By one commonly used metric, the three most congested intersections in Montgomery County are all in Bethesda and North Bethesda.
It’s probably not a surprise to the many who travel Rockville Pike each day that leading the pack is the intersection of Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane, according to data collected and compiled by the county’s Planning Department in its biennial Mobility Assessment Report.
The report uses traffic count data gathered at major intersections to measure critical lane volumes (CLVs). The higher the CLV, the worse the congestion. It’s important to know the planning department doesn’t get updated CLV counts for each reporting period, though it did get a November 2013 count at Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane that showed a morning rush hour peak CLV of 1,957.
That’s good for most congested intersection in the county. More important to planners and policy makers, it far surpasses the intersection standard of 1,600 CLV.
The count, of course, came before a major intersection improvement project that added turning and thru lanes on Cedar Lane to improve traffic flow.
The No. 2 most congested intersection according to the report was at Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane, with a peak CLV of 1,929. The standard for that intersection is 1,550. No. 3 was Old Georgetown Road at Democracy Boulevard, with a peak CLV of 1,923. That’s an improvement for the intersection, which was the No. 1 most congested in the last Mobility Report, though neither State Highway nor consultants have been able to do a CLV count there since 2009.
Not far behind the terrible traffic trio is Connecticut Avenue at East-West Highway, which comes in at No. 6 with a peak CLV of 1,848. That count was also made in November 2013 and planners say the Chevy Chase intersection is only getting worse.
“In the 2011 report, this location was ranked the 15th most congested; today it is ranked as the sixth most congested. As a down-County area, Connecticut Avenue in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Policy area consistently has one or more intersections ranked in the top 25 most congested. SHA’s improvements here were implemented several years ago. The future Purple Line transitway could alleviate congestion at this intersection,” planners wrote.
Despite the presence of four of the county’s top-six most congested intersections, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and North Bethesda don’t seem to experience more traffic problems than any other particular part of the county. Of the 50 most congested intersections ranked in the report, 12 are in areas known as Bethesda, Chevy Chase or North Bethesda/White Flint.
By another metric — the amount by which intersection congestion surpasses intersection standards — many of the worst intersections in the county are in Rockville and Gaithersburg.
Other findings in the Mobility Report include some bicycle counts. Planners said they weren’t surprised to find Bethesda had the most observable bike trips. According to a similar ranking of bike counts per intersection, 17 of the top 19 most popular spots for bicyclists were in Bethesda, many on the same bicycle routes in downtown Bethesda and around NIH and Suburban Hospital.
The most heavily-traveled Metrobus routes included the J1, J2 and J3 routes that go from Westfield Montgomery mall to Silver Spring via the Bethesda Metro station.
And the Bethesda Metro station once again had one of the highest average weekday ridership numbers of all Metro stations in Montgomery County, along with the stations at Silver Spring, Shady Grove and Friendship Heights.