2017 | Transportation

State Puts Forth Plan To Add Lanes on I-270 To Reduce Traffic Congestion

Transportation officials estimate the project could be completed in 2019, but critics are skeptical about whether it will work

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I-270 congestion near the Montrose Road local lanes entrance

Jumpy via Wikimedia Commons

Additional lanes, reconfigured ramps and new technology are among the proposed improvements in the state Department of Transportation $105 million plan to reduce traffic congestion on I-270.

The department detailed the proposed improvements in a document sent to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board on April 12.

The plan calls for 14 roadway improvements such as reconfiguring traffic lanes where I-270 southbound merges with I-495; adding additional lanes to the designated local lanes of northbound and southbound I-270; and posting variable digital speed limits that are based on real-time traffic to minimize differences between the lowest and highest vehicle speeds.

The improvements are aimed at reducing congestion on the highway that extends from Frederick to Bethesda and is routinely clogged with rush hour traffic.

The proposal comes nine months after Gov. Larry Hogan and state Transportation Secretary Peter Rahn stood next to I-270 at Park Potomac and explained their plan to solicit ideas costing no more than $100 million from the private sector to reduce traffic on the roadway. It’s not clear from the document sent to the transportation planning board which private firm, if any, came up with the proposal. Erin Henson, a transportation department spokeswoman, said Monday Hogan will provide additional details about the proposal during a press conference that will take place “in the coming days.”

Critics of the plan say adding lanes to the highway won’t fix the congestion.

“It doesn’t strike me from what I’ve read as particularly innovative,” Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner said Monday during a press briefing. “But more importantly we have seen nothing with respect to travel time savings. So how are we to assess the merits of the proposal without understanding actually what it does?”

“This is trying to do something on the cheap when in fact we need a significant infrastructure investment,” Berliner added.

He said the state should consider adding reversible toll lanes to the highway—similar to what Northern Virginia has installed on I-495. Doing so would be more expensive, but Berliner said he believes it would be a long-term, rather than a piecemeal solution, to the issue.

The Action Committee for Transit, a group advocating for mass transportation solutions in Montgomery County, called the proposal the opposite of innovation and pointed out that widening the highway to 12 lanes in the early 1990s didn’t eliminate traffic congestion.

“We’ve tried for decades to get rid of traffic jams by widening highways, and it hasn’t worked,” Ronit Aviva Dancis, the group’s president, said in a statement.

The department submitted the proposal to the transportation board to request an amendment to the board’s Constrained Long Range Plan so that construction could take place. The board released the proposal for a 30-day public comment period and expects to review it at a May 17 meeting. The state plans to complete the roadway improvements in 2019.

Below are the 14 proposed roadway improvements:

And this is the full proposal sent last week to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board:

I-270 Improvements Proposal by AJ Metcalf on Scribd