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Eastern Boulevard corridor improvements top Hagerstown road projects list

March 07, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council this week discussed its top five transportation project priorities, which will be submitted to state agencies for funding considerations in the next fiscal year.

Keeping in line with the Washington County Board of Commissioners, city officials during a city council work session Tuesday decided on Eastern Boulevard corridor improvements as their top choice for fiscal year 2013, which starts July 1.

The corridor improvements, a county-led project, include plans to widen and extend Eastern Boulevard as well as build several other roads that would disperse traffic in the area, including Yale Drive and Professional Court. The county commissioners chose the project as their top priority last month.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, who spoke in favor of making the Eastern Boulevard project the No. 1 priority, said he previously met with state and county officials in Annapolis, where they agreed to move forward with the project.

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“That benefits the county and the city for future development and we should have our priority the same as theirs (the county),” Bruchey said Wednesday.

Other priorities for the city include highway user revenues and planning studies for long-term improvements to interstates 70 and 81.

Highway user revenues originally were on top of a list of suggested priorities presented by city Engineer Rodney Tissue, but Bruchey swayed council members to move it to second on the list, saying additional revenues only would come if there was an increase to the state’s transportation funding.

Based on a formula at the state level, highway user revenues are dispersed to municipalities based on how many miles of roads and alleys a municipality has, Bruchey said.

The mayor said he expects to receive about $300,000 next year, which is down considerably from about $1.3 million the city received in 2009. State funds have been shifted to support mass-transit projects, resulting in about a $4 million cumulative decrease over the past few years, Bruchey said.

Fourth on the priorities list is a proposed Civil War Railroad Trail, which is a 24-mile scenic pedestrian and bicycle trail connecting Hagerstown to Weverton that would promote tourism, recreation and healthy living.

The final priority is the city’s retrofit sidewalk program and the Safe Routes to School Program, which has been used in the past.

Recent legislation requires local jurisdictions to submit their priorities by April, although Department of Transportation officials won’t tour the state until late 2012.

The county commissioners identified its priorities in a letter sent on Feb. 28.

City staff are now composing their own letter, but Bruchey said he would be in favor of signing a joint letter with the county in support of the project.

“I think it would just show more cooperation,” he said.

City transportation priorities

City of Hagerstown staff will send its transportation priorities to Maryland Department of Transportation staff this month.
The priorities include:

  1. Eastern Boulevard corridor improvements — A Washington County-led, multiphase project that would connect U.S. 40, Md. 64 and Md. 60. Future phases include adding new roadways to disperse and reduce traffic volumes.
  2. Highway user revenues — Continue funding or increase.
  3. The status of Interstate 70 and Interstate 81 planning studies and long-term improvements.
  4. Transportation enhancement/pedestrian access program — In cooperation with the county, a proposed Civil War Railroad Trail would connect Hagerstown with Weverton through a 24-mile scenic trail for hikers and pedestrians. The proposed project promotes tourism, recreational opportunities, healthy living and economic development opportunities in the community.
  5. The status of the retrofit sidewalk program and Safe Routes to School Program, which the city has used in the past.
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