Beltway traffic to be rerouted at Charles

Highway project to use jersey walls to create separate inner loop lane for those taking exit

December 21, 2009|By Meredith Cohn | meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

Rush hour Tuesday on Interstate 695 north of Baltimore could be a little more congested. State highway officials plan to begin another months-long project on the Beltway between I-83 and Charles Street, changing the way traffic flows.

The State Highway Administration plans to begin a long-term temporary split of the lanes along the Inner Loop Monday night, and officials are advising motorists to allow a little extra time.

By Tuesday morning, provided lingering effects of this weekend's snow storm do not cause a delay, the three eastbound lanes will be open but split with concrete barriers - two lanes to the left and one to the right. Those wanting to exit on Charles Street will have to stay to the right.

But officials say they will not decide until this morning whether the project can start on time. Snow removal on the highway shoulder could force a postponement, said Lora Rakowski of the highway administration.

The work is a side project in the state's $50 million I-695-Charles Street Interchange project that will eventually allow for the Beltway to be expanded. This piece involves new concrete on the bridge over the light rail tracks, originally built in 1954 and widened in 1969.

Work is being done in phases so all the traffic lanes can remain open.

"That's the challenge," said David Buck, a spokesman for the highway administration. "In a perfect world, we'd shut down the highway and be done in a sixth, eighth or tenth of the time, but that's never feasible on the Beltway. We know there will be backups, but this literally is the only way to accomplish a new bridge deck that is needed."

Highway officials say there will be traffic signs and barriers to guide motorists, who will endure the new pattern until spring.

That was not good news for Christine Sarames Delise, who uses the road.

"This section of the Beltway is already an unpleasant part of my commute, given the current state of construction with lane shifts and concrete barriers, especially when the road is shared with a good number of tractor-trailers and trucks during the morning drive," she said. "Fortunately, there is a speed camera in this work zone."

Delise, a public affairs specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic, also offers some advice from the auto group:

Slow down for better reaction time (and avoidance of speeding tickets that are typically doubled in construction zones), stay focused until the new pattern is familiar, do not tailgate and be patient with crews that are working to improve travel and safety.

"This is not the time to be chatting on a cell phone or drinking your coffee while you drive through this construction area," Delise said.

AAA statistics collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in April for National Work Zone Awareness Week, show that in 2007 motor vehicle crashes in work zone areas claimed 835 lives nationally and 10 in Maryland. And, according to the State Highway Administration, 80 percent of those injured in work zones are motorists.

For more information about highway construction along the Beltway, call the State Highway Administration's District Four office at 410-229-2300 or email shadistrict4@sha.state.md.us.

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