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Study says Dual Highway in need of additional lanes

February 27, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Dual Highway won't be able to handle traffic unless it gets an extra lane in each direction and major intersection improvements in the next four years, according to a State Highway Administration study.

State and local officials pledged Thursday to share the costs of improving the road while also requiring developers to contribute.

"Time is essential here," Hagerstown City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.

The Edgewood Drive intersection already is failing and should have three left-turn lanes going east onto Dual Highway, Assistant District Engineer for Traffic George Small said.

Small presented the results of the highway administration study to Washington County lawmakers and local government representatives from the City of Hagerstown and Washington County in Annapolis on Thursday.

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Dual Highway needs to be widened from four to six through lanes to handle traffic loads that will come with planned development, including a new hospital, the study shows.

At the intersection with Edgewood Drive, a total of four new through lanes and four new turn lanes will be required.

Originally, the study called for two left turn lanes from Edgewood east onto Dual Highway, Small said.

But extra traffic that would result from a proposed 250-acre development on the so-called "Harrison tract" near Interstate 70 caused engineers to plan for a third left-turn lane, he said.

In the past, local governments would wait for the state to make improvements to state highways such as Dual Highway, Washington County Director of Public Works Gary Rohrer said.

Since state transportation dollars have become increasingly limited, local officials have to step up and provide some money as well, he said.

Rohrer is suggesting that costs be split three ways between the state, county and city.

"Let's face it folks, the traffic doesn't know when it crosses a state, county or municipal boundary," he said.

There are as yet no cost estimates or design drawings for the proposed improvements.

The county tentatively has earmarked money to redo the intersection of Dual Highway and Mount Aetna Road because the state already has made improvements there, Rohrer said.

Rohrer and Tissue said they are eager to begin an engineering study of Edgewood, estimated to cost up to $110,000, because of the time it will take to negotiate right-of-way purchases.

In addition to Edgewood Drive, the intersections with Cornell Avenue and Eastern Boulevard also are failing, according to the study.

If nothing is done, by 2008 every intersection from Cleveland Avenue to I-70, except Hamilton Nissan, will be failing, the study says.

The Edgewood Drive and Eastern Boulevard intersections have experienced high accident rates.

Traffic is expected to increase at a rate of 5 percent a year, which is twice as fast as growth during the past 10 years.

Eight developments have been proposed that will increase traffic in the Dual Highway corridor when they are fully built by 2013.

They include the hospital expansion, and a variety of townhouses, condos, single-family homes and elderly housing.

The Harrison tract accounts for nearly one-third of the extra traffic expected to be generated by the proposed new development.

State money hinges on passage of Gov. Robert Ehrlich's package of proposed transportation fee increases, Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan told local officials at the meeting.

"We still need to get a revenue increase so we can pay for the things we promised you last year," Flanagan said.

Those projects include the Hagerstown Regional Airport runway extension.

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