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Is John Munson so wrong?

March 16, 2006

Even if state and local governments spend $12 million to fix what most agree is Washington County's worst intersection, the fix won't last too long.

That's what we glean from Herald-Mail reporter Tara Reilly's story about a meeting of state, county and Hagerstown officials on the Edgewood Drive/U.S. 40 project.

Rather than go ahead with this plan on the premise that doing something is better than doing nothing, we believe it is time to rethink the whole transportation plan for U.S. 40 and its intersections on the east side of the city.

It is vitally important that this be done correctly - and not just to spare commuters the long waits now common at that intersection during certain times of the day.

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A failed intersection at that location would also be a possible obstacle for every ambulance coming to the new Washington County Hospital.

Emergency vehicles coming off Interstate 70 would come right through that intersection, as would those coming from the southern part of the county via U.S. 40 Alternate.

If the upgrade is approved as planned, officials said it should be completed by the winter of 2008 or the spring of 2009.

But officials also said that by 2010, if no other upgrades are done, the intersection will still be close to failing.

Commissioner John Munson suggested that if the only possibility foreseen is an endless number of upgrades, it might be better to take drastic action now and build a bridge to take U.S. 40 over Edgewood Drive or a tunnel to route Edgewood Drive under U.S. 40.

Hagerstown Councilman Kristin Aleshire immediately called it "a ridiculous idea." And, County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said that it would cost $50 million to $60 million, in part because of the property that would need to be purchased.

Perhaps Munson's idea wouldn't work, but it's the kind of brainstorming this project needs. Faced with the prospect of spending $10 million to $12 million every 10 years, shouldn't elected officials be thinking outside of the box?

This intersection is the first travelers see when coming into Hagerstown from the east. Not only is it essential to public safety that it work well, but if the first thing visitors experience here is a gridlocked mess, many visitors' initial impression of Hagerstown would be a negative one.

Munson's solution might not be perfect, but at least he's thinking about solutions for the long term.

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