needs is the 3rd (right hand) lane extended up to Ashburn Village Blvd. Make it a straight or turn at Smith's Switch and the next street, then right turn only at AV. -- by the way that things appear offset, there's already an easement available?

Posted by: Another Ashburnite | September 28, 2007 12:51 AM | Report abuse

The Hughesville bypass is a much improved area! I think it will cut down on the traffic accidents in this area and certainly speed progress through the area as it removed the light altogether. But as you stated, there is much more improvement that is needed. There should be an HOV lane where the buses don't have to mix with the regular traffic thereby offering an alternative to driving. The Brandywine lights need to be removed for an overpass. This has been talked about for years and nothing has been done. Elected leaders having been in office for years take note, voters will start voting you out if you can't perform.

Posted by: dancermommd | September 28, 2007 6:59 AM | Report abuse

i would like an m5toll please

Posted by: alan | September 28, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

When using the right exit for Waxpool Rd from 28 north, stay as far right as possible through the signals at Pacific Blvd and Boderick. (The right lane of 4 at the intersection with Pacific is signed as a straight and right turn lane and I often find it to be the quickest.) Once west of Pacific, you have a few hundred feet to merge right though. Agreed that the left turn at Loudoun County Parkway is overcrowded. One would think that the left turn timing on the signal could be extended. The loss of green time would go to eastbound Waxpool traffic but the flow going towards 28 in the afternoon is very low. Also agreed on keeping Waxpool three lanes westbound until Ashburn Village Blvd. I think that would do alot to alleviate the delays headed west from before the Ice Rink.

(Its the little things like extending a third lane an extra 3/4 mile that would do so much for so little cost in this area. I see this same sort of thing all over the area; the space and pavement is often already in place. The only thing to do would be to repaint the lines on the road.)

Posted by: Ashburn | September 28, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Hey all, I agree that the interchange at Frying Pan Rd. should get built asap, however I think there is a far more pressing need to eliminate the signalized intersection at Willard Rd. (And from what I see, construction hasn't even started on this future interchange.) Compared to Frying Pan Rd which ends at 28, there are alot of turning movements at the Willard Rd intersection that lead to longer delays on Route 28. The evening rush seems to be the worst for delays to get through this signal.

I'd agree with others in that Dr. G oughta do his field test on Route 28 between I-66 and Route 7 during the afternoon rush, not the morning.

Posted by: Route 28 construction | September 28, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

it's all VDOT and the lawmakers fault, they move at a snails pace in getting these roads built. We're sending huge amounts to Richmond and to the Feds and they are pissing it away

Posted by: Joe | September 28, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Joe says: "it's all VDOT and the lawmakers fault"

Actually, its the taxpayers and the lawmakers fault.

Its the lawmakers fault for misappropriating the money. I don't know how it is done in VA exactly, but in NC a disproportionate amount of money goes to the rural areas. Well technically speaking, an equal amount of money goes to each district, no matter if it is rural or urban. Thats the price you pay for having DOT districts drawn up in the 1920's still in effect today, and the effect of having a legislature with an imbalance favoring rural areas. On the federal level, you have earmarks that have gotten way out of control (Bridge to Nowhere) meaning the DOT's are not allowed to spend money on what they have determined is a priority.

Then the taxpayers and lawmakers share blame for underfunding transportation on all levels. If you converted today's transportation tax rates (mostly fuel taxes) and construction cost indices to 1950's dollars, and then account for losses in revenue due to more fuel efficient vehicles, you would see that we pay less than half of what we used to pay in transporation user fees. Since people don't want to pay tolls, don't want to have taxes raised, and don't like alternate forms of transportation funding (NOVA Transportation Authority, sales taxes, Abusive Driver Fees), that leaves transportation agencies like VDOT no choice but to postpone needed projects into the future. I'm not the biggest fan of VDOT, but I'll defend them on this point...its really not their fault that constituants and lawmakers have forced them (through mandates and rediculously low funding limits) to go at a snail's pace.

Everyone wants a new road long as it is in someone else's neighborhood and someone else pays for it so they can get a free ride. What you see now, is the result.

-Woodley Park, who is glad his "state" and local tax dollars don't get spent hundreds of miles away

Posted by: Woodley Park | September 28, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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