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A double bypass for Funkstown, and how it might be paid for

September 29, 2000

A double bypass for Funkstown, and how it might be paid for



After Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari dashed any hopes that the state would provide cash for the long-awaited Funkstown bypass, a resident of that town contacted me to say, in effect, that Hagerstown and Washington have to quit waiting for some state-level Santa Claus to bail them out.

Traffic improvements for Funkstown and the eastern edge of Hagerstown are needed now, and if the state isn't going to help, this Funkstowner said, local government has to move ahead on its own. And if they don't, he said, the newspaper should push them to do it.

Okay, but in fairness to the government officials involved, my first move was to ask them how they're planning to proceed. Rather than just hoping something will turn up, officials are considering several possibilities, including building the road a section at a time and getting property owners whose land would be opened up for development along the route to help pay for it.

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In addition to the original bypass, which would run from Oak Ridge Drive to Edgewood Drive, officials are looking at a second road, which would go from U.S. 40 Alternate on the south side of Funkstown north to Hebb Road, which ends at the Dual Highway.

County Commissioner Bert Iseminger, a longtime planning commission member, told me the concern has grown recently because of the proposal to build a Super Wal-Mart on Edgewood Drive, on property that's in the Hagerstown city limits.

The city is at a disadvantage in dealing with Wal-Mart because it doesn't have an adequate public facilities ordinance like the county does, Iseminger said.

Such an ordinance allowed the county to tell the developer of the new Target store near Valley Mall that approval was conditioned on extending Massey Boulevard to U.S. 11 at their expense. For Wal-Mart to essentially depend on one entrance - Edgewood Drive - isn't going to work, he said.

"There's certainly got to be another way in and out of there," Iseminger said.

According to Bob Arch, director of the county planning department, the alignment for the first bypass has been determined and traffic in the whole region is under study by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Arch explained that the group covers three states - Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia - and channels federal and state dollars into regional planning efforts.

"Two years ago, MPO commissioned a study to develop an alignment (for the bypass)," Arch said.

"That's completed now, and it would go from Oak Ridge to Edgewood Road," Arch said, adding that the city has asked the MPO to fund an additional study of traffic coming up U.S. 40 Alternate from Boonsboro.

Despite Secretary Porcari's statement about the lack of state funds available for local road projects, Arch said the county hasn't given up its efforts in that area.

Prior to the public meeting with Porcari, Arch said county and state staffs met to talk about the situation at the Dual Highway's intersection with Edgewood Drive, which becomes Robinwood Drive. The intersection is already very busy, Arch said, and planners had worried about what might have happened if the new University Systems of Maryland campus had gone to Hagerstown Community College's campus. With 500 students trying to get into evening classes during rush hour, it might have been a mess, Arch said.

That's one issue, Arch said. The other is the need to get the state to agree not to oppose federal funding for the bypass in two years, when the federal transportation funding package is due for reauthorization.

"One major aspect of that funding would be for the bridge going across the Antietam Creek," Arch said.

"There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle to be put together," Arch said.

One piece, according to Hagerstown City Engineer Bruce Johnston, is a second road that would take traffic coming north from the Boonsboro area on U.S. 40 Alternate to Hebb Road on an alignment that goes through four properties that he says are "potentially developable" with no houses or anything that would need to be torn down.

The next step would be to rework the intersection where Hebb Road and the Dual Highway meet, which is something the state would have an interest in doing.

Johnston agrees that "there's only one way to get this thing going, and that's to start building pieces of it."

To summarize, the state isn't going to fund the bypass, at least not as long as Gov. Parris Glendening and his "Smart Growth" policy are discouraging new road construction. Instead, local government will try to build these two new roads around Funkstown on their own, with some financial help from developers.

Will it work? That remains to be seen. Eastern Boulevard was originally called the Northeast Bypass and long-time local residents will remember how long that took to become reality. The important thing is that there is a plan.

Bob Maginnis is The Herald-Mail's editorial page editor.

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