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Major road projects recommended in study

February 07, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Getting the Tri-State area into the fast lane won't be cheap.

A regional transportation study for Washington County in Maryland and Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia recommends $415 million in major road projects, including added lanes for Interstate 81 and Interstate 70.

But the study projects that only $74 million will be available between 2000 to 2020 to pay for the improvements.

Kurt Wagner, a supervisor at CF Motorfreight in Hagerstown, said he hopes I-81 is upgraded sooner rather than later. "It would definitely be a big help to us," he said. "It can get pretty hectic."

Wagner said an additional lane would help reduce accidents and help commuters and truckers avoid slow-moving vehicles.

William Hain Jr., a Hagerstown truck safety consultant, said interstates in the Hagerstown area are becoming bottlenecks during rush hour and could definitely use a third lane in each direction.

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"I think it's bearable now, but you know in the next couple of years traffic is just going to keep increasing," Hain said. "You're going to have a safety problem."

County Planning Director Robert C. Arch said the study is required by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. Projects that aren't listed in the final draft of the study won't be eligible for federal funds, Arch said.

Arch said the cost estimates in the study are rough. Arch said the plan would need to be updated about every five years.

County Commissioner James R. Wade noted that the Halfway/I-81 interchange upgrade - recommended at a cost of $8.6 million - has been the county's top priority because of the development of the nearby Newgate Industrial Park.

The two-year study for the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization sets priorities for transportation projects and will be open to public comment at six public hearings starting this month.

BMI, a Vienna, Va., consulting firm, wrote the draft version of the study with input from state and local authorities.

The recommended projects don't include $185 million in projects that already have been approved for funding, including the $14 million interchange at Downsville Pike and Interstate 70 and the $94 million upgrade of W.Va. 9 between Charles Town and Martinsburg.

Public hearings on the draft plan will be held Feb. 18, Feb. 20 and Feb. 25.

On Feb. 18, hearings will be at 6 p.m. in the first floor conference room of the County Administration Building at 100 W.Washington St., Hagerstown, and at 7:30 p.m. in the Commissioners Chambers in the Berkeley County Courthouse in Martinsburg.

On Feb. 20, hearings will be held at 6 p.m. in the Smithsburg Town Hall and at 7:30 p.m. in the Boonsboro Town Hall.

On Feb. 22, hearings will be held at 6 p.m. in the Ranson (W.Va.) City Hall and at 7:30 p.m. in Reynolds Hall at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

After public input, a final version of the study will be prepared, Arch said.

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