Estimate for intersection fix growing

June 12, 2007|by JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - The Washington County Commissioners will decide today whether to spend an additional $1 million on a project to improve one of the county's busiest intersections.

The Maryland State Highway Administration has increased its estimate for upgrades to the intersection of U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive from $11.2 million to $14.4 million, citing increased overhead costs and higher prices for paving materials. The new estimate would raise the county's share of the project from $3.38 million to $4.32 million, and the City of Hagerstown's portion from $2.26 million to $2.88 million.

In a report to the County Commissioners, Gary W. Rohrer, Washington County's director of special projects, recommends moving forward with the project despite the cost increase. He said costs will only rise further and state funds will be harder to obtain if the project is delayed.

"If we let this go, it's going to be real hard to get the SHA interested again," Rohrer said.


The project would add a third through lane in each direction on U.S. 40; extend the existing left- and right- turn lanes on U.S. 40; and widen Edgewood Drive to create two southbound left-turn lanes, a northbound right-turn lane and center medians on both sides of U.S. 40.

The improvements would increase the intersection's level of service during peak hours and raise its current failing grade to a level of "C," Rohrer said. Construction is projected to begin in the spring of 2008 and be completed in the fall of 2009. Rohrer said the county will begin advertising for bids for the project in December.

The SHA increased its cost estimate for the project from $11.2 million to $16.4 million in early May, which would have cost the county $4.91 million and the city $3.27 million. Rohrer and Hagerstown City Engineer Rodney Tissue met with the SHA to recommend changes to bring the cost of the project down to $14.4 million. However, some say the cost is still too high.

"I have a lot of questions," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said. "This project needs to be completed, but I think we need to have some kind of upper spending limit instead of just saying we'll pay for a percentage of a cost that continues to rise."

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said he likely would not back the new proposal because he thinks the state's cost estimates could place an unfair burden on the City of Hagerstown. The Hagerstown City Council has said it would like to spend no more than $2.4 million on the project.

"We need to make sure the dollars are distributed evenly so no one is picking up an unfair share of the cost," Aleshire said.

County and city officials will meet again with the SHA this week to recommend additional construction changes in an effort to further cut costs.

Know more in 30 seconds

The issue: The Maryland State Highway Administration has raised its cost estimate for upgrades to the intersection of U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive to $14.4 million. The Washington County Commissioners must decide whether they agree with the new estimate, which will raise the county's share of the project nearly $1 million to $4.32 million.

What's new: County officials met with the SHA in May to bring the state's cost estimate down $2 million from $16.4 million, but some say the cost is still too high.

What's next: The County Commissioners will vote today on whether to accept the state's estimate, and county engineers will meet again with the SHA later this week to try to cut costs further.

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