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Sight distance limitations might delay Funkstown bypass

September 21, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS
  • Plans for the first phase of Southern Boulevard, a new road planned as a bypass around Funkstown, have been complicated by sight distance limitations at a proposed intersection, Washington County public works officials reported Tuesday.
Chad Trovinger, Graphic artist

Plans for the first phase of Southern Boulevard, a new road planned as a bypass around Funkstown, have been complicated by sight distance limitations at a proposed intersection, Washington County public works officials reported Tuesday.

To create adequate sight distance where the new road will intersect Frederick Street, the project likely will require excavating a cut in a nearby hill, potentially affecting existing utilities and driveways, Robert J. Slocum, the county's deputy director of public works, told the Washington County Commissioners.

Addressing the issue will raise the cost of the project to at least $8.48 million, up from its existing budget of about $8 million, according to a summary chart distributed at Tuesday's commissioners meeting.

The news comes as design is about 60 percent complete for the first phase of the project, which will connect East Oak Ridge Drive to Frederick Street. Were it not for the intersection issue, construction of that phase could have started next spring, according to a report from public works officials.

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The second phase of the project, extending the new road from Frederick Street to Dual Highway, tentatively is scheduled for construction in 10 years or as additional growth warrants, the report says.

Until the second phase is constructed, public works staff had envisioned Southern Boulevard ending in a T intersection at Frederick Street, with a stop sign only for traffic approaching the intersection from Southern Boulevard, said Joseph Kroboth III, Washington County's public works director. After the second phase is built, that intersection then would be upgraded to a traffic signal or a roundabout, he said.

As detailed design progressed, it became apparent that sight distance on Frederick Street did not meet the standards for a one-way stop, and design consultants examined some other options, Kroboth said.

One option, a signalized intersection, is unlikely to be approved by the State Highway Administration (SHA) because traffic volumes probably will not warrant a signal until phase two is constructed, Slocum said.

The SHA must sign off on the project because Frederick Street (Alternate U.S. 40) is a state highway.

The options preferred by the SHA involve roundabouts, but those options would require costly and time-consuming right-of-way acquisitions, Slocum said.

A roundabout at the planned intersection site would require modifications to at least six driveways, requiring agreements that would take more than a year to resolve, Slocum said. It also would require some excavation and filling to make the site more level, he said. The total project cost would be about $8.5 million.

A roundabout at the high point of the hill would require the county to acquire four houses and would add even more time, Slocum said. The total project cost with that option would be about $8.8 million.

Another option would be a three-way stop, which would require a cut in the hill, but a smaller one than would be necessary for a one-way stop, Slocum said. That option would make the total cost about $8.5 million. It would be the fastest to get started, but would require additional construction time for the excavation, he said.

"We have prepared a traffic analysis that supports the three-way stop control ... however state highway, in our meetings with them, have indicated that it's less likely they will approve that type of an intersection configuration," Kroboth said.

The second preference based on that analysis would be a roundabout at the existing site, Kroboth said.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he thought the roundabout would be a good idea because as air quality standards grow more strict, roundabouts, with their lower idling time, will become more prevalent.

"Where we could put these in, we might as well go ahead and get started and get used to them," he said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell also said his preference would be for a roundabout.

Kroboth said the final decision would depend heavily on the preference of the SHA.

"Our presentation today is primarily informational, so that you're aware of it, and the public is aware of it, that we're going through this analysis trying to determine and hone in on what State Highway, basically, will allow us to do," Kroboth said.

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