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Posted at 7:05 PM ET, 11/13/2009

A wider I-270: How two lanes beats four

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Phil Andrews
Gaithersburg

A recent state proposal to address traffic-choked Interstate 270 would add four lanes between Shady Grove Road and Urbana, and two lanes between Urbana and the city of Frederick. But after reviewing the state’s long-term traffic projections for I-270, the Montgomery County Council has come up with a better solution.

Since the state’s projections show that the existing lanes could handle future rush-hour traffic northbound in the morning and southbound in the evening, it makes more sense to limit I-270 widening in Montgomery County to two reversible lanes for southbound use in the morning and northbound in the evening.

In an informal vote last week, the council unanimously endorsed this approach, for good reason: Adding two reversible lanes rather than four ordinary ones would cut costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and reduce community and environmental impacts. What we envision are congestion-priced toll lanes (free to carpools, buses and motorcycles) that would allow for faster travel than on the non-toll, general-use lanes.

On Tuesday, the County Council will take a formal vote on the proposal, as well as on a recommendation on whether the Corridor Cities Transitway, which would connect Clarksburg, Germantown and Gaithersburg to the Shady Grove Metro station, should be bus rapid transit or more expensive light rail.

After that, these crucial projects will need state and federal backing to get off the drawing board and start easing traffic in Montgomery County.

The writer, a Democrat, is president of the Montgomery County Council.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | November 13, 2009; 7:05 PM ET
 
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Comments

If the goal of adding lanes is only to reduce traffic during rush hour, then reversible lanes can work. However, as often seen in VA, two reversible lanes do not work to reduce traffic jams at all other times. Have VDOT name the date the last Saturday afternoon through Sunday night when there was not multiple traffic jams southbound becasue the two lanes were northbound. Or Saturday morning northbound because the lanes were southbound.

This means you are building the roads for the tens of thousnads who commute, while ignoring the hundreds of thousands who use the roadways at normal times. I hope MD residents can weight that cost with the additional cost of building. VA has not even considered that cost factor.

Posted by: j5ghughes | November 14, 2009 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Why not build all the additional lanes AND reverse some? That would give us a solution that would last much longer. This may be our last chance for a major project before all the needed land is occupied.

Posted by: gary4books | November 14, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Council President Andrews is right, two is better than four. Let's go a step further, no lanes and extend the red line to Clarksburg and increase the rail service. Also reduce development in the County.

I hat the build it - expand it and they will come. They keep on coming and coming and coming. We need to get higher concentrations of people and jobs around mass transit, not continue to disperse residential and businesses where driving long distances is a necessity.

Global warming and high fuel costs demand a shift to reduced energy forms of transportation.

Posted by: lwelsch1 | November 16, 2009 2:19 AM | Report abuse

And more frequent rail service is better then building highways. It's also cheaper.

Vote no. Increase MARC service instead.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | November 16, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

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