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Area's transportation needs to be sized up

April 30, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A regional planning organization will pay a consultant more than $850,000 to update its long-range transportation plan, forecasting, in part, area needs in the year 2025, Washington County Planning Director Robert Arch said Monday.

The transportation plan update for the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization will cover Washington County, Jefferson and Berkeley counties in West Virginia, and a small section of southern Franklin County, Pa., near Greencastle, Arch said.

Arch is the coordinator for the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization, which includes local elected representatives from Maryland and West Virginia and staff members from local and state governments.

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The organization's main function is transportation planning, he said.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization voted at its April 17 meeting to award an $856,180 contract to Cambridge Systematics of Washington, D.C., to update its existing plan, Arch said.

The money will come from the organization's budget. The Maryland and West Virginia departments of transportation fund the organization with a combination of state and federal funds. He estimated that about 80 percent of the organization's funding is federal money.

The consultant has up to two years to finish the plan, Arch said.

The organization's first plan was completed in 1997 at a cost of about $350,000.

The update will cost more than the first plan because it will be more detailed in its analysis of the West Virginia counties. Compiling needed information for that analysis can be expensive, he said.

The existing study did not include all of Berkeley and Jefferson counties, he said.

The federal government requires urban areas with Metropolitan Planning Organizations to develop long-range transportation plans every five years, Arch said.

The organization's board will meet with the consultant for the first time at its May 15 meeting, he said.

As part of the work, the consultant looks at proposed projects and upgrades in the counties as well as regional projects, he said.

This review will include looking at the proposed widening of Interstate 81 in Washington County.

The plan will includes recommendations on what the organization should make its top priorities, Arch said.

The existing study lists the widening of 81 as a top priority for the region, Arch said. He predicted it will be a major priority in the new study as well.

State transportation departments look at the Metropolitan Planning Organization's priorities when developing state transportation plans and budgets, Arch said.

The resulting plan is an important document that is used for planning purposes by the local, state and federal governments, he said.

"This is a massive long-range transportation study that will set the tone going forward for many years to come," said Washington County Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger, who is on the organization board and the Washington County Planning Commission.

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