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Route 29 Interchange Done in Maryland

We've talked about the completion of travel-blocking work at the Frederick Douglass Bridge in the District and the Legion Bridge across the Potomac. But another bit of work that got done recently was the reconstruction of the Briggs Chaney Road interchange with Route 29, a major commuter pathway in Maryland.

This is part of a longterm project by the State Highway Administration to ease traffic flow by turning Route 29 intersections into interchanges. Many commuters heading for Washington find they have an easier trip, until they reach the older, more built up White Oak area, with it's intersections, traffic lights and narrower roadway.

Still, the completion of the $49 million Briggs Chaney work should come as welcome news for many travelers. For one thing, all the temporary ramps and traffic signals are gone. But the design of the finished product should safe travelers time, whether they're heading north-south or east-west through the area.

New roads, like the intercounty connector or the Virginia HOT lanes get a lot of our attention, but the reconstruction of an interchange, like Route 29/Briggs Chaney, also is a big deal. And really complicated, too: The State Highway Administration lowered Route 29 about a dozen feet and built a bridge to take Briggs Chaney Road over it. Workers also built four ramps to improve traffic flow, widened that portion of Briggs Chaney, built retaining walls along Route 29, rebuilt the storm water system and repaved the roads.

More than 58,000 vehicles pass through the interchange on a typical day, SHA says. But that's projected to increase to 80,000 by 2030.

"Our goal is to continue upgrade and improve the US 29 Corridor, so motorists are spending less time in their cars and more time doing things they enjoy," SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said in a statement about the interchange completion.

What's your view of the results along Route 29? Interchange reconstruction is a significant focus of highway improvements across the region. The plan to rebuilt the I-66 interchange in Gainesville is another example.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 12, 2007; 4:52 AM ET
Categories:  Construction  
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Comments

The new interchange is great! Is there a list of the other intersections on Rt 29 SHA wants to turn into interchanges?

Posted by: VroomVroom | September 12, 2007 6:48 AM | Report abuse

Its great that it is finished -- but the main blockage is at University blvd before the beltway. the neighborhood was against doing that. maybe that discussion could be reopened. I know there is a church & several businesses there -- but the traffic backup is terrible.

Posted by: js | September 12, 2007 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Glad to hear about the imporovements. By the way, I wonder how many in the audience know why Route 29 is called Route 29. Here's a hint; did you see saving Private Ryan?

http://www.29thdivisionassociation.org/mandm.htm

Posted by: JWerthan | September 12, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I live up 29 and must say the worst part is when it narrows down to two lanes for the exit to New Hampshire. I have spent more time there than on the beltway. The Briggs Chaney pass is great, but that is not where the problem is.

Posted by: l8yf8 | September 12, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Yes, heaven forbid that that traffic should slow down once it reaches the "older, more built up" neighborhoods of close-in Silver Spring. Houses, churches, schools, and businesses: what right do they have to slow down the car-bound commuters from up north?!

Posted by: KBH in Four Corners | September 12, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

so what? - all that effort and $$$ and the commute is still horrendous south bound 29 at whiteoak until the beltway, and north bound 29 at the useless lights before and at the Trader Joes shopping center - I take a commuter bus from a 29 Park and Ride into DC -about 25 miles -and the commute is every bit of an hour and a half each way!

Posted by: 29stinks | September 12, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

that "useless light" before the trader joes is the one that lets me exit my neighborhood.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I live about a mile from the 29/Briggs Chaney interchange, and do love the new system.

One huge complaint, though, is that they need better markings when getting off Rt 29 to Briggs Chaney East. The ramp there is two leans. The right lane goes to the auto dealerships and the left lane goes straight and also allows turning into the shopping center with the Safeway. I always want to continue straight down Briggs Chaney, so get into the left lane; invariably right as the light turns green, someone in the right lane will then try to immediately turn left into the shopping center, crossing over three lanes and almost sideswiping me. They're completely oblivious to the white lines painted on the road and the traffic right next to them, and I honestly feel like one day I will get hit there. As it is, a good quarter of the time I have to lay on my horn just to prevent being hit.

