Attendance minimal at transportation plan meeting

October 17, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

Attendees of Thursday's long-range transportation plan meeting at South Hagerstown High School focused most of their comments on aspects they believe have not been considered by the group looking into a new plan.

Less than a dozen people attended a 90-minute meeting held by the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization. The meeting was the third in three days related to a new 30-year transportation plan for the area including Washington County and Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia.

The idea is to look at the possible evolution of highway traffic, bicycles, pedestrians and the movement of goods, said Lewis Grimm, a senior associate with Cambridge Systematics Inc., a Chevy Chase, Md., transportation consulting firm.


The last transportation plan for the three counties was created about 10 years ago, Grimm said.

Grimm said the organization is focused on several Washington County-specific road concerns including the corridor from U.S. 40 to Interstate 70 and the areas of Robinwood and Edgewood. Grimm said key factors in transportation in Hagerstown and Washington County are the increasing population and the influx of people coming into the city. Limitations to public transportation in the city and to other large municipalities also are being looked at, Grimm said.

"Clearly, Washington County attracts a lot of traffic, especially from Berkeley County," Grimm said.

Grimm said even more congestion exists in the area because only about 25 percent work in other areas, most frequently Frederick and Montgomery counties. Grimm said he was surprised at the large amount of inbound traffic coming to the city from Franklin County, Pa.

Harvey Heyser, a Shepherdstown, W.Va., resident who drives to Hagerstown for work, said he believes the project is not taking the needs of pedestrians into account enough.

"To ignore the pedestrian component of our transportation is foolish," Heyser said. Heyser said he sees problems with a lack of sidewalks linking neighborhoods to stores, with traveling between municipalities and with the amount of time people have to cross busy roadways.

"I know a lot of people are prisoners in their home," he said.

Joe Swope, a Boonsboro resident and Sierra Club member, said he believes the project already has deficiencies because Frederick County officials were not made part of the studies and because Pennsylvania officials opted to not participate.

"You can't look at an area plan without including Pennsylvania," he said.

Swope said he was surprised many local officials did not attend.

"I'm very disappointed that there are no reps from Washington County here, whether a commissioner or a member of the planning board," Swope said.

Grimm said he was disappointed in the low attendance at the three meetings. He also said he believes attendance will increase during later rounds of the public hearing because the plans will be more focused and localized.

The next round of hearings likely will occur in early 2004, Grimm said.

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