After a three-year pause, a state transportation project to improve traffic operations and ease congestion at a busy interchange in the Woodlawn area is back on and moving forward with input from the public.
The Triple Bridges Project, which refers to the criss-cross of bridges and roadways that encompasses the Baltimore Beltway I-695 Interchange at I-70, is slated for removal and reconstruction to better accommodate traffic that has grown steadily heavier since it was built in the 1960s. The project seeks to replace the aging bridges as well as keep traffic moving. Officials say it will also improve the quality of life for those who work and live in the area.
According to the Maryland Transportation Administration State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA), the interstate ramps for I-695 northbound to I-70 westbound and for I-70 eastbound to I-695 northbound are the busiest depending on the time of day. As many as 175,000 vehicles travel those routes, according to SHA spokesperson Shantee Felix.
The state has allocated $100 million for the design and construction of a new configuration of the triple bridge interchange. This will bring significant traffic relief to the entire Baltimore area and directly addresses six of the top 15 congested road segments in the state, say SHA officials.
To get input from community members, elected officials and other stakeholders on the project’s structural style, landscaping and other design and construction elements, the MDOT SHA hosted a virtual public meeting and in-person open house at Southwest Academy in Woodlawn in October. SHA also invited people to share feedback via an online survey, which closed Dec. 1.
The agency advises that the scope of the project will not include improvements to Security Boulevard and Route 40, to the Park and Ride off I-70 and Cooks Lane in Baltimore City, or areas outside of the interchange or MDOT SHA jurisdiction.
MDOT SHA will not use the traditional bidding process. Instead, the agency will enter a single contract with a team that will include a designer and a contractor that will design and construct the project. Under this process, the public will not be permitted to review any design plans or provide input on the final design. The planning phase will be complete in 2023 and the design and build phase is expected to begin in 2024/2025.
As proposed redevelopment at the Security Square Mall site takes center stage with regard to next-phase redevelopment in the Woodlawn area, legislators and community members asked if there will be an exit to or from Security Boulevard as part of the project. SHA officials responded that they will schedule a meeting with legislators about that recommendation for direct access. “While local roads are not the focus of this construction project, relieving congestion within the interchange area is anticipated to assist with traffic on local roads,” officials said.
Currently, Security Boulevard has access to and from I-70 through the Park and Ride and Ingleside Avenue interchange that will be maintained. The scope of this project is the interstate-to-interstate connection.
Following up on an ask from 2018, SHA will retain all existing access movements at the interchange once construction is complete, Felix said.
The triple bridges initiative is one of two major traffic relief construction projects impacting I-695. About $151 million is dedicated to relieve congestion on both inner and outer loops of I-695 from I-70 to MD 43 (White Marsh Boulevard), shifting the inside shoulder into a new available lane of traffic.
Felix said when the interchange was originally built some 60 years ago, there were open fields and forest. The increase in volume and development could not have been fully anticipated in the 1960s. “As years progressed and suburban sprawl began, the area around the interchange was built up, drawing in more people who work, live and travel along these interstates,” she said. “With more people comes more vehicles.”
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