Mary Crummitt has about 40 years of experience driving the clogged intersection of Randolph Road and Georgia Avenue, and it’s an experience she’d like to forget.
The Glenmont crossroads of a key east-west route with north-south Georgia Avenue, or Md. 97, has caused Silver Spring and Wheaton commuters headaches for decades, a problem the State Highway Administration hopes to solve with an upcoming $58 million interchange project.
SHA officials presented the plan, which would lower two eastbound and two westbound through lanes of Randolph Road under the existing Georgia Avenue by fall 2016, to about 50 residents on May 15 at a meeting in the Wheaton High School cafeteria.
“When it’s done, it’s going to be wonderful,” said Crummitt, who now lives in Leisure World in Aspen Hill after years of commuting on Georgia Avenue. “We’ve waited a long, long time.”
A really long time, by SHA standards. The agency assigned the intersection a level of service grade of F, its lowest rating, meaning an amount of traffic that exceeds roadway capacity leads to delays of more than 80 seconds per vehicle.
A Montgomery County Planning Department report ranked it as the second most congested intersection in the county in 2008, though that number improved to the 26th most congested intersection in 2009 and the 23rd most congested intersection in 2011.
This year, average daily traffic on Georgia Avenue at the intersection is nearly 48,000 vehicles and 3,730 during peak rush hour times, according to SHA data. Randolph Road sees an average of nearly 39,000 vehicles per day and 2,945 during peak hours. By 2030, SHA projects a daily average of 53,000 vehicles per day will pass through the intersection on Georgia Avenue and 41,000 vehicles per day on Randolph Road.
Studies on improving the intersection began in 1999, project manager Brett Deane said. The SHA did a utility project in 2007 to ready the roadways for a major overhaul, and Deane projected a spring 2014 start date for construction.
The SHA must pay Montgomery County for the land of Glenmont Fire Station 18, which sits prominently at the southeast corner of the intersection. The SHA will use the land in the project, which will include two northbound turning lanes and one southbound turning lane from eastbound Randolph Road and three southbound turning lanes and one northbound turning lane from westbound Randolph Road at current ground levels. It has also bought the land of the BP Gas Station and Glenmont Auto Service, each on the north side of Randolph Road.
Preparation of construction documents for the new Glenmont Fire Station 18, just north of its current location on Georgia Avenue near the Glenmont Metro station, is ongoing, according to the county Department of General Services. The project is on track for completion in 2014. Deane said the start of SHA construction is contingent on the relocation of the fire station, and will only start after all operations have been switched over.
Deane said the project would be completed in seven phases to allow traffic and pedestrian access to the intersection during construction.
The project is also a key factor in the development of the Glenmont Sector Plan, which the Planning Department hopes can transform the dilapidated Glenmont Shopping Center into a vibrant mixed-use center.
Silver Spring resident Max Bronstein, who has fought against planned mixed-use development at the Privacy World apartments near the Glenmont Metro station, worried that anticipated new development in the area would counteract the traffic fixes the SHA project hopes to make.
“We don’t know how many new units are going to be built there and how it will affect the traffic patterns,” Bronstein said. “The cars and the vehicles aren’t going to disappear.”