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Extend Eastern Boulevard, but let's do it right this time

October 02, 2003

Washington County citizens hold differing views on many issues, but we'd bet that most would agree that the development of Eastern Boulevard has been a mess from the start.

Planners have a chance to remedy that, but only if they take some lessons from the mistakes of the past and get developers to buy into the process.

The present two-lane road was a compromise of sorts, built after Washington County's General Assembly delegation rejected a large bypass of the City of Hagerstown that would have been built mostly with federal and state funds.

The road might have functioned reasonably well, except for two things. The first is that, unlike Wesel Boulevard, there are no service roads running parallel to Eastern Boulevard to collect traffic and disburse it at a few traffic lights. Without those roads and collecting points, vehicles enter from too many driveways, slowing the flow of traffic.

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The second problem is that instead of using a fairly straight alignment running out to an area near the Marsh Pike/Md. 60 intersection, the road curves sharply near the new YMCA.

Traffic exiting that facility is at risk and the boulevard's intersection of Md. 60 is that much more crowded.

Now the city government wants to build a spur of the boulevard behind the new YMCA and run it to an area where Marsh Pike and Md. 60 meet.

That would require building an entirely new intersection there, since the present one is inadequate, even for lower volumes of traffic. But access to the new stretch of road should be limited to a few points, so that at least one stretch of Eastern Boulevard flows fairly freely.

So when will this road be built? It's not in Washington County's Capital Improvement Plan for the next five years, though that could be changed, according to Gary Rohrer, the county's public works director.

If it isn't built within that time, city officials the opportunity to do so might be lost, forcing consideration of other more costly solutions.

Now is the time for city and county officials to talk about how they might fund this and how developers along the boulevard might kick in a few bucks. As a result of this road, their developments will prosper, so they should be more than willing to share in the costs of making sure traffic to and from their projects runs smoothly.

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