More Challenges on Virginia Beltway
The Wilson Bridge project plans to add some overhead signs on the Beltway's outer loop to provide additional guidance for drivers facing the lane shrinks and splits in the work zone. But midday drivers also will face some new construction issues there from today through Thursday.
The outer loop near the Eisenhower Avenue Connector will be reduced to two lanes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily through Thursday for work on the Beltway widening in that area.
Through September, the new normal in that area is this: The outer loop approaching the temporarily-closed connector consists of three travel lanes. The two on the left go straight through. The one on the right is a little weird. It's formed by using the connector's ramps. Nothing bad will happen to Beltway drivers by using that right-hand lane, but they should follow the recommended speed limit of 35 mph, because they'll be going down a ramp then up a ramp to return to the Beltway.
The only real problem with this movement is that some drivers aren't picking up on the fact that they don't have to veer left at the last moment to stay on the Beltway.
But project spokeswoman Jenny Rios says that four additional sets of signs are to be installed overhead to guide drivers through the work area. "The purpose of the signage is to reassure motorists that the lanes divide, and the right lane is not an exit and continues through to 95/495," she said in an e-mail.
About 63,500 vehicles per day use the outer loop, and even before this new traffic split at the connector, they were dealing with a squeeze down from four to three lanes in that area. But the project figures that with the new signs and with drivers getting familiar with the set up, this month's traffic congestion there should ease. My concern has been with long-distance travelers, who pass through the area either once or occasionally, and are more likely than the regulars to be confused at the split.
Some drivers have asked why the traffic pattern for the Beltway widening, which includes widening the Beltway bridge over the connector, was set up this way.
"We completed a very thorough and exhaustive review of options considering safety, driver inconvenience, and the work requirements," Rios said. "We chose this option and the summer timing in order to have maximum daylight hours, take advantage of schools being in recess, and benefit from lighter travel volumes since a large portion of daily commuters would at some point be on vacations during this period."
This outer loop configuration is scheduled to stay in place through September, when the connector would re-open. The off-ramp from the inner loop to the connector is scheduled to re-open in October.
July 27, 2009; 9:01 AM ET
Categories: Commuting , Congestion , Construction , Driving , Wilson Bridge | Tags: Capital Beltway, Dr. Gridlock, Eisenhower Connector
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