Navigating Wilson Bridge Thru Lanes
Some readers of the blog and The Post's Commuter page told me early this week they were disappointed in the quality of the signs guiding them through the new split between Thru and Local lanes that opened last weekend on the outer loop of the Wilson Bridge.
A frequent and reliable commenter who now uses "thetan" as a handle wrote:
"I drove the new Outer Loop Lanes on Sunday, and I was very disappointed with the signage that was there. Dr. Gridlock showed a picture of a diagramatic overhead sign clearly showing the split between the express and local lanes.
"The signs were to be color coded for local and express lanes, with local lanes in white text on black, and express (thru) lanes in black text on white. Dr. Gridlock also showed a sign in this clip which shows "Local Lane Exits" and the distances to exits you will have to take the local lanes to get to.
"This signage would be decent ***if any of it were actually installed this weekend!!"
Another commenter, 1995hoo, took the trouble of presenting a dashboard-view video.
The people at the Wilson Bridge project who have tried very hard for many years go make sure the construction work is understandable to drivers looked over the critiques for me and offered some responses, which I'll present here, with thanks to Johanna Spangenberg Jones for collecting the information.
Why Are Some Signs Temporary?
The construction at the Telegraph Road interchange construction will result in frequent lane shifts and constrictions in the area approaching the current Thru/Local lane split on the outer loop. In fact, the Telegraph Road construction in the next few years will extend the entrance and exit of the Thru lanes out to between the Eisenhower Avenue and Telegraph Road exits.
So it isn't feasible to put up large, permanent overhead signs to notify motorists of the lane split. Instead, the Wilson Bridge Project is limited to posting signs to the far-right side of the outer loop notifying motorists of the approaching split. Space constraints and wind conditions limit the size of these temporary signs.
The adjustments on the outer loop will last at least through 2009 or 2010. The signs used on Dr. Gridlock's Commuter page in Sunday's Post were representative of what drivers will ultimately see both loops in advance of the divide between the Thru and Local lanes.
On the inner loop in Maryland approaching the lane split, nearly all the signs are permanent and in final location and will look similar to how the signs are displayed on the www.wilsonbridge.com Web site, but there will be some modifications as additional ramps open in the spring.
What Changed This Week?
Additional signs were posted and modifications were made to the existing signs. Project managers also are reviewing the current signage and evaluating ways to improve drivers' understanding of the Thru/Local split on the outer loop.
What's Under Consideration?
-- Removing any excess signs.
-- Using VDOT's overhead message boards just before the Eisenhower Connector to provide additional guidance about lane split.
-- Reviewing the variable messages on the highway signs to make them as readable as possible for drivers.
-- Looking into enhanced signs and the best placement of these signs.
Jones added: "We appreciate getting feedback from the public, as no matter how much planning we do for traffic changes, day-to-day drivers interpretations and experiences are often much different, and we can try to make necessary changes."
She also urged drivers to look for alternative routes this weekend, while the inner loop lane split is prepared for opening. The work is scheduled to start at 9 o'clock tonight and continue through noon Sunday.
"We are expecting very heavy delays from Branch Avenue (MD-5) to Telegraph Road Interchange as the Beltway will be reduced to one lane," she said. "Our activities will be more extensive than this past weekend's activities, but we are expecting to have equally favorable results with the opening of the inner loop Thru lanes as we have seen on the outer loop Thru lanes this week."
Project managers were encouraged about the traffic flow on the outer loop during the afternoon periods when congestion is typical.
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