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$82 million earmarked for local projects

September 18, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Maryland transportation officials said Thursday that the state has set aside more than $82 million for 36 projects in Washington County in budget years 1999-2004.

The money will go for new transportation-related projects, and to complete projects already under way, said Maryland Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead.

Winstead and other state officials outlined their six-year draft plan for the county, and asked for comments, in an annual meeting with legislators in Hagerstown.

A final plan will be presented to the General Assembly for its approval in January.

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The state is helping fund two major projects in the county, said State Highway Administrator Parker Williams.

A new $10 million interchange at Interstate 70 and the Downsville Pike is about 20 percent complete, he said. That project includes a new park-and-ride lot that will be used jointly by visitors to the Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park, he said.

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The interchange will provide interstate access to a planned industrial/commercial area. It is expected to be open to traffic by late summer of 1999, he said.

The second major project is $16 million in improvements to the existing interchange at Interstate 81 and Halfway Boulevard. That project will increase the number of ramps, provide acceleration lanes, replace the CSX Bridge along Halfway Boulevard, and replace the two-lane bridge over the interstate on Halfway Boulevard with a six-lane bridge.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 1999. The interchange is expected to be open to traffic in the summer of 2001, officials said.

Winstead said that of the $82 million in the proposed plan, more than $19 million would go to roadway safety and resurfacing projects, $5 million to Neighborhood Conservation projects, $6 million to replacement or repair of bridges, and $4.3 million for "enhancement" projects such as sidewalk and landscaping improvements, or trails.

Resurfacing projects in the draft plan include areas of Interstate 70, the Dual Highway and Mapleville Road.

Boonsboro is scheduled for a major "streetscape" overhaul of Main Street, state officials said. That beautification project will start in the spring of 2000 and take a year to complete.

"Enhancement" projects include purchase of easements at Antietam National Battlefield at Sharpsburg. State officials said they are negotiating with 12 families now.

Also in the plan is money to help pay for the stabilization of the crumbling Conococheague Aqueduct on the C&O Canal at Williamsport, and money to landscape and build pedestrian walkways to give people with disabilities access to Washington Monument State Park.

One of the proposed improvements, which isn't scheduled until 2001, is for construction of a roundabout at Huyetts Crossroads at the intersection of Md. 63 and the National Pike. The signal light would be replaced with the roundabout, similar to the one in Cearfoss, where traffic flows in a circle.

Washington County Commissioner Lee Downey and Maryland Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington, asked Winstead to reconsider that plan. They said they were concerned about safety at the intersection.

Winstead agreed to give it a second look, but said research shows roundabouts can cut accident rates by more than 35 percent.

Downey asked the state to see if anything can be done about traffic backups at the intersection of Jefferson and Eastern boulevards.

McKee asked state officials if they would consider turning the 13 miles of Interstate 81 in Washington County into a six-lane highway. Williams told him it would cost between $5 million and $7 million a mile to widen the road. There are no plans now to do so, he said.

McKee said West Virginia is spending $17 million to widen 7.25 miles of Interstate 81 to six lanes between Martinsburg and Spring Mills. "We don't want to get too far behind," he said.

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