BETHESDA, Md. - A stretch of the Capital Beltway that’s seen countless crashes over the years is now safer for drivers, according to officials with the Maryland State Highway Administration. They added that an innovative roadwork project is the reason why.
It’s called friction surface treatment, and back in February, crews applied it to a 20-mile stretch of the Beltway, including what’s become known as "The Big Curve," a portion of I-495’s outer loop that runs above the I-270 spur near Bethesda.
"It’s the bane of our existence, it’s a thorn in all of our sides," AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Thompson told Fox 5 at the time. "It’s a source of so many overturned and jackknifed trucks, especially after it rains."
But four months later, the friction surface treatment – which involves propelling steel spheres directly at the pavement at a high velocity – appears to have worked.
"The initial results showed a 50 percent increase in friction, which we were extremely pleased with," the State Highway Administration’s Michael Little said Wednesday.
"We haven’t had very many if any bad weather crashes," added another official, John Gover. "That was through the snow and the rain."
Now, because of the early success, Little and Gover said Maryland officials are thinking about using the same technique elsewhere on the Beltway, as well as in other parts of the state too.
"It allows for better driving during wet weather events, for keeping your vehicle on the roadway," Little explained.
He added that next month, more tests will be run on the work that’s already been done.