Posted by: Adam | September 12, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

SHA knew the "bottleneck" would remain at Four Corners when they re-did the Briggs Chaney interchange. So did the motorists. The Four Corners neighborhood has been there a long time, with stores, homes, and churches. They do not want to look like a giant overpass/underpass for the sake of commuters.

Posted by: susa | September 12, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

The Route 29 interchange construction project is great. SHA needs to incorporate these plans into other heavily congested intersections, particularly in west Montgomery County.

But as long as lights still remain at Fairland, Musgrove, Tech, Industrial, and most importantly MD 193, all the improvements made further north won't help all that much.

As a side note, the interchange with MD 200 (ICC) is slated to be built between Briggs Chaney and Fairland roads.

Posted by: Michael | September 12, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"the main blockage is at University blvd before the beltway. the neighborhood was against doing that. maybe that discussion could be reopened. I know there is a church & several businesses there -- but the traffic backup is terrible.": A community exists at Four Corners and has for 75 years. There is a church, a high school, many businesses, and three neighborhoods containing thousands of homes (including mine). Instead of discussing an interchange, we should be giving people incentives to move closer to work and/or take public transportation.

Posted by: SSpring | September 12, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

The new interchange at 29 and Briggs Chaney, near where I live, is great, though the timing of the traffic lights could be better.

Three things that could ease congestion between that area and downtown Silver Spring now that the Briggs Chaney intersection is completed:

1. Finally fix the ridiculous narrowing of 29 S at New Hampshire Avenue. There's no reason this section of 29 should narrow to two lanes, and it always causes huge headaches in the morning.

2. Time traffic lights in a sensible way, particularly the two near Stewart Lane and between Prelude Drive and Lockwood Drive. I understand these lights can't fully sync up because of left-turn arrows and the like, but they could be timed better.

3. Encourage people to live in downtown Silver Spring and other close-in areas in Montgomery County through lower housing costs. Most people, including myself, while already paying too much in rent, simply can't afford $1,500-$1,900 for a dinky one-bedroom apartment in downtown Silver Spring. Do something about hyper-inflated rents in the area, and you'll go along way toward easing congestion.

Posted by: brimadison | September 12, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Next for 29, the stretch from the Beltway North especially around University.

Posted by: joe c | September 12, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

btw, the neighborhood concerns are real, and valid. One answer might be to eliminate a few of the entrances on to 29 in favor of one or two "big ones." Limited access with strategically-placed consolidated entries.

Posted by: joe c | September 12, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

The logic that the "bottlenecks" where 29 enters established neighborhoods need to be eliminated through more exchanges, underramps, fewer "useless lights," &c. is the same flawed logic that would have plowed freeways through DC back in the 1960s.

Face it, if you insist on living in the far suburbs while driving to work in the city, you're going to have to slow down sooner or later. At the least one would like to see dedicated lanes for buses like those that work in Portland, OR and elsewhere, but that would be expecting the state and others to try something new.

Posted by: KBH in Four Corners | September 12, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I've griped about other projects that SHA has overseen, but I think they did a nice job on this one.
I wish that they would encourage (via signs) traffic going to I-495, particularly the inner loop, to use New Hampshire Avenue Southbound. The jug handle to make a left onto University Blvd. (and the only way to the Inner Loop) is the major cause of headaches for those of us who live in Four Corners.
If you put an interchange at Four Corners, all you'd do is move the bottleneck a few hundred feet down the road. Do any of our friends in Columbia think that the Beltway ramp will suddenly become less congested if there's no light before it? Same for the lights at Dale Drive and Spring St. farther south. I do agree that the light timing between White Oak and Burnt Mills could be a little better, but that's a county, not a state issue.

