Montgomery County has made a few adjustments since closing a section of Woodmont Avenue near Bethesda Row two weeks ago.
But a county official says the closure has, in general, affected congestion and traffic flow at the intersection of Bethesda Lane and Woodmont Avenue as expected.
“The fact of the matter is there will be some interruption to motorists. In an area that heavily traveled, people will experience a little more of a delay,” said Emil Wolanin, chief of the Department of Transportation’s Traffic Engineering Operation. “We’ve made some tweaks that seem to have improved the situation in time.”
In the days following the closure, DOT staff found motorists were traveling on the wrong side of Leland Street, a quiet residential route on the south end of the Woodmont Avenue closure. Wolanin said DOT set up additional signage that has curbed the use of the street as a detour.
The section of Woodmont Avenue will be closed for 20 months because of construction of an underground garage by developer StonebridgeCarras, which agreed to the project as part of its deal with the county to build apartment towers on the old Lot 31 and Lot 31A.
Some residents see the project and closure as a major disruption in one of Bethesda’s most prominent retail areas.
As part of its traffic plan, StonebridgeCarrass set up a pedestrian crosswalk bounded by concrete guards just north of the project. There is a temporary wood roof now covering a part of the Capital Crescent Trail, a safety precaution during construction.
Wolanin said it is a unique project. The county doesn’t generally set up road closures in such a developed and popular downtown area. But he also said the county saw no other option. The underground garage must be built under the existing roadway.
Woodmont Avenue will be repaved on top of it.
“The particulars of this project and the length of time it had to be closed, it couldn’t be compressed into just the summer months,” Wolanin said. “This is a relatively large undertaking. We do not allow road closures or lane closures for a matter of a developer’s convenience. The closure comes when the construction is such that there is a hazard or danger to the motorists or pedestrians.”