High-tech road treatment coming to 30-mile stretch of Capital Beltway

An infamous stretch of the Capital Beltway is about to become a whole lot safer – or at least that’s the plan.

"It’s the bane of our existence, it’s a thorn in all of our sides," AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend said of the area referred to by many as "The Big Curve," a portion of I-495’s outer loop that runs about the I-270 spur near Bethesda. "It’s a source of so many overturned and jackknifed trucks, especially after it rains."

But maybe not for long.

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Starting Monday night, the Maryland Department of Transportation will begin applying a friction surface treatment to 30 miles of the Beltway, including The Big Curve. The treatment involves propelling steel spheres directly at the pavement surface at a high velocity, according to an MDOT release. The impact then creates a random surface texture that makes it easier for vehicles to stop and reduces the likelihood of hydroplaning.

"It’s an innovative engineering technique designed to reduce crashes," MDOT spokesperson Shantee Felix said Monday, adding that friction and drainage improvements of about 70 percent are expected. "For us it’s all about the three E’s of transportation – enforcement, education, and engineering, and this is an engineering solution that we’ve designed to make the roadway safer for motorists who travel that area."

Motorists can expect overnight lane closures between Bradley Boulevard and Connecticut Avenue through mid-February. The work is expected to cost $460,000 and will be performed by contractor Skidabrader out of San Diego, California.