Posted by: Joe in SS | September 12, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Traffic light timing aside, I frequently use US 29 when traveling from NoVA to northwest of Baltimore to visit family on weekends. Even with the weekend congestion through Four Corners and White Oak, I find the trip more pleasant. The road opens up for the most part once north of NH Avenue. I can't speak to problems at rushhour or during the week but I will say that the new Trader Joe's shopping center is a big nuisance. Really, the whole strip center is on a very small block of land and traffic queueing in the shopping center parking lot waiting to get back out to US 29 is even worse than the bottlenecks that signal makes for US 29 through traffic.

This is totally unrelated to this topic: But can anyone tell me if you can drive inbound on the Clara Barton Parkway/Canal Rd and then make a right turn to go outbound on the Chain Bridge? (I know you can't go inbound on CB/Canal during the afternoon rush, but what about other times?) I'm trying to get from the Montgomery Mall area to Ballston (near Quincy St and I-66) during midday (weekdays). Thanks for your help!

Posted by: xyv1027 | September 12, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I've noticed a few things since the Briggs Chaney and even the MD 198 interchanges have been completed:

(1) The interchanges are no help to morning rushhour traffic because of the eventual bottlenecks further south, particularly at University Blvd. In fact, I think the lines (queues) of traffic on US 29 South in the morning to get to University Blvd have gotten worse in recent years. This may be due to the fact that these interchanges move traffic further south much more efficiently only to bottleneck sooner. Five years ago, the morning back-up began somewhere at about New Hampshire, now its somewhere near Fairland or Randolph, considerably further north.

(2) The afternoon commutes are much better. For some reason, the lights at University are less of an issue in the afternoons and once up into Burnt Mills and White Oak, US 29 runs well.

Dr. Gridlock, could you ask SHA about the traffic signal at the new Trader Joes shopping center? Did SHA or Montgomery County put up this signal? Who timed this signal with other ones in the vicinity? The signal seems to give too much green time to shopping center traffic (both entering via left turn from 29-South and exiting) and not near enough for US 29. I agree with the previous poster in that this shopping center should have never been permitted for this site, particularly with direct access to US 29. Couldn't shopping center access have been constructed from Lockwood Drive? The shopping center signal is the second worst offender of gridlock, second only to MD 193 and I think Four Corners citizens have a valid argument about protesting over an interchange at US29 and MD193; one I think will never happen and should not happen. BUT, I think more can be done to improve traffic at that intersection.

Posted by: Columbia to Downtown SS | September 12, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

People need to either move closer to work or stop whining about it. You knew what the traffic would be like when you bought the house or took the job.

Posted by: ss | September 12, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

The Trader Joes did not require permits to build on the property in Burnt Mills; it was already zoned for commercial use. In fact, the Northwood Park Civic Association lobbied TJ's and the property owner to come to an agreement for a store there, so it's presence is actually an outcome of the people who actually live and shop in the immediate area. So sorry it's an inconvenience to all you folks who can't let go of your single-occupancy cars, or at least have precious little option to do so because of the stunted transportation infrastructure here.

Again, why should all the lights be timed for the convenience/speed of those passing through as opposed to the residents and others who need to cross 29 or gain access to it?

Posted by: KBH in Four Corners | September 12, 2007 9:04 PM | Report abuse

The Trader Joes did not require permits to build on the property in Burnt Mills; it was already zoned for commercial use. In fact, the Northwood Park Civic Association lobbied TJ's and the property owner to come to an agreement for a store there, so it's presence is actually an outcome of the people who actually live and shop in the immediate area. So sorry it's an inconvenience to all you folks who can't let go of your single-occupancy cars, or at least have precious little option to do so because of the stunted transportation infrastructure here.

Again, why should all the lights be timed for the convenience/speed of those passing through as opposed to the residents and others who need to cross 29 or gain access to it?

