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Congestion at Halfway and Massey Boulevards to get worse before it gets better

$5.2 million improvement project will require lane closures off and on throughout its duration

February 04, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com
  • Massey and Halfway boulevards
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

Work is scheduled to begin Feb. 14 on a $5.2 million project to improve the intersection of Halfway and Massey boulevards, near Valley Mall.

The project is meant to relieve congestion at the busy intersection, where each approach sees 1,300 to 1,500 vehicles per hour during the evening rush-hour and signal wait times earned a grade of F, said Robert J. Slocum, deputy director of public works for capital projects for Washington County.

When the project is completed in November, each approach to the intersection will have two through lanes, two left-turn lanes and one right-turn lane, Slocum said.

But congestion will get worse before it gets better, because the project will require lane closures off and on throughout the duration of the project, he said.

There will be no detours during the project, but drivers should expect delays, Slocum said. Variable message boards, traffic-control signs, construction barrels and other devices will be used to control traffic in and around the work area.

Some of the work may occur at night, a county news release said.

The growing number of stores and restaurants in that area have added to congestion on roads that also receive heavy traffic from Interstate-81 and U.S. 11, Slocum said.

"It's in between a lot of places," he said. "You need to pass through that intersection to get through may parts of the greater Hagerstown area."

Based on wait times at the signal, improvements to the intersection have been needed for several years now, Slocum said. The signal's F grade means drivers are waiting 80 seconds or more to get through the light.

With the planned improvements, even after 10 more years of development, the intersection should get only a C grade, with wait times of 20 to 35 seconds, Slocum said.

Currently, Massey Boulevard only has one through lane in each direction, all of the turn lane queue areas are too short, and drivers don't have clear direction about which lane to get in as they approach the intersection on Massey Boulevard, he said.

"What we're going to do is improve the capacity so more cars can get through and reduce the delay through the intersection," Slocum said.

Having two through lanes and two left-turn lanes will theoretically allow the same number of vehicles to get through the intersection in half the time, he said.

The approaches to the turn lanes will extend back farther, making it easier for drivers to see what lane they need to be in, Slocum said.

The project also includes installing sidewalks with handicapped-access ramps and countdown signals for pedestrian crossing, he said.

Signal poles that are currently in the median on Halfway Boulevard will be moved to the sides of the road, he said.

The county has acquired most of the right of way needed for the project, Slocum said. The final land acquisition should be completed over the next week, but the county is prepared to proceed with the project with our without it, he said.

The remaining acquisition is for land at the former Roy Rogers, owned by the real estate firm Matan Cos., he said.

The county awarded the construction contract in December to L.W. Wolfe Enterprises Inc. of Myersville, Md. for $3.7 million.

Some preliminary utility work was completed ahead of the project, Slocum said.

The remaining work will be completed in six phases, beginning at the northwest corner of the intersection, near the former Roy Rogers restaurant, Slocum said.

During that phase, crews will move the curb line out into the roadway along southbound Massey Boulevard to begin installing pipe, narrowing traffic to one lane at times, he said.

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Where will the work be?

February — Northwest corner (near former Roy Rogers)

March-May — Northeast corner (near McDonalds)

May-July — Southwest corner (near Olive Garden)

July-September — Southeast corner (near Motel 6)

September-October — Halfway Boulevard

October — Massey Boulevard

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