New I-97 lanes will open tomorrow


After more than two years of construction, congestion and flaring tempers, a third northbound lane on Interstate 97 will open tomorrow.

The new lane will begin at Route 648, also known as Baltimore-Annapolis Road, and run north to Interstate 695 in northern Anne Arundel County, said Chuck Brown, a spokesman with the State Highway Administration.

"We're excited about the opening, and we hope that it will be well-received by commuters," Mr. Brown said.

A fourth northbound lane will start about one-quarter mile from the Wellham Avenue Bridge, just north of Route 648, Mr. Brown said. It also is to open tomorrow.

The two right lanes will offer access to the Baltimore Beltway. The two left lanes will continue to Interstate 895, also known as the Harbor Tunnel Thruway.

Final work is expected to be completed today, Mr. Brown said. Crews will remove road markings and apply new striping that will be edged in black to contrast with the light-colored pavement, Mr. Brown said. The stripes also will have a wafflelike pattern designed to be visible during heavy rains.

Glass beads embedded in the highway stripes will reflect headlights from northbound vehicles to aid motorists' vision at night, he said.

Mr. Brown said he expects travelers to welcome the opening.

"It will provide better, safer access to 695," he said. "It will relieve congestion, particularly during the [morning] peak."

Similar work is to be done on southbound I-97. A third lane could be completed by next Saturday, he said.

"It all depends on how much work there is and how quickly we can get it done," Mr. Brown said. "Northbound is a priority, but if everything goes as planned, we hope to open up the southbound lanes as soon as possible."

The project, which began in spring 1993, is one of four on I-97, Mr. Brown said. The three other projects in the area from New Cut Road to I-695 should be finished by fall 1996, he said.

The section that will open tomorrow cost $14.5 million, Mr. Brown said. The total cost for all four projects is $62.7 million.

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