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Expert will explore County Commuter transfer sites

June 04, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY

For more than 10 years, the transfer point for Washington County's public bus system has been under an overpass near the Hagerstown Police Department.

In recent years, Washington County Commuter and the City of Hagerstown tried to find a nicer spot for people to wait as they changed bus routes, but nothing fit.

Having exhausted a list of ideas, County Commuter is going to let an outside expert step in, said Kevin Cerrone, County Commuter's director.

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The Maryland Department of Transportation is negotiating a contract with a consultant to study alternatives, said Mike Nixon, the manager of regional planning for MDOT's Office of Planning.

He said in a voice-mail message that the study would be completed by Oct. 30.

The current transfer point in the 300 block of West Washington Street has some good features, such as ample space, but it's far from ideal, Cerrone said.

It's in a sound chamber that amplifies noise. Trains rumble nearby.

It's on a straightaway on which traffic often speeds up and panhandlers hang out.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh has called it dirty and "despicable."

The search for another transfer point has been going on for at least a few years. Hagerstown City Engineer Rodney Tissue has helped with the search.

The best choice, the East Washington Street parking lot where the former Tusing Warehouse is, fell through when the city decided to sell the building to a developer, Cerrone said.

A dozen other sites, many of them downtown, were ruled out.

The road wasn't wide enough on the first block of North Jonathan Street. The parking lot behind The Maryland Theatre didn't have the right layout. The first block of East Washington Street had a precarious hill.

Cerrone said he'd like a spot where County Commuter could build a place for riders to wait and drivers to stop and take a bathroom break.

Moving the transfer point could lead to a domino-like change in other bus stops in the city.

In 2005, Tissue presented the Hagerstown City Council a plan for a new configuration of stops for buses entering and leaving the city, but nothing happened.

Tissue said Thursday that the plan was tabled because of the uncertainty of the transfer point but could be revived.

Nigh said the transfer point needs to move to a safer, more visible spot. She suggested the former Ames shopping center.

Cerrone said that might work, if the owner is interested. Previously, County Commuter looked more at places that didn't require the approval of private property owners, he said.

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