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County, city commit funds to intersection design costs

April 07, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County and the City of Hagerstown each have committed to spending up to $150,000 on design costs for proposed improvements to the busy intersection of U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive.

County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II made the commitment in a March 28 letter to State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen.

The estimated design costs are $435,000.

The proposed improvements to the intersection, which includes adding more lanes, are estimated to cost $11.9 million.

Jim Ports, deputy secretary for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said Thursday that he was pleased with the city's and county's support for what he described as an important project.

"It's a good project," he said.

Bruchey and Snook said in the letter that they made the commitment on design costs to avoid delaying the project and that the city and county would work out "remaining issues" about the project at a later date.

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"As this is the single most important transportation project for our community, we will resolve the remaining issues of participation with SHA prior to the project reaching the land acquisition stage," Bruchey and Snook wrote. "Once final funding issues are resolved, our staffs will work with SHA to develop a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to see the project through to completion in a timely manner."

At a March 14 meeting with state transportation officials, some elected city and county officials expressed concerned about whether the proposed improvements to the intersection were worth the cost.

The improvements would increase the level of service for both directions of travel on Edgewood Drive during afternoon peak hours, state officials said. It would improve from currently failing or near-failing levels, to a grade of "D" by 2010.

By 2030, that stretch of Edgewood would have a grade of "F" if no other improvements were made by then.

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 a city memo.

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

· Widen Edgewood Drive to create two left-turn lanes, one through lane and one through/right-shared lane in each direction.

"Improving the intersection of U.S. Route 40 at Edgewood Drive is critical in addressing current failing conditions and relieving current and future traffic congestion in this fast-growing area," Bruchey and Snook wrote. "Delaying this project would have a negative effect on commuter traffic to Maryland businesses, access to Hagerstown Community College ... Robinwood Medical Campus and the future site of Washington County Hospital, and the gateway to the City of Hagerstown."

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said Thursday he thought the project was a "Catch-22."

While he wasn't sure whether the proposed improvements were the best options, he said something had to be done to fix the congestion.

"It's a situation where I'm not sure we have much choice," Wivell said.

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