DG I-270 Hot lanes 2 (copy)

Traffic is shown looking north on Interstate 270.

Federal workers and contractors who still have to travel south on Interstate 270 are at least seeing an easier commute.

The shutdown has led to a considerable reduction in congestion on the Washington region’s major roads during the morning commutes, according to an analysis conducted by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. Similarly, Maryland’s MARC system has seen a sharp drop in the sale of monthly passes.

The biggest drops on the highways have been seen in the morning peak periods in traffic headed toward Washington, D.C., according to the analysis released Tuesday.

The average travel time at roughly 7 a.m. along southbound I-270 between Interstate 70 and Interstate 370 near Gaithersburg dropped from 49 minutes in January 2018 to 29 minutes in January 2019, according to the planning board’s analysis.

The report analyzed a series of Wednesdays and Thursdays in each year.

Meanwhile, the average speed for such trips increased from 29 mph to 49 mph for the same trips.

The average travel time from I-370 to Interstate 495 dropped from 20 minutes to 17 minutes, while the average speed rose from 35 mph to 45 mph.

Meanwhile, the analysis found that speeds and congestion at evening rush hours and other times of the day remained about the same as they historically have been.

That’s not unusual, said Kanti Srikanth, transportation planning director for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, of which the Transportation Planning Board is a part.

Especially between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., most trips tend to be work-related, he said.

But in the evenings, people may go shopping or out to dinner before they travel home.

In congested traffic areas like the Washington region, even a small drop in volume can have a significant impact, Srikanth said.

Average traffic volume along I-270 has also dropped in January 2019 compared with the same month the previous year, State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar said in an email.

The average volume on Mondays at I-270 and Middlebrook Road, near Germantown, was 165,138 in 2018 and 147,089 in 2019, according to SHA.

Volume on Wednesdays was steady, at 174,347 in 2018 and 174,102 in 2019, while Fridays dropped from 189,157 in 2018 to 183,416 in 2019.

The shutdown has also affected MARC’s ridership.

MARC has seen a roughly 18 percent drop for January monthly pass sales, spokeswoman Sandy Arnette said in an email Wednesday.

The full impact of the shutdown on MARC’s ridership will be evaluated in the middle of February when all the data is gathered and compared with data from previous years, she said.

The TPB analysis notes that other factors such as weather, construction and gas prices could influence traffic patterns.

School schedules can also have an influence on traffic.

If people have to take their children to school or wait until they get on the bus, it affects the window of when they can leave for work, Srikanth said.

The analysis’ findings can serve as an object lesson on what type of impact even small changes in transportation choices can have in improving the region’s traffic, he said.

He said even a relatively small group of people changing from driving to public transportation or other methods could have an impact.

“The solutions don’t have to be so large that it almost prevents us from taking any action,” he said.

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.

(36) comments


On Jan 17, 2019 @ 10:39pm, KellyAlzan wrote:

"Entering north 15 from 70 West is supposed to be a zipper entrance ramp. But it’s not clearly marked like the ramp from east bound 70 onto northbound 695.

At the 70w to 15n ramp, people refuse to zipper, refuse to alternate. The signage needs modified. But down 70 where you get on 695 N, everyone alternates, because of better signage."

Good observation Kelly, I agree.

E/B I-70 to N/B I-695 is a great example of proper zipper merge signage.

IIRC, W/B 70 to N/B 15 only has relatively small signs saying: "Lane Ends" and "Take Turns" (something like that). Not very effective.


Well, I see you solve the overcrowding on 270 by getting rid of all the federal employees and now the schools are overcrowded. Its just never ending.


270 has been a nightmare all week. Was this article written in an alternate universe? Traffic during am and pm rush hour has been pretty darn awful. Took me a solid hour and 15 minutes each morning this week to go from Clarksburg to Montrose Road exit.



If an hour and 15 minutes to go from Clarksburg to the Montrose Road exit is anywhere near normal, I can't imagine why anyone would even consider moving to FredCo.


I agree. I’ve lived in Frederick Co all my life. It’s really become crowded.



I can't claim I've been here my entire life, but I moved here 34 years ago. Before that, I lived in Carroll county and came to Frederick frequently.

Frederick City and County have changed tremendously -- mostly for the worse. The vast majority of residents have watched their quality of life steadily decrease as more and more houses are built.

When I moved here traffic was much lighter than it is now. "Rush hour" traffic looked about like mid day traffic does now.

Now however, I honestly cannot understand why someone who works in D.C.; NOVA; or Baltimore would decide to live in FredCo -- knowing what the commute will be like. It's not as if they're giving houses away around here. Yeah, they're a bit cheaper than areas closer to the employment centers, but not enough to pay for the person's time and the cost per mile of driving.

