New interchange on I-270 could relieve gridlock on Md. 355 -- Gazette.Net


Local officials say a failing intersection in Montgomery County will get some relief from a project in progress: the $200 million Watkins Mill Interchange.

The new interchange will link two unfinished portions of Watkins Mill Road over Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg, less than a mile northwest of the Md. 355-Montgomery Village Avenue intersection. At the new interchange, drivers would be able to enter and exit I-270 from Watkins Mill Road, relieving the intersection of Md. 355 and Montgomery Village Avenue in Gaithersburg.

That intersection is “one of, if not the worst, intersections in the county,” said Marilyn Balcombe, president of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s gridlocked at times,” she said. “I use that intersection quite regularly and it needs to have some kind of relief.”

John Schlichting, director of Gaithersburg’s Planning and Code Administration, said the new interchange would provide easier access to the nearby Metropolitan Grove MARC station and future Corridor Cities Transitway stations.

The Corridor Cities Transitway project, still in developmental stages, would be made up of 16 bus rapid transit stations between the Shady Grove Metro station and Clarksburg.

State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said the Watkins Mill Interchange is a “massive” project that has been in its engineering phase since August. Buck said the state plans to complete the engineering phase in 2014.

“When you’ve got a significant amount of retaining walls and all these culvert crossings and all these moorings we have to do, that plays into the two-year process,” Buck said.

Construction would not begin until 2015 or 2016, he said. Because the design of the interchange is still in its preliminary stage, Buck said it would be “a complete guess” as to how long it would take to build the project.

“It would be much further into design until we have any idea how long it would take,” he said.

SHA also must take into account a small stream, which runs parallel to I-270. The stream will be restored as part of the interchange project, Buck said.

“Much as we did with the ICC [Intercounty Connector], we take care of the environment when we’re in the area,” he said.

A separate development south of the planned interchange, Watkins Mill Town Center, is also in progress.

“It’s a combination of residential and commercial, which includes both office and retail,” Schlichting said. “There’s an urban core element which has not yet started construction.”

The Parklands, a residential community planned for Watkins Mill Town Center, is under construction. The community will be primarily townhomes and condominiums, he said.

“There’s development happening both east and west” of the interchange, Balcombe said. The interchange is necessary for local commuters to travel and businesses to grow, she said.