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Reference to bypass in Washington Co. removed from road plan

April 16, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

TRI-STATE -- A specific reference to a possible highway in northeast Washington County has been removed from a draft regional transportation plan.

By consensus, the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) agreed Wednesday to remove the paragraph, according to Robert Gordon, the MPO's director.

The paragraph mentioned a possible future highway connecting interstates 70 and 81.

The MPO is scheduled to meet April 28 to vote on a final plan looking at the region's transportation needs for the next 25 years.

Washington County and Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia are considered part of the region.

Instead of referring to a possible northeast bypass in Washington County in the decades ahead, the MPO's plan will call for a general study of traffic, particularly on existing interstate highways.

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Hagerstown City Councilman Martin E. Brubaker, an MPO member against the specific reference to the possible highway, said Friday he was satisfied with the change.

Washington County Commissioner James F. Kercheval, the MPO's chairman, has been an advocate for the highway reference.

He said at a public meeting this month he supports a study of the possibility of a future bypass, instead of waiting until the area has been developed and it's too late.

At his request, a draft version of the regional transportation plan mentioned the possibility of a highway connecting interstates 70 and 81, with interchanges at Md. 64, Md. 60 and U.S. 11. The cost was estimated at $820 million.

However, last month, the Washington County Commissioners voted 3-2 to ask that the reference to a specific highway be removed. Kercheval and Commissioners President John F. Barr cast the minority votes.

A subset of the Greater Hagerstown Committee also supports the study. Executive Director Art Callaham has said a highway could be a less-expensive way to ease traffic than upgrading interstate roads.

The MPO's vote on a final plan is scheduled for April 28 at 2 p.m. at the Washington County administration building at 100 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown.

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