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Maryland Plans to Fix New Beltway Ramp

The Maryland State Highway Administration has announced a plan to ease congestion on its new ramp from the Capital Beltway to southbound Branch Avenue (Route 5). The ramp, centerpiece of a $52 million reconstruction of that busy interchange in Prince George's County, has troubled drivers since it opened last Friday.

branch ave ramp merge web.jpg The ramp lanes will no longer merge here, before Branch Avenue. (Thomson)

The fix: By Monday morning, both the inner and outer loop ramps will have their own lanes extending onto southbound Branch Avenue. At the point where drivers merge onto Branch Avenue, it will consist of two through lanes and two ramp lanes. All four lanes will continue beyond the end of the ramp for about a half mile, where the outside lane will drop off and merge left near Linda Lane.

For that new setup to work, SHA will reduce southbound Branch Avenue from three through lanes to two just north of the merge. That helps create the extra space.

Workers will are scheduled to begin the fix at 7 p.m. Sunday.

The problem: Right now, drivers from the inner loop and drivers from the outer loop merge on the ramp just before they all merge onto Branch Avenue. That first merge, on the ramp itself, was a bottleneck.

While I found traffic unusually light there during the Thursday afternoon rush, it would have been much more difficult with just a few more travelers. It would be especially difficult for drivers coming from the outer loop, who must watch for vehicles ahead and over their right shoulders.

Potential new problem: Reducing the southbound through lanes from three to two so the two ramp lanes can be extended. The SHA thinks this will work out okay. While it may slightly increase congestion where the lane ends, the traffic engineers planning this believe the extra delays will be minimal, David Buck, SHA spokesman, said in a statement this afternoon.

"Our priority is to reduce the delays along both directions of I-95," he said.

"We are confident this improvement, coupled with the continued familiarity of the new traffic pattern, will alleviate at least some of the congestion currently experienced, particularly during the p.m. peak hours." Buck continued.

But he acknowledged that the planners didn't get what they were seeking in the first place: "SHA was confident the original design would be appropriate and accommodate the traffic. We were wrong. I assure you SHA's engineers, designers and top officials are taking this issue very seriously."

By Robert Thomson  |  August 8, 2008; 1:56 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Commuting , Congestion , Construction , Driving  
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Does Branch Avenue traffic try to make a sharp right across incoming merging traffic?

If not, this spot has nothing on Telegraph Road.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 8, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

From looking at the second picture, my immediate thought was, "Hey, it's PG County, won't they all just race down the shoulder anyway?"

But I suppose it would be snide to say that, even if it's accurate.

Posted by: Rich | August 8, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

D'oh, only one picture on this blog entry. By "second picture" I was referring to the fact that the same picture is the second one on Dr. G's earlier post on this issue.

Posted by: Rich | August 8, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

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