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New site sought for Hagerstown bus transfer station

Present location called unsafe, inconvenient

Present location called unsafe, inconvenient

March 25, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- For the last 12 years, the county's public bus system has used a noisy, dimly lit stretch of West Washington Street as its main transfer point.

Riders have complained that it is unsafe and inconvenient to other parts of town.

Business owners near Public Square in Hagerstown have said it routes too much bus traffic through the city's main intersection.

And officials have said both riders and drivers deserve a nicer place to change routes.

"It's just not working anymore," said Kevin D. Cerrone, director of the County Commuter.

Cerrone will present a recently finished study today to the Washington County Commissioners that looks at several alternatives to the Washington Street transfer point.

The study assessed 16 possible transfer point sites, which were judged on size; availability; access; proximity to shops, services and downtown; impact on existing bus routes; and compatibility with adjacent land uses.

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The top two sites, according to the study, are a property at 80 W. Baltimore St. that currently houses the county's planning, permits and engineering departments, and a lot in the 300 block of East Antietam Street.

Some other sites included the South End Shopping Center, Long Meadow Shopping Center, Valley Mall, the former Ames Shopping Center on Dual Highway, First Data and the Greyhound station.

County and city officials have been looking for alternatives to the current transfer point since 2005, Cerrone said.

Situated below a railroad overpass, the transfer point often becomes a wind tunnel in the wintertime.

And pigeons roosting in the rafters of the overpass have created unsanitary conditions for riders waiting below, Cerrone said.

In addition, the location of the transfer point routes buses through Public Square, which has irritated business owners there who say riders are loitering near their shops, Cerrone said.

Using the building at 80 W. Baltimore St. as a transfer point would be contingent on the relocation of the county's planning, zoning and engineering departments.

County officials have discussed moving those departments to a newly purchased building next to the county's administration building on West Washington Street.

Cerrone said the transfer point also could be built in the annex building's parking lot if those departments aren't relocated or if the building is used for something else.

Either way, Cerrone said it is the most ideal location for a transfer point.

"The most important thing in this study was that the point be as close to downtown as possible," Cerrone said.

Some downtown bus routes would have to be adjusted if the transfer point is relocated, Cerrone said, because not all routes would continue to run through Public Square.

There would be "little to no changes outside of downtown," Cerrone said.

The estimated cost of building a transfer point at 80 W. Baltimore St. would be $750,000 to $1.1 million, according to the study.

A transfer point at 300 East Antietam St. would cost more, from $1 million to $1.4 million, because the land would have to be purchased, according to the study.

The study was commissioned by the Maryland Department of Transportation and completed by KFH Group Inc. of Bethesda.

The county did not pay for the study, Cerrone said.

A new transfer point likely would be funded by a federal grant, which would divide the cost of the project at 80 percent federal, 10 percent state and 10 percent county contributions, Cerrone said.

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