Will it make commuting more efficient or cause more backups?
Ramp meter display on 270Heather Jauquet/author
The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) activated 23 new ramp meters on-ramps to southbound I-270 in Montgomery and Frederick Counties to ease traffic congestion. Ramp metering is the first system of its kind in Maryland.
The meters became fully activated on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. However, school buses, which are already understaffed, doing double runs, are not entirely happy about the ramp meters. One bus driver complained that their route schedule was already tight, and the ramp meters were slowing her down in reaching her students in a timely matter. She said she would be forced to continue taking back roads to avoid the meters on 270 because they are only slowing her down.
However, the MDOT SHA said that metering is a part of the I-270 Innovative Congestion Management (ICM) project to:
- Improve safety
- Reduce congestion
- Save drivers up to 30 minutes on morning commutes between Frederick and the Capital Beltway
The meters use traffic signals and sensors to manage traffic flow entering the highway. In this way, the system will balance highway demand and capacity, maintain optimal highway operation, and reduce congestion.
Drivers are cautioned to be aware as they approach the ramp and prepare to pause and stop. Drivers may encounter a queue waiting for the meter to turn green. The green signal is for one car at a time to enter the flow of traffic. The sensors can also detect the length of vehicles in line to avoid a backup on the arterial roadways.
I came across my first metered ramp last Friday from Montgomery Village Avenue. I’m still on the fence on whether or not it improved congestion. I was forced to wait for the five cars in front of me to enter traffic before it was my turn to get onto 270, and vehicles had lined up behind me. Usually, I have no trouble getting onto 270 and can do it quickly. But the forced stop surprised me, and then I sat and waited and waited and waited.
The ramp meters are one part of a $132 congestion management program introduced in 2016 by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to ease congestion and improve travel throughout the I-270 corridor.
What do you think of the new ramp meters? Are they easing your commute, or do you find them annoying? Will they make things safer on 270? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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