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Report: Traffic and Congestion Continues to Slow UpCounty Drivers

A report issued earlier this month by the Montgomery County Planning Department finds that traffic and congestion continue to slow drivers in the UpCounty, and throughout Montgomery County. Area residents must be shocked at these findings. Who could have guessed that traffic was an issue in Montgomery County?

All joking aside, the report paints a frustrating picture of life as a commuter in Montgomery County. The is the 2017 Mobility Assessment Report is conducted by the Planning Department every few years. The goal of the report is to inform residents and public officials of how the transportation system is changing, evolving, and performing within the county.

The major findings of the report are that between 2011 and 2015 the average speed has decreased by just over four miles per hour throughout the county. Also, the amount of time a commuter must build into his trip, called the Planning Time Index or PTI, has increased by an average of four-tenths indicating, perhaps, that unexpected delays and peak congestion are increasing. “Generally, areas in down county and the I-270 Corridor experience the greatest levels of both speed reductions and decreases in travel time reliability,” said the report. Three of the five policy area groupings in the I-270 corridor saw reductions in average speed greater than down-county areas.

Not surprisingly, most of the bottlenecks occur along the MD-355/I-270 corridor. Seven of the top 25 bottlenecks occur along MD-355. “The top bottleneck occurs at the intersection of Rockville Pike (MD-355) and First Street/Wootton Parkway in the northbound direction. The average length of the bottleneck is 2.27 miles with an average duration of 51 minutes. The excess time traveling through the average length of the bottleneck compared to the free-flow condition is three minutes and 16 seconds during the evening commute and two minutes and 26 seconds during the morning commute,” according to the report.

The report breaks down roadways and congestion into sections based on location.

For UpCounty residents, the top congested corridor in the entire County was one that shouldn’t surprise anyone who needs to drive this route on a regular basis was Ridge Road (MD-27) in Clarksburg between Brink Road and Davis Mill Road. This section of road was under construction during the period in which data was collected, likely impacting the results, the report said.

“In Clarksburg…the most congested roadway in Clarksburg is Ridge Road in the southbound direction during the morning commute. According to speed data collected in 2015, commuters can expect travel times to take twice as long as they would under normal conditions. These lengthy times were likely in part caused by construction activity due to the expansion of Ridge Road from the new intersection at Snowden Farm Parkway to Brink Road,” said the report.

The report found that northbound speed and travel time did not decrease at much as the decrease in the same trip southbound on Ridge Road through the Clarksburg area. “Southbound speed and travel time reliability decreased more dramatically than the northbound direction. This decrease in reliability was also likely affected by the construction activity along Ridge Road. For example, travelers in the southbound direction during 2015 on average needed to allocate an additional 6.5 minutes for a typical 10-minute trip to arrive on schedule 95 percent of the time compared to only need 3.2 additional minutes in 2011,” the report said.

The report found that in Clarksburg both Ridge Road, from Brink Road to Davis Mill Road, and Frederick Road, from Brink Road to Comus Road, were significantly more congested in the morning than in the evening commute.

In Germantown, the report considered several corridors, including Frederick Road from Plummer Road to Brink Road, Ridge Road from Brink Road to Century Boulevard, Germantown Road (MD-118) from Frederick Road to Riffle Ford Road, Great Seneca Highway (MD-119) from Middlebrook Road to Longdraft Road, and Clopper Road (MD-117) from Longdraft Road to Richter Farm Road.

Again, not surprisingly, the report found that Frederick Road has the highest congestion rate, taking on average 53 percent longer to travel through the corridor during the evening commute in the northbound direction.

The report also found that Clopper Road in the westbound direction, also during the evening commute, takes on average 43 percent longer to travel through. Examination of 2011 and 2015 speed and travel time reliability data indicates that average speeds have decreased on par with the overall county data in the Germantown area.

“Although northbound Frederick Road in the evening tops the list of congested roadways for the greater Germantown area, a majority of the heaviest congestion occurs between MD-27 and Brink Road. In this segment, the congestion rate can reach 120 percent. There is a sharp peak in the Travel Time Index between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Southbound congestion does not see a sharp peak as with the northbound direction with the heaviest congestion occurring between Germantown and Middlebrook Roads,” the report concluded.

The report said that Clopper Road congestion throughout the day in the eastbound direction with subtle peaks in the morning, early afternoon, and evening. The westbound direction sees a more pronounced peak in congestion during the evening commute with significant increases in congestion around Great Seneca Highway and Germantown Road intersections.

According to the report, MD-117 from Richter Farm Road to Darnestown Road, which comprises Clopper Road which turns into Barnesville Road, eventually turning south toward Darnestown Road as Bucklodge Road, is congested in both directions during the morning commute. The report said that the congestion on MD-117 was heaviest eastbound, but erratic throughout the week.

“Congestion begins to build at 5:00 am, early compared to other corridors in the county. Eastbound drivers encounter the highest average Time Travel Index between Whites Store Road to the intersection of Clarksburg Road where a small segment of heavy to severe congestion can be found. Congestion during the evening is very light in both directions,” said the report.

The report also found that speeds along the southern end of Germantown Road from Riffle Ford Road to Darnestown Road saw a decrease in speed of about three miles per hour from 2011 to 2015.

Photos by Germantown Pulse.

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