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MD Beltway's 'Exit Only' Signs Confuse Drivers

Exit Only Signs.jpg
Those aren't really "Exit Only" lanes but some drivers move left suddenly at divide. (Thomson)

Maryland's State Highway Administration says new signs are on the way to clarify what options drivers have at the new Beltway lane divide in the Landover Road interchange area. Drivers on both the inner and outer loops have complained to me that the recent reconstruction has left motorists confused about which lane they need to be in at the divide.

Here's one such comment from Monday's online discussion.

Rockville, Md.: I drove through the Arena Drive/Landover Road interchanges for the first time in a while this weekend, and was wondering if the construction was finished. If the work there is indeed done, I'm very disappointed. The work was supposed to improve flow through the area to allow for the exit at Arena Drive, but all they have done is made it worse!

There's no barricade between the "exit lanes" and travel lanes, and the main travel lanes of the Beltway are reduced from 4 to 3 (see the term bottleneck). One of the "exit lanes" does continue straight through to re-merge with the travel lanes, but only the drivers that have been through there a couple of times would know that, and that lane still gets tied up with merging traffic from the exits.

Other drivers have written in to ask when they're going to get their through lane back and complain about the new "squeeze" or "bottleneck" they encounter.

In fact the signs and the white striping do make it appear that only the three lanes to the left go through, but that's not the case. If you're a through traveler over on the right, you're fine. That lane will reunite with the other three up ahead.

SHA spokesman David Buck said new signs will say something like:
LANES DIVIDE
ALL LANES THRU
MD 202 KEEP RIGHT

I think that would do the trick. I'm not so worried about the regulars, who would figure things out from experience. But this is I-95, the East Coast's Main Street. Plenty of drivers don't encounter those signs very often and need clear guidance.

Project's Purpose
Buck also addressed some of the other concerns raised by the chat commenter. He said the main purpose of the project is to open the I-95/Arena Drive interchange to full-time use. Right now, it's open only for events at FedEx Field, and many drivers want that changed.

But that wasn't just a matter of removing orange barrels at the Arena Drive ramps. Three interchanges -- Landover Road (Route 202), Arena Drive and Central Avenue (Route 214) -- are very close together. The SHA has to satisfy federal safety requirements. So the project added those collector-distributor lanes to the right so that traffic could exit and enter safely.

The goal of the project was not to improve traffic flow in that particular part of the Beltway. Traffic was flowing pretty well through that area before the work began. The project is going to benefit people who use the entrances and exits.

Road Essentials:  Incident Map  |  Traffic Cams   |   Key Routes

By Robert Thomson  |  July 23, 2009; 9:03 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion , Construction , Driving , highways  | Tags: Arena Drive, Capital Beltway, Dr. Gridlock, FedEx, Maryland State Highway Administration  
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