The D.C. region’s newest highway interchange is on track to open in a matter of days.
When the orange barrels are pulled from the roadway this week, the three-year effort to tie Watkins Mill Road into Interstate 270 will be nearly complete.
Portal electronic message signs and a source familiar with the project indicate that Watkins Mill Road is scheduled to open above I-270 on Wednesday. The Maryland Department of Transportation would not confirm the opening date but said the project is more than 96% complete.
The new four-lane overpass, equipped with walkways on both sides, will offer drivers and pedestrians more direct access to the Metropolitan Grove MARC station to the west and Maryland Route 355 to the east. The overpass is paved, striped and ready for traffic.
On I-270, Watkins Mill Road will be designated as Exit 12. The interchange is situated between exits 11 and 13, Route 124 in Gaithersburg and Middlebrook Road in Germantown.
Maryland hopes the new connections will reduce congestion at the ramps from I-270 to Route 124, Montgomery Village Avenue, and its adjacent intersection with Route 355 near Lake Forest Mall.
The new southbound ramp to Route 124, built as a part of the Watkins Mill Road project, opened in mid-May. The merge now begins before the Watkins Mill Road overpass and parallels a long tributary of Seneca Creek as it leads drivers toward Route 124.
The contractor, Wagman Heavy Civil of York, Pennsylvania, described the work to re-channelize the run as “extremely environmentally sensitive.”
The new Watkins Mill Road bridge is five spans in length, stretching across the stream valley and the many new drainage culverts, bioswales and retaining walls. The construction of the tall retaining wall that supports the southbound interstate was described as a particularly labor-intensive portion of the project.
The travel lanes of the highway were shifted eastward for nearly a year for that component.
The multimillion dollar project began in summer 2017.
Combined with ongoing efforts to widen merge lanes and install ramp metering technology at other ramps along I-270, the state said it has committed nearly $200 million to improving mobility along the corridor.
Watkins Mill Road will become Maryland’s first new interstate exit in the D.C. area since the ramps at I-95 and Konterra Drive opened in Laurel in 2014.