DG 270 lane merge (copy)

Evening commuters slow to merge from three lanes to two on northbound Interstate 270 at Md. 121 in Clarksburg.

A project to reduce congestion on Interstate 270 is nearly halfway complete, as it continues to work its way north from Montgomery County, according to the State Highway Administration.

The Innovative Congestion Management project, announced by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2017, is 46 percent complete, with work being done at a number of ramps in Montgomery County, State Highway Administration spokeswoman Shantee Felix said in an email Friday.

The project calls for using technology including more than 25 signs to relay real-time traffic information, more than 30 smart traffic signals, cameras, ramp meters to control the flow of traffic onto the highway, and other technology that planners think will combine to help manage traffic along the highly congested interstate.

The project is separate from a proposal by the state to add toll lanes to I-270 to widen the road and ease congestion.

Crews are finishing infrastructure for the installation of sensors, which should all be active on the southbound side by next spring, SHA Administrator Greg Slater said last week. The overall project is expected to finish by spring 2021.

While most of the work will be done in Montgomery County, some of the technological improvements will also be made at the interchange of I-270 and Md. 80, which is also scheduled to get expanded acceleration and deceleration lanes between interchanges.

Originally expected to cost $100 million, the cost has risen to about $130 million after the state identified additional chances to install additional ramp metering.

The original project proposed metering only along the southbound side, but SHA decided during the procurement process to add metering to the northbound side to more effectively reduce congestion along the entire corridor, Felix said.

Ramp metering limits the flow of traffic onto a highway by monitoring traffic and controlling traffic lights at the top of entrance ramps to prevent a surge of vehicles onto the ramp and the highway all at once.

That can be effective in making traffic flow better on the highway with fewer vehicles, said Paul Lewis, vice president of policy at the Eno Center for Transportation in Washington, D.C.

But the meters require enforcement in order to be effective, by preventing drivers from blowing past the red light at the top of the ramp and moving onto the highway, he said.

And officials have to be careful of unintended consequences.

If you’re solving a problem at one intersection, you need to make sure it’s not causing problems on other roads that are part of the overall traffic system, Lewis said.

Meanwhile, work continues on widening several ramps in Montgomery County to accommodate the new technology.

Ramp widening is being done at the ramps to southbound I-270 from Montrose Road, Md. 28, Md. 117, Md. 124 and Middlebrook Road.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(12) comments


I have an awesome idea for fixing congestion on I-270: Let's close the ENTIRE road for a year and a half--none of this temporary lane stuff, that's for amateurs!--and pay a contractor to kinda-sorta work on adding some lanes. We'll update the project website from time to time--you know, "weather delays," "we appreciate your patience" etc--but we'll rarely have more than a skeleton crew working. At six months behind schedule we'll promise to be up and running soon. But as we say that we'll be wasting the last of the warm/dry weather, so we'll be able to add another few months of weather delay on top of that. Heck, we might even be able to get up to a year behind schedule. Now the genius part: At that point people will be so used to using other routes, and tearing their hair out in traffic, that they'll be grateful for what amounts to a return to the status quo ante (Frederick County didn't just stop growing, after all). Problem solved! Where do I apply for a job at the City, and/or Milani Construction?


Great post pechorin!

Of course this article is about the Congestion Management project, but sadly, your description of how things are likely to go if they widen I-270 is spot-on (minus the complete shutdown):

Temporary lanes; lane shifts; reduced speed limits; and traffic jams that will make people nostalgic for the current level of congestion. Commute times could easily increase by 50% or even double. The construction would likely go on for 2 years or longer.

Are people ready for that?

I find it interesting that the Maryland DOT / SHA never says a word about the horrific delays people will have to deal with if their scheme goes thru and they build the Lexus lanes they are so desperately pushing for. A cynical person might suspect that there is a lot of money and pressure from the influential people that want their private lanes built yesterday.

We peasants just need to understand that there are people whose time is much more important than ours. They must have a toll lane that will always be expensive enough that the riff-raff (that's us) will not be able to afford it.


liar liar liar


Heavily democratic Montgomery County has the upgrades to aid congestion and mostly Republican Frederick County was sent a couple cases of Vicks VapoRub.


Tom, tell that to your Republican governor.


There are States throughout America that add a third lane going up hill. The would be so inexpensive and solve a lot of backups. Also posting sings to KEEP UP SPEED and the bottom of the hills would help greatly


It falls on deaf ears. Southbound, add a lane climbing the hill out of Frederick and one at the weigh station as one comes into Montgomery. Northbound, heavily enforce and ticket the yahoos who run to the end of the 3 to 2 lane merge and barge in plus straighten the curve going down to Bennetts Creek.


It's not illegal to drive until the point of merge. You're supposed to drive to the end. Merging too early and not providing a gap for other mergers is what is causing the traffic. I know because I design this stuff for a living.



You're likely aware of this, but for others:


"Most researchers also agree that the late merge is the superior option at high traffic volumes. However, the early merge remains preferable when there is little congestion or during low-volume periods."

Both of the two (2) different merge methods work well when applied properly -- late/zipper merge with heavy traffic; early/traditional merge with light/moderate traffic.

Unfortunately, many "me first" drivers treat the early merge like a zipper merge. With the early merge, drivers are supposed to move to the thru lane ASAP. Drivers in the thru lane have the right-of-way, period. The rude/obnoxious drivers who insist on disregarding long-established rules of the road (not to mention common courtesy) and continue driving in the lane that is closed ahead, have absolutely no right to expect others to allow them to merge. If they try to force their way into traffic and cause an accident -- they will be the at-fault driver.

Think: primary vs secondary roads, or thru traffic on a highway vs entering/merging traffic. Unless a merge is clearly marked as a "zipper merge", the law states that the thru lane has the right-of-way. In fact, the existence of dedicated 'thru' and 'closed' lanes means it is an early merge.

However, the opposite is true with a zipper/late merge. There, drivers remain in both lanes until the merge point, where they take turns.

It doesn't matter which system people think is best. What's important is -- which system is being used? Here in MD, and in most states, the traditional/early merge is by far the most common. In that situation, as the name implies, drivers should move into the open/thru lane as early as it is safe to do so.


At a minimum, all interstate highways should be 3 lanes. Better driver training would help as well. The left lane is for overtaking. It is so frustrating to see slow vehicles cursing along in the fast lanes.


Agreed MrSniper.

Proper lane discipline/courtesy is critical -- especially in overpopulated, impacted, urban areas with overwhelmed infrastructure.

In more enlightened states, the signs do not say, "Slower Traffic Keep Right", they say, "Keep Right Except to Pass" and/or "Left Lane for Passing Only". That latter 2 are much more clear. In addition, they strictly enforce the law. Drivers who hang out in the left lane, obstructing traffic for no apparent reason, are lit up, and issued a citation.


Oh, only $130 million? No problem.

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