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Road to shopping center paved with upgrades

October 12, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

HAGERSTOWN - Development of a shopping center anchored by Lowe's and a grocery store could require several million dollars of improvements to Md. 60 and Eastern Boulevard under state mandates, the Hagerstown Planning Commission was told Wednesday.

Plans already include two lanes each northbound and southbound on Md. 60 in front of Stone House Square, the shopping center; a concrete median dividing the highway; a new traffic light in front of the existing stone house; and several hundred feet of new lanes going both east and west on Eastern Boulevard.

The planning commission backed extending the second northbound lane on Md. 60 from the traffic light on Eastern Boulevard past the project. That would be designed to eliminate the merging required of traffic turning right from Eastern Boulevard.

A representative of developer Faison & Associates of Bethesda, Md., balked at that additional project, which he said easily could cost more than $800,000, as it would necessitate bridge work.

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The traffic changes without that project already total about $1.5 million, Director of Retail Development Jim Castillo said.

"There is sort of a limit that you can make a person responsible for," he said.

City staff is awaiting word from the Maryland Department of Transportation on whether that lane will be required. City Engineer Rodney A. Tissue said traffic projections do not appear to warrant the additional lane in the northeast quadrant of the Md. 60 and Eastern Boulevard intersection.

"Their traffic computer model shows it works the way it's set up," Tissue said.

The planning commission said that even if computers don't indicate the lane is necessary, function dictates it should be there.

"If we don't do that other lane, we're going to be criticized in the same order as not doing Eastern Boulevard four lanes," commission member Dennis E. Miller said.

"You're going to have a city street that has a bottleneck in it in perpetuity otherwise," commission member Martin E. Brubaker said.

The shopping center will add almost 900 vehicles traveling on Md. 60 during the peak evening travel time, Tissue said.

"It's almost a 50 percent increase in traffic in this area due to this shopping center," Tissue said.

Plans are supposed to be before the planning commission for approval at a special meeting Oct. 26. However, the commission said it will delay the decision if it doesn't have a response from the state regarding the second lane at the intersection.

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