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Rohrer shows his street smarts

July 13, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HALFWAY

Washington County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said it's interesting to hear candidates for elected office pledge to get more highway money for the county.

"Guess what - it ain't there," Rohrer said Wednesday morning during a presentation on the county's road network.

Because Maryland's mass transit system doesn't pay for itself, it gets money diverted from highway funds, he said.

Under those circumstances, municipalities do what they can to keep up when roads falter.

In Washington County, that meant spending $500,000 to $1 million a year to overlay the roads in the worst shape, he said.

Last year, the county decided to spend $25 million over five years on road improvement projects.

"Our board of county commissioners have been very, very attentive to our infrastructure," he said.

Rohrer's presentation was part of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's Eggs & Issues series, which has included discussions about national parks, economic development and sewer capacity.

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Wednesday's breakfast was at the Plaza Hotel in Halfway.

Rohrer said the county's philosophy is "the right treatment for the right roads at the right time." If one road appears to be getting attention when another is in worse shape, he said, it's because the first road will benefit more from an immediate short-term fix.

The county uses many factors, including traffic volume, to prioritize road work, he said.

According to slides Rohrer showed to the breakfast crowd, Washington County has about 850 miles of roads.

It gained more than 18 miles of roads from new development in the last three years, he said.

Major projects



Rohrer said two of the biggest upcoming road projects are an improvement to the intersection of Dual Highway at Edgewood Drive and the construction of what is known as Southern Boulevard or the Funkstown Bypass.

The Dual Highway and Edgewood Drive project has been estimated to cost $12 million. Under a proposal to which the city and county recently agreed, the state would pay half, the county would pay 30 percent and the city of Hagerstown would pay 20 percent.

Rohrer said the project is being designed. The big question is how long it will take to acquire rights-of-way, he said.

He said the Funkstown Bypass - connecting Oak Ridge and Edgewood drives - has been discussed for at least 17 years.

Five years ago, he said, the estimated cost was $25 million.

Rohrer said he thinks the project could be built in stages.

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