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Northwest bypass proposed

June 03, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

City officials are considering building a northwest bypass to connect Salem Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue, largely using developers' money.

On Wednesday, the $4.9 million proposal came before the Hagerstown Planning Commission, which supported it and recommended sending it to the Hagerstown City Council for its consideration.

Planning Commission Chairman Douglas S. Wright Jr. said Thursday that railroad tracks in the North End prevent traffic from flowing east and west.

Currently, motorists on Salem Avenue who want to get to Pennsylvania Avenue need to go south to Burhans Boulevard, then east.

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The proposed two-lane bypass would extend north from Salem Avenue toward Interstate 81, cross the railroad tracks on a bridge and continue to Haven Road.

A memo prepared by City Engineer Rodney Tissue estimated the length of the connector at 6,700 linear feet and the cost at $4.9 million.

Of that, the city would spend about $1 million on a bridge over the railroad tracks.

Also, the city and a developer together would pay about $1 million for 1,600 linear feet of roadway from the railroad tracks to Marshall Street.

The remaining two stretches would cost about $2.9 million and would be funded by developers, the memo says.

Wright said the Haven Road section would be funded by a developer planning to build a housing development there.

According to Planning Director Kathleen Maher, the 376-unit project is proposed as a mix of single-family homes, town houses and multifamily homes. It has not come to the planning commission yet for approval.

Property owner Ken Jordan said Friday that the connector road is the city's decision and he will cooperate.

Two other sections of the northwest bypass would be funded by whomever develops them, Wright said.

Tissue said the proposed Haven Road housing project would create extra traffic, but a bypass would be needed without it.

Tissue's memo says traffic on Salem Avenue has grown by as much as 90 percent since 1997, while traffic on Burhans Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue has gone up by as much as 34 percent.

"Salem Avenue cannot be easily widened to increase capacity, therefore any measures to relieve volumes (such as the northwest connector) would be beneficial," the memo says.

A possible connector road was the focus of a 1997 study, but was around before then, Tissue said Thursday.

The 1997 study listed the current proposal and a variation as the best two options.

It also listed three options as unlikely - a railroad crossing at Mitchell Avenue, and crossings from Indiana Avenue to Glenwood Avenue and to West Irvin Avenue.

Tissue said it might be several weeks before the city council discusses the northwest connector.

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