Drivers taking Interstate 695 between Exit 21 near Stevenson Road and West Joppa Road near the interchange with I-83 will experience delays during work hours and overnight from construction in the median starting Monday, the State Highway Administration has announced.
Crews will close one lane on both sides of the beltway from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., to accommodate the work. The project is expected to wrap by spring.
When it is completed, the construction will allow the median shoulder on both sides of the beltway to open to through traffic during rush hours. Crews will be installing lane control signaling similar to that in use on the Bay Bridge to indicate when the median shoulder is open for use as a driving lane.
The work is the next phase of a larger I-695 project that began in 2020 meant to ease congestion, improve safety and save commuters time, according to a highway administration news release.
During an earlier phase of the project in March, six construction workers were struck and killed after a high-speed crash sent a car careening into the median work zone between the inner and outer loops of I-695 near the interchange with Interstate 70. It was one of the deadliest work zone crashes in the U.S. in the past 40 years.
The speed limit on I-695 will be reduced from 55 to 45 mph while workers are present. State highway officials may implement the automated speed enforcement system throughout the zone — drivers caught speeding by work zone cameras could receive $40 fines.
The project, which will include pavement widening, shoulder rehab, drainage improvements and more, should unclog nine bottlenecks and save commuters more than 20 minutes during morning and evening rush hours once completed in fall 2025.
“The work we’re accomplishing will create a better, safer and more reliable highway network for everyone,” Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said in the Highway Administration statement.
He emphasized the need for careful driving during construction to protect workers.
“We know motorists will be inconvenienced by these off-peak lane closures and speed reductions along I-695, but we all must work together to protect the men and women — our neighbors, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers — who are improving our highway system,” Wiedefeld said.
Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller and Maryland transportation officials recently announced the launch of a work zone safety survey, part of her and Gov. Wes Moore’s efforts to reduce work zone crashes and fatalities on Maryland’s increasingly dangerous roadways.
The public can fill out the survey online or by visiting a branch of the MVA through Oct. 12.
At the announcement, Miller noted that 804 crashes have occurred along work zones across the state this year — an average of about three per day. “For the people who work at these sites, it’s not a matter of if they will see a crash at their job site; it’s a matter of when,” said Miller, calling the statistics an “unacceptable reality.”
Miller leads the Governor’s Work Zone Safety Work Group, a task force formed in the wake of the March crash that will present a list of procedural and legislative recommendations before the end of the year aimed at making work zones safer.
Daniel Zawodny covers transportation for The Baltimore Banner as a corps member with Report For America, a national service organization that places emerging journalists with local newsrooms that cover underreported issues.