McLEAN, Va. — For residents who live in the area of Georgetown Pike and the Capital Beltway, congestion from cars using their neighborhoods as a cut-through can leave them trapped in their driveways.
While all agree a solution needs to be found to alleviate the issue, a plan on the table is receiving mixed reviews.
The plan involves closing the Georgetown Pike on-ramp to the Inner Loop of the Beltway for six hours every weekday afternoon. It would begin as a 4-month pilot program, and if successful, could become a permanent change.
“This is an unconventional approach, but its something that has a likelihood of working,” said Garrett Moore, chief engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
At a meeting held at McLean High School, hundreds of residents gathered Thursday night to hear transportation planners lay out how it would work.
It would involve an automatic barrier or gate to be set up on the on-ramp; and every weekday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., it would be in the down position.
Moore said after studying possible plans, computer models showed closing the ramp for the afternoon hours would make a big difference.
“I think you would see the interstate traffic in the neighborhoods around here totally eliminated,” Moore said.
Some residents balked at the idea because the drastic change would remove their easy access to the Inner Loop during the afternoon hours, as well.
For Sean Rogers of McLean he said the closure would add considerable time to his commute if he couldn’t use the entrance.
“We specifically moved to this neighborhood because I know how quickly I could, even in traffic, get onto 495,” Rogers said.
At the meeting other residents, such as Mike, said he commends VDOT for thinking outside of the box and believes the proposed solution should at least be tested.
Others in attendance asked questions and wondered aloud if adjustments could be made to the window of time in which the ramp was off limits.
Moore believes making the window too tight would result in little change because any delays that build up before the afternoon rush hour would not be able to clear out.
The plan would require the state to get permission from the Federal Highway Administration.
Another option on the table included a putting up signs that forbid using the ramp during certain times, but strong enforcement would be needed to make sure motorists obey the change.
Computer models didn’t show any improvement would come with utilizing a similar system in the opposite direction for the morning commute.
As state and local officials struggle to come up with an answer of how best to deal with the issue, some residents, such as Robert Glamb who has lived in McLean for more than 40 years, believes this mission may be futile.
“There isn’t a solution,” Glamb said.
After listening to residents, VDOT plans to examine resident feedback and further study possible solutions. Any changes would be a long ways off, and Moore said more public hearings would be held on the topic before moving forward with the proposal.
“We are not pushing it, but it would take strong community support for us to implement it,” Moore said.