A work zone along a section of Interstate 695 has remained mostly untouched since a high-speed crash claimed the lives of six people working there last March. Starting next month, a crew will begin preparing to resume work.

Motorists should expect overnight delays along the northwest section of I-695, the Baltimore Beltway, starting the week of July 14, the State Highway Administration has said. On Sunday through Thursday nights, crews will close a single lane starting at 8 p.m., two lanes at 10 p.m., and three lanes at 11 p.m., then reopen them all by 5 a.m. the next day.

The lane closures will affect the inner loop of the beltway between Interstates 70 and 83. Once complete, the workers will double back with the same lane closures on the outer loop. Crews are restriping the highway lane markers to move traffic farther to the right, providing more space for the inside median and helping facilitate the completion of work at the site of the March 2023 fatalities.

Maryland is modifying 17 miles of the Beltway to convert the inside shoulder into a travel lane in each direction during rush hour — officials say the roughly $180 million project will reduce congestion and improve safety on one of the state’s busiest roadways.

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A map of Baltimore City and part of Baltimore County with color-coded sections of Interstate 695 that shows where roadwork is happening.
Construction crews are tackling a multi-year project to open the inside shoulder along both directions of the northern half of the Baltimore Beltway to thru traffic during peak travel hours. (Maryland State Highway Administration)

On March 23, 2023, two drivers traveling at more than 100 mph — well above the legal speed limit — collided on the Beltway’s inner loop, sending one of the cars careening through a 150-foot gap in the work zone’s protective concrete barrier.

The vehicle struck and killed Rolando Ruiz, 46, of Laurel; Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, 43, of Frederick; Jose Armando Escobar, 52, of Frederick; Mahlon Simmons III, 30, of Union Bridge,; Mahlon Simmons II, 52, of Union Bridge; and Sybil Lee DiMaggio, 46, of Severna Park.

One driver was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The other driver, whose vehicle struck the workers, has been charged, but the case is still working through the courts.

More than 600 people were killed on Maryland’s roadways last year, making it the worst year for roadway fatalities across the state since 2006, according to federal data. The state has tightened speed enforcement in work zones with a new law that allows for automated speed cameras and steeper fines.

“Behind every work zone tragedy, there are families shattered, futures altered, dreams forever changed,” Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said at an April work zone safety event overlooking the crash scene. After the tragedy, the former traffic engineer led a commission on work zone safety that issued several recommendations to state lawmakers, including the speed camera changes that were adopted.

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Most speeding violations captured by automated cameras carry fines of $40. The new law passed this year doubles the starting fine within work zones and allows for tiered increases up to $1,000, based on the driver’s speed and whether a construction crew was present in the work zone at the time.

Automated cameras cannot be used in this particular work zone until the lane shifts occur, according to a spokesperson for the State Highway Administration, but it will start issuing citations once the larger median work begins. Maryland State Police will be on-site during the overnight lane shifts in addition to three protection vehicles.

In its investigation of last year’s crash, the National Transportation Safety Board found that a safety vehicle had been improperly placed.

This article has been updated to reflect the State Highway Administration's decision to push back the start date for road work from July 8 to July 14.