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Branch Avenue Blues

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
On Aug. 1, the Maryland State Highway Administration opened a new flyover ramp from the inner loop of the Capital Beltway to southbound Branch Avenue (Route 5). The new ramp was supposed to ease congestion and eliminate the difficult merge at the Branch Avenue/Beltway interchange.

Form single lane.jpg Signs ahead say, "Form Single Lane" as ramp traffic merges. (Thomson)

However, conditions have been made worse. To give you an overview of the problem:

Originally the inner loop and outer loop ramps onto southbound Branch Avenue had separate merge points. There used to be a line which formed at the off ramp for Branch Avenue and spilled onto the shoulder of the inner loop. The queue for this ramp would be about 1/4 mile long. There would be no delay on the outer loop.

Now with the new traffic pattern, both loops have the same merge point onto southbound Branch Avenue. Two ramp lanes from the Beltway have to form a single lane before merging onto Branch Avenue. This new bottleneck is causing major backups onto both loops, most significantly on the inner loop.

From my observations, this bottleneck can be relieved simply by restriping the ramp to have both ramp lanes merge onto Branch Avenue and have a lane drop on Branch Avenue just before the Beltway merge. Branch Avenue itself is free flowing, with no delay at the Beltway.
Sidney V. Elam Jr.
Upper Marlboro

What's your experience with this new ramp? Bob Marbourg has been expressing his dismay during his afternoon traffic reports on WTOP radio.

branch ave ramp merge web.jpg Then everyone heads for merge with Branch Avenue. (Thomson)

Does the engineering work? Is it a question of letting drivers get used to the new setup, or is there a need for the type of change that Elam is suggesting?

I'll say more about this in my Dr. Gridlock column in Sunday's Post, but during a test drive on Thursday afternoon, I wondered if there were enough warning signs about the merge that occurs on the ramp just before everyone merges onto southbound Branch Avenue.

By Robert Thomson  |  August 8, 2008; 10:22 AM ET
Categories:  Congestion , Construction , Driving  
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