While debate continues over a Maryland plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 270, one effort to improve congestion on the busy highway is about to take effect.
The State Highway Administration’s ramp metering system will turn on Tuesday, meaning drivers on the southbound I-270 ramp at Md. 80 outside Urbana should soon see flashing yellow lights as the system prepares to go live on Sept. 15.
It’s part of the state’s I-270 Innovative Congestion Management project, a $132 million plan to deal with the traffic that often chokes the highway running from Frederick to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Other parts of the plan include adding more auxiliary lanes between interchanges, extending acceleration and deceleration lanes, and reconfiguring and restriping existing lanes.
Ramp metering uses sensors to determine traffic conditions in real time. Data is used to operate traffic signals that control the amount of traffic merging onto I-270 to regulate the amount of traffic on the road.
Once the system is active, motorists will stop when the beacons are flashing and can move onto the highway once the signal turns green, according to an SHA news release.
The activation process that begins Tuesday will unfold over the course of about a week, with groups of ramps being turned on each day.
The Md. 80 ramp is the only location in Frederick County among the 23 spots for ramp metering, SHA spokeswoman Shantee Felix said Monday. The other locations are in Montgomery County.
The signals will be able to operate from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day but are expected to be active during peak traffic hours and when the sensors detect congestion.
Along with the 23 spots on southbound I-270 that are being activated, SHA plans to install meters on 22 ramps to northbound I-270 in 2022, according to the release. In all, there are plans to have 45 meters at 18 intersections when the project is complete.
The congestion management project is separate from the Traffic Relief Plan that would stretch from the American Legion Bridge on I-495 between Maryland and Virginia to I-70 in Frederick.
The first step of that controversial initiative would replace the Legion Bridge and build two toll lanes from the bridge to I-370 near Gaithersburg.