Where do you think the most congested intersections are in Montgomery County? Maybe right by the Bethesda Metro? In downtown Silver Spring? University, Georgia, and Veirs Mill in Wheaton? Actually, no. A review of Montgomery County’s 50 most congested intersections found only one inside one of the county’s urban centers.
There are busy intersections in the more car-oriented neighborhoods around downtown Silver Spring, but not in the core. Map by the author.
County planners ranked the 50 busiest junctions for the Mobility Assessment Report, a regular review of Montgomery’s transportation needs. Notably, the report found that the amount of driving in the county has stayed the same since 2002 even while 100,000 new people came in.
The busiest intersection is Rockville Pike at West Cedar Lane in Bethesda, next to NIH and Walter Reed, which had a critical lane volume of 1,957 cars during morning rush hour. In other words, that means that nearly 2,000 cars pass through a single lane of that intersection each morning. In second place is Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane in White Flint, which is slowly evolving into a new downtown.
Other than that, the top 50 didn’t contain a single intersection in the downtowns of Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton, in Friendship Heights, or Rockville Town Center. For decades, Montgomery County has had a policy of directing growth to walkable, urban neighborhoods near transit stations with an aim of reducing car traffic.
|Rank||Intersection||Community||AM CLV||PM CLV|
|1||Rockville Pike at West Cedar Ln.||Bethesda||1,957||1,612|
|2||Rockville Pike at Nicholson Ln.||White Flint||1,234||1,929|
|3||Old Georgetown Rd. at Democracy Blvd.||North Bethesda||1,423||1,923|
|4||Darnestown Rd. at Riffle Ford Rd.||North Potomac||1,061||1,898|
|5||Shady Grove Rd. at Choke Cherry Ln.||Rockville||1,363||1,853|
|6||Connecticut Ave. at East-West Hwy.||Chevy Chase||1,684||1,848|
|7||Georgia Ave. at 16th St.||Silver Spring||1,122||1,816|
|8||Great Seneca Highway at Muddy Branch Rd.||Gaithersburg||1,464||1,800|
|9||Frederick Rd. at Montgomery Village Ave.||Gaithersburg||1,536||1,795|
|10||Rockville Pike at 1st St./Wootton Pkwy.||Rockville||1,768||1,610|
|11||East Gude Dr. at Crabbs Branch Rd.||Derwood||1,742||1,211|
|12||Veirs Mill Rd. at Twinbrook Pkwy.||Rockville||1,426||1,721|
|13||1st St. at Baltimore Rd.||Rockville||1,422||1,718|
|14||Connecticut Ave. at Plyers Mill Rd.||Kensington||1,349||1,710|
|15||Shady Grove Rd. at Epsilon Dr./Tupelo Dr.||Derwood||1,704||1,403|
|16||University Blvd. at Piney Branch Rd.||Silver Spring||1,579||1,703|
|17||East Gude Dr. at Southlawn Ln.||Rockville||1,692||1,450|
|18||Randolph Rd. at Veirs Mill Rd.||Wheaton||1,683||1,679|
|19||Piney Branch Rd. at Philadelphia Ave.||Takoma Park||1,228||1,680|
|20||Columbia Pike at Fairland Rd.||Fairland||1,416||1,678|
|21||Connecticut Ave. at Jones Bridge Rd.||Chevy Chase||1,490||1,672|
|22||Montrose Rd. at Tower Oaks Blvd.||Rockville||1,663||1,232|
|23||Bradley Blvd. at Wilson Ln.||Bethesda||1,660||1,603|
|24||Falls Rd. at Maryland Ave./Potomac Valley Rd.||Rockville||1,384||1,658|
|25||Georgia Ave. at Norbeck Rd.||Aspen Hill||1,656||1,592|
|26||Frederick Rd. at Shady Grove Rd.||Shady Grove||1,647||1,486|
|27||Colesville Rd. at Dale Dr.||Silver Spring||1,604||1,645|
|28||Shady Grove Rd. at Midcounty Hwy.||Derwood||1,644||1,323|
|29||Clopper Rd. at Waring Station Rd.||Germantown||1,636||1,589|
|30||Montgomery Village Ave. at Stedwick Ln.||Montgomery Village||1,633||1,170|
|31||Connecticut Ave. at Bradley Ln.||Chevy Chase||1,415||1,628|
|32||Georgia Ave. at Forest Glen Rd.||Silver Spring||1,318||1,626|
|33||Colesville Rd. at Sligo Creek Pkwy.||Silver Spring||1,508||1,624|
|34||Georgia Ave. at Columbia Blvd./Seminary Ln.||Silver Spring||1,520||1,624|
|35||Veirs Mill Rd. at 1st St.||Rockville||1,610||1,475|
|36||Aspen Hill Rd. at Arctic Ave.||Aspen Hill||1,609||1,467|
|37||Norbeck Rd. at Muncaster Mill Rd.||Aspen Hill||1,609||1,238|
|38||Columbia Pike at Greencastle Rd.||Fairland||1,607||1,575|
|39||Old Georgetown Rd. at Tuckerman Ln.||North Bethesda||1,604||1,261|
|40||Great Seneca Highway at Quince Orchard Rd.||Gaithersburg||1,602||1,547|
|41||Randolph Rd. at Parklawn Dr.||North Bethesda||1,601||1,165|
|42||Democracy Blvd. at Falls Rd./South Glen Rd.||Potomac||1,594||1,167|
|43||River Rd. at Holton-Arms School||Bethesda||1,591||1,358|
|44||Norbeck Rd. at Bauer Dr.||Aspen Hill||1,586||1,329|
|45||Randolph Rd. at New Hampshire Ave.||Colesville||1,440||1,580|
|46||Layhill Rd. at Ednor Rd./Norwood Rd.||Olney||1,579||1,425|
|47||River Rd. at I-495||Bethesda||1,579||957|
|48||River Rd. at Willard Ln./Greenway Dr.||Bethesda||1,579||1,530|
|49||East-West Hwy. at Jones Mill Rd./Beach Dr.||Chevy Chase||1,087||1,574|
|50||Colesville Rd. at Franklin Ave.||Silver Spring||1,413||1,571|
As a result, while these areas do have higher-than-average rates of foot and bike traffic and high rates of transit use, they’re not as congested as more suburban parts of the county. Just 16 of the top 50 intersections were inside the Beltway.
Not surprisingly, some of the busiest junctions are along major commuter routes like Rockville Pike, Connecticut Avenue, and Georgia Avenue. But many are on small, two-lane roads in suburban or rural communities like #4, Darnestown Road and Riffle Ford Road in North Potomac, or #46, Layhill Road, Ednor Road, and Norwood Road near Sandy Spring. These places are spread-out and far from transit, jobs, and other amenities, meaning residents have to drive a lot.
This report shows that if you build places on the assumption that people will drive everywhere, you’ll get a lot of traffic, while if you give people options, you’ll get less. Not everyone may want to live downtown, but those who choose to do so are keeping the roads clear for everyone else.