Our next road crisis?

July 20, 2008

We asked Herald-Mail Opinion Club members this:

o Despite plenty of evidence pointing to the necessity for significant highway improvements in the Funkstown and Robinwood communities more than a decade ago, past governments failed to find meaningful solutions and allowed traffic congestion to reach the crisis stage.

With that in mind, what's your nomination for the next stretch of soon-to-be-overcrowded Washington County road where traffic will have to reach the breaking point before the governments act?

I don't know how much or how fast they are working on Hagerstown's Eastern Boulevard, but it's gridlocked for four hours a day, at least.


Even during off hours, it backs up at each of the stoplights. Considering how long it's taking to do Maugans Avenue, if they start on Eastern today it will be three years or more before they finish. Pitiful.

- John Hamilton

Maryland Route 66 between Boonsboro and Smithsburg is already Washington County's most dangerous highway.

Most motorists likely think of Md. 66 in two segments, from Interstate 70 to Smithsburg and from Interstate 70 to Boonsboro. Both segments need to be widened to four lanes and straightened significantly.

The bulk of the county's residential growth has happened in the Smithsburg and Boonsboro areas, and because of the eastern county's proximity to Washington-Baltimore that is something unlikely to ever change.

The Md. 66 problem has been evident to commuting residents of eastern Washington County for at least 10 years. It is past time for our elected officials to finally recognize the situation and put the highway at the top of its priority list.

- Mike McGough

Despite my considerable public ego, I fear that I do not drive often enough in the overall Hagerstown region to offer valid opinions on where your next local roadways should be upgraded or improved.

From my West Virginia vantage point, I will offer one significant example of probable future highway betrayal. Some years back there was a massive effort to gain broad public support for a four-lane W.Va. 9.

This was to include the roadway from Route 7 to Charles Town though Hillsdale, the route from Charles Town to Martinsburg and Interstate 81 and perhaps the most dangerous and needed route, from I-81 through Hedgesville onto Berkeley Springs.

Much fanfare, much support and much money was raised for this win-win project (particularly from U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, a man I respect and support.) Now, nearly a decade later, the route from Charles Town to Martinsburg and I-81 is nearing completion.

Note: That is all that is planned now. The two other legs have been abandoned due to lack of money. Supposedly enough money for the entire route was raised, but by construction time - it was only enough money for the middle section, which had been chosen to be built first.

Hagerstown residents, take warning. The roads you are being told you will get may not in fact turn out to be the roads you actually get.

As a wise old Canadian general told me many years ago: "Dave, no matter what they claim to be talking about, they are talking about money." This seems true in all government endeavors, but more true in new or upgraded highways than any other. Recently, it was ruled that even a toll road was not possible for these long missing portions of W.Va. 9.

- David L. Woods

The extension of Eastern Boulevard as a four-lane road northward beyond Jefferson Boulevard.

This upgrade should have been done concurrently with the existing rebuild of the section from the Dual Highway to Jefferson Boulevard. While the rebuild within the city will help, to stop the four-lane portion at Jefferson is just another shortsighted planning decision by our local governments.

- Jack Grier

It is a hard decision to make but the Eastern Boulevard and Dual Highway, Burhans Boulevard and U.S. 40 or U.S. 11 and Maugans are three good bets. Where Maugans is being improved will become a bigger bottleneck at U.S. 11.

- Bob Ayrer

My problem is the 50 mile per hour speed limit on the stretch of Md. 64 between the intersection of Md. 77 and the shopping center at Holiday Acres.

During rush hour, it is difficult to exit the Food Lion shopping center, especially when turning left toward Hagerstown.

The stretch between the intersections of Md. 77 and Md. 66 has a semi-blind curve at the intersection of Crystal Fall Drive. The two fruit stands and the Exxon station at the corner are congested at most times of the day.

A 35 mph speed limit in this area would be very prudent. I have contacted the State Highway Administration several times with no results.

- Carlo Belella

It has been interesting over the years watching road engineering around the Valley Mall. It appears that afterthought continues to dominate decision making for these projects.

Although, on behalf of the county planners, most of the road "improvements" have been far superior to the original configurations.

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