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For Eastern Boulevard, a better plan is needed

August 16, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Has the neighborhood along Hagerstown's Eastern Boulevard changed? Yes it has. Although we sympathize with neighbors who'd rather not see a zoning change from residential to commercial there, it does meet that test. But neighbors would probably agree with us that the changes have been made worse by poor road planning.

The boulevard is what's left of a proposal made more than 25 years ago by Maryland State Highway Administration officials for a northeast bypass of Hagerstown. Had it been built under the state's plan, the federal government would have paid more than 75 percent of the cost.

But the county's General Assembly delegation, concerned that too much farmland would be lost, refused to sign off on the state's Highway Needs Study until the project was scrapped.

To preserve the bypass in some form, the late Donald R. Frush, who later served as Hagerstown's mayor, campaigned for local government to build its own simpler version. After much effort, a road was built to give motorists a way to get from U.S. 40 (Dual Highway) to Md. 60 (Leitersburg Pike) without going through downtown Hagerstown.

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But since then, the bypass has attracted development, mostly on the east side. One traffic light has recently been added and another might not be far behind. Before the road loses all its utility as a bypass, officials have to look at what's wrong now.

Eastern Boulevard should have service roads running parallel to it, so that traffic can collect at one or two points, where a traffic signal would direct it safely onto the main road.

Can this be done now? Yes, although the service road on the east side will have to run behind the existing development since there's no room in front at this point. On the west side, there's still time to reserve land for that purpose.

Growth is inevitable, but it doesn't have to be disorderly and government officials need not do as they did on Robinwood Drive and ignore the problem until a bottleneck occurs. That's what will happen if they don't plan now for future traffic on Eastern Boulevard.

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