Real battle could be waged on Sharpsburg Pike

September 08, 1997


Staff Writer

Without a comparable precedent, it's hard to gauge how congested Sharpsburg Pike will get this weekend because of the Battle of Antietam 135th anniversary event, police and highway officials say.

"Our biggest shortcoming now is we have nothing to base it on. This is our first time at it. A lot of it is done on blind faith," said Maryland State Police 1st Sgt. Bill Lucas, who said the closest comparison would be Fourth of July festivities at Antietam National Battlefield, which draw about 30,000 people.

Organizers predict the event - Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the Artz farm property on Rench Road, just south of Interstate 70's Sharpsburg Pike (Md. 65) exit - could draw up to 12,000 re-enactors and 50,000 spectators.


They'll have to take Sharpsburg Pike to get to the event, organizers say.

Rench Road will be blocked at Downsville Pike starting Tuesday, and you won't be able to get onto Rench Road from Poffenberger Road during event hours.

The main focus will be to keep both north- and southbound traffic flowing as smoothly as possible on Sharpsburg Pike, which will be closed only if there are severe backups on I-70, said Nancy Jones, a traffic engineer who works with special events planning for the Maryland State Highway Administration in Hagerstown.

To keep southbound traffic moving, event-goers will be directed into a right-hand turn lane created from part of the road's shoulder starting at Col. Henry K. Douglas Drive, Jones said.

Northbound traffic will be able to turn left onto Rench Road, she said.

However, Jones said, the primary consideration has to be keeping southbound traffic moving so motorists can get on and off I-70.

To help motorists who aren't familiar with the area, there will be clear signage directing traffic to and from I-70 and Interstate 81 from both north- and southbound Sharpsburg Pike, she said.

To ease congestion - and for their own convenience and piece of mind - motorists who aren't heading to the event are being advised to steer clear of Sharpsburg Pike, especially during peak times.

Jones said organizers are predicting the heaviest traffic between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, and between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 and 8 p.m. Sunday.

"We anticipate locals who are familiar with the area will be able to get around and preplan their route before the event," she said.

Some Washington County workers won't have a choice in the matter, however, as businesses around the I-70/ Sharpsburg Pike interchange gear up for what could be a banner weekend.

Weekends are generally busy at the Snax Shell station, just south of I-70 on Sharpsburg Pike, with out-of -town travelers making pit stops for food and gasoline, said manager Mary Showe.

To prepare for the extra event business, Showe said she scheduled some additional workers and made larger-than-average orders for the store's Blimpie's Subs and Hot Stuff Pizza items.

"We always have things on hand. But when we know something's coming, we do order more," she said.

Tammy Lorshbaugh, general manager of the Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers just south of I-70 exit, said she can't count on a deluge of customers even if the event draws a large crowd.

"It really depends on what kind of mood people are in," Lorshbaugh said.

She said additional workers were scheduled but warned they could be sent home if business isn't as brisk as expected. She also ordered extra food, especially the chicken special, she said.

Because his Sunoco station is north of the I-70/ Sharpsburg Pike intersection, Charles Mozingo said he thinks it's possible he'll miss out on incidental business fuel and convenience store business from the event.

"I really don't know what to expect," said Mozingo, who figures he will capture some additional brand-loyal customers over the course of the weekend.

Mozingo said he isn't going to schedule extra staff to work because the nature of the gas business regulated flow to the check-out counter.

"There's only so many you can get at the pump at the time," said Mozingo, who has 12 gas pumps, three of them diesel.

Mozingo said he is hoping his West End shop - The Train Room - and other county businesses and attractions will benefit from the additional out-of-town traffic.

Maryland State Police promised the event will have "minimum impact" on workers and customers going to the Motor Vehicle Administration office at Col. Henry K. Douglas Drive, which will be open its normal Saturday hours, 8:30 a.m. to noon, said MVA regional director Bruce Shifflett.

The office generally does light business on Saturday, when only driver's test services are available, Shifflett said.

While keeping I-70 moving has to be the main priority, allowances will be made for all businesses along Sharpsburg Pike, Lucas said.

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