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Traffic fix would require millions

March 15, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN

Local officials questioned Tuesday whether it makes sense to spend nearly $12 million on improvements to a busy intersection that would provide minimal relief from traffic congestion.

The State Highway Administration, Washington County Commissioners and Hagerstown City Council met to discuss the proposed upgrades to the intersection of U.S. 40 (Dual Highway) and Edgewood Drive, which could be paid for by the three governments.

Under the proposal, the city, county and state each would pay $3.9 million.

The improvements would increase the level of service on the southbound and northbound lanes of Edgewood Drive during afternoon peak hours from currently failing or near-failing levels to a grade of "D" in 2010.

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Intersection capacity is graded on a scale of "A" to "F." An "A" is the best level, while an "F" is "basically 'gridlock' with unacceptable delays," according to city memo.

By 2030, that stretch of Edgewood would have a grade "F," if no other improvements were made by then," County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he hopes the state will increase funding for the project, but that the three governments still have to work out the financial details.

The project would add a third through lane in each direction on U.S. 40 that allows bicycle travel, extend the existing left- and right-turn lanes on U.S. 40 and widen Edgewood Drive to create two left-turn lanes, one through lane and one through/right-shared lane in each direction, according to the presentation.

Construction would begin in July 2007 and be completed in the winter of 2008 or spring of 2009, according to a preliminary timeline.

"To me, this is not doing anything than having us spend more money five or six years down the road," Commissioner John C. Munson said.

"Something seems out of whack," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said.

"What about 2015, five years after we complete the project?" Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said at the meeting. "Are we going to be failing?"

Rohrer said there probably would be more road improvements in the future.

He said something has to be done to the U.S. 40/Edgewood Drive intersection now, or costs will increase later.

"This project five or six years ago was half this amount," Rohrer said. "In five or six years from now, it will be double that. We got to do something."

Munson suggested bridging U.S. 40 over Edgewood Drive in both directions or to run Edgewood Drive under U.S. 40 to improve traffic congestion.

He explained by phone Tuesday night that while that likely will cost more now, it might save money in the long run. He said the county, city or state wouldn't have to add further improvements to the intersection or surrounding roads several years from now to alleviate congestion, which would be needed with the current proposal.

"Why fix something that's broke when it's going to be broke again a few years down the road?" Munson asked.

City Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire shot down Munson's proposal at the meeting.

"I think it's ridiculous to even talk about that idea," Aleshire said. "It's a ridiculous idea."

Rohrer said Munson's idea would cost $50 million or $60 million and require the purchase of several properties at the intersection.

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