Posted by: KBH in Four Corners | September 12, 2007 9:08 PM | Report abuse

The Trader Joes did not require permits to build on the property in Burnt Mills; it was already zoned for commercial use. In fact, the Northwood Park Civic Association lobbied TJ's and the property owner to come to an agreement for a store there, so it's presence is actually an outcome of the people who actually live and shop in the immediate area. So sorry it's an inconvenience to all you folks who can't let go of your single-occupancy cars, or at least have precious little option to do so because of the stunted transportation infrastructure here.

Again, why should all the lights be timed for the convenience/speed of those passing through as opposed to the residents and others who need to cross 29 or gain access to it?

Posted by: KBH in Four Corners | September 12, 2007 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Trader Joe's...

Dr. Gridlock - next time you speak with SHA, can you get an update on the project to install sidewalks in between Four Corners and Burnt Mills on US 29? They've been on the drawing board since just after Trader Joe's opened. There is no safe way to walk the 3/4 mile between the two. Both sides of 29 have steep, grassy hills leading straight to the roadway. The best I've found is the US 29 median, which is not the most optimal solution.
I've seen some power lines/poles getting moved, but I am not sure if this is related to the project or not?

Thanks!

Posted by: Joe in SS | September 12, 2007 11:01 PM | Report abuse

XYV: you can get from Clara Barton Parkway to Chain Bridge at any time you can head inbound on Clara Barton Parkway. That right turn is always allowed, but the corresponding reverse movement left turn is never allowed. Technically, the only way to legally do that move is to make a right onto Canal Road, left onto Arizona, left onto MacArthur, and then a left onto Clara Barton Parkway several miles later in Maryland. Its faster just to use the GW Parkway and Legion Bridge.

Posted by: Woodley Park | September 13, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

As someone who used to live in Four Corners and who still has friends in the area, I second the request made by "Joe in SS" at 11:01 p.m. September 12.

Posted by: Greenbelt Gal | September 13, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info Woodley Park. I will only need to make the drive inbound on Clara Barton Parkway to go outbound (right onto Chain Bridge); I won't be needing to make the reverse trip that you also noted.

Posted by: xyv1027 | September 13, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

KBH, I think there are a number of posters in this thread that are arguing WITH you, that is in defense of keeping the sense of community to the Four Corners neighborhood. To that end though, roadways are public spaces that can be used by anyone licensed to operate a properly registered vehicle. There are two sides to every story: the thoughts of neighborhood activists (yourself) and the thoughts of commuters.

Many of us are truly looking for the best for everyone. Your respect to your fellow neighbors and the through-commuters is appreciated.

Posted by: Columbia to downtown SS commuter | September 13, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

The new interchange is a job well done and serves its intended objective. Question: I've heard that the $3 billion ICC will sponge road funds from other projects. Will the further completion of the other route 29 interchanges be jeopardized by the ICC?

Posted by: Donny | September 13, 2007 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Donny, From my understading there are no additional interchanges in the immediate plans along US 29.

Posted by: Columbia to downtown SS commuter | September 17, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I know of at lease two more planned interchanges on rt 29 one at Musgrove Rd and Fairland Rd. They will not come cheap...I'm just concerned that the between the $3 billion ICC and the current budget pinch, we're going to see some cutbacks. The Rt 29 upgrade has been a success thus far...it could easily be jeopardized to make way for an expensive high-risk toll road.

Posted by: Donny | September 28, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Just checking back in - sorry for the duplicate posts above.

re. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND TRANSPORTATION - U.S. Route 29 Sidewalk - CIP No. 509997. The DPW has been getting easements from property owners along the way for this in 2006 and 2007.

On WTOP this AM they reported the MoCo Council has approved the $1.5 million dollar project with construction set to begin on sidewalk on one side of road only from Southwood to Burnt Mills. I'm guessing its on the east side of the road but I can't find any news accounts of this yet...

Posted by: KBH in Four Corners | October 10, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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