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Is it Route 29 or Colesville Road? MD 355 or Rockville Pike?

With no set nomenclature for state-owned roads in Montgomery County, how do you decide what they’re called?

Route 29—or is it Colesville Road?—in downtown Silver Spring. Patch file photo.
Route 29—or is it Colesville Road?—in downtown Silver Spring. Patch file photo.

By Whitney Teal

There’s a minor conundrum in Montgomery County, present for anyone who uses digital GPS or wasn’t born and raised in the county. What’s the preferred and most recognizable way to refer to a state-owned highway—by the state number, like MD 355, or by the name, which can change, like Wisconsin Avenue/Rockville Pike?

Greater Greater Washington recently dedicated 11 paragraphs to this question, referencing common roads like Georgia Avenue (seemingly always called that, never MD 97) Route 29 (which is sometimes called just “29” outside the Beltway, but Colesville Road further south) and the ever-changing 355, which can confuse anyone trying to follow Google Maps directions.

So what’s the standard in Montgomery County? GGW’s David Alpert has this theory:

“Often, people seem to use the number more when talking about places they're mostly passing through, and the name for places they're going to. Rockville Pike is not just a road, but an assemblage of shopping centers that you go to on purpose. Columbia Pike (the Virginia one) is a corridor of neighborhoods, whereas Route 50 more bypasses neighborhoods and moves commuters. It's Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring, a destination, and becomes Route 29 somewhere north.”

What do you think? How do you decide what to call a road with multiple names and a number?

Jay Levy August 03, 2013 at 04:27 PM
If you think Colesville Road or Rockville Pike road names are confusing, just try Route 410 through Takoma Park. There it's more like a Roman thoroughfare where the name changes every few blocks. Approaching Takoma Park through Silver Spring your on East-West Highway until you cross Georgia, then it's Burlington Avenue as you enter TP where it becomes Philadelphia Avenue, then Carroll Avenue and then Ethan Allen Avenue before you leave TP when you are once again on East-West. All these name changes occur in less than two miles, and all the time you're actually still on State Route 410. Go figure.

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