I feel sorry for people who grew up here, and long-time residents -- but I have a hard time generating much sympathy for people who have moved here in the last few years. They knew what they were getting into.


Not to nitpick, but the photo caption is wrong. It is on WB I-70 at the exit for US-15 North.


Absolutely correct wturner.

It's hard to imagine how anyone could mistake the highway in that photo for I-270 N/B.


wow, what a surprise


I am glad that traffic is lighter even on route 15 now if we can just get the inconsiderate drivers off the road that I see every day that just have to get one car ahead, the ones that wait to the last minute to get in the right lane to get to an exit which slows down the passing lane, just because they don't want to wait in line like everyone else I see so many ignorant drivers on the road mostly commuters that have moved to PA for the lower cost of housing and commute down the road every day and ignore our laws and speed limits but yet you hardly ever see some enforcement on the highways , I do not understand and have asked before what the legal speed limit is on route 15 signs say 55 mph but NO ONE dies that some do 70 and 80 mph but hardly ever get caught all I ask is for our Government tell me what the speed limit is


Professional whiner comes to mind


Everyone should use the "zipper method" of merging. Waiting in a line increases the problem of traffic congestion.



The 'zipper merge' can be very effective when traffic is moderate to heavy.

When traffic is light it makes more sense for drivers to move into the open/thru lane as soon as it is safe to do so and keep on rollin'.

IOW, if traffic can flow smoothly in just one lane, then merge early. Once traffic begins to slow and come to a stop at the lane drop, the zipper merge is clearly better than the all-too-common situation where the "polite" drivers line up for miles in the thru lane while others whip past them to the front of the line. In those situations the zipper merge is best and eliminates (or at least reduces) the typical conflicts.

FWIW, that's not just my opinion, I have read essentially the same advice on DOT websites.


Entering north 15 from 70 West is supposed to be a zipper entrance ramp. But it’s not clearly marked like the ramp from east bound 70 onto northbound 695.

At the 70w to 15n ramp, people refuse to zipper, refuse to alternate. The signage needs modified. But down 70 where you get on 695 N, everyone alternates, because of better signage



Sadly, what you describe has become the norm all across America. All urban areas have traffic problems caused by too many people living in one area and all attempting to get to the same employment center(s) in the same 1-2 hour window.

The only relatively short-term solution I can think of is to incentivize major employers -- gov't and private industry -- to move away from the major metro areas. This article and the photos above are a great example of what traffic would be like if we could get some large employers to (re)locate in rural areas that want more humans. For example, I just heard that VT is actually *paying* people to move there!

Long-term we need to slow and then reverse population growth.

As for the speed limit enforcement there are at least 2 factors:

1) Cops often try not to do traffic stops during rush hour because it can be dangerous and create traffic jams.

2) If almost everyone is exceeding the posted limit by a significant amount, then someone really has to be flying -- and or making a spectacle of them self to attract official attention.


Forget the federal shutdown ... the majority of the traffic problems would be solved if all of the transplants moved back to Montgomery County, Northern Virginia and D.C. where they actually work their daytime jobs! Instead, Frederick County ... and now Washington County ... are over-developing what was once true rural area in order to increase tax revenue. In turn, all of these people are coming here and destroying the small town, country life ... and bringing their corrupt sense of ideology and reality with them. Forget the southern border ... build the wall at the Montgomery County line!


funniest comment of the day.


Thumbs Up Lev928


Lev [thumbup][thumbup]

Build. The. Wall!!

Either that or zone what has not already been destroyed AG or RC. Shut the developers down!


This is news?


look at that, less cars on the roads, causing less impact and to road surface, cars not siting for an hour or two pumping emissions into the air, Trump is saving the environment !!


I have not noticed a big difference at all. I would have expected more. Weird.


We returned from Florida and I’ve noticed very minimal difference. Yeah something is up with the photo on the right. I believe one morning this week there was a major accident.

The photo on the right, is not true. Wrong time? Something is off.


Russian oligarchs say, “ Keep the government shut down, Comrade Donnie Hamberder! And thank you to our Republican allies in Congress for their refusal to initiate sanctions against us. We love traitorous Americans!!!!”


How about the data on traffic congestion when the ants wonder off the hill (highway) onto the arteries roads consuming, disrespecting and being a nuisance to others[angry]


And you kids, get off my lawn!


...and water is wet


well duh




The photo taken on Wednesday is not quite accurate. Traffic is not that much decreased.


I believe the photo actually shows westbound I-70 traffic near the US15 North exit. This is not I-270.


And how can a photo not be "accurate"? Perhaps the conclusion, but a photo is a photo unless it has been photoshopped or otherwise edited. Please review your comments prior to posting.


Deceptive. Can’t be accurate if deceptive.


What is deceptive about it?


Photo location is not as described


So, about 90 - 95% "non-essential workers" eh?

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