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Key issues discussed during meeting with Maryland transportation officials

October 12, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

The need for a bridge over Antietam Creek connecting Eastern Boulevard and Professional Court in the Robinwood area, dangerous conditions in bike lanes on state highways in the county, long delays for new businesses in getting access to state roads and use of speed cameras in highway work zones were among the issues local officials discussed with state transportation officials in a meeting in Hagerstown on Wednesday morning.

Every year, state transportation officials visit each of the state’s counties to give local officials updates on state transportation projects and issues and to receive feedback about transportation issues.

Various local elected officials from the city, county and state level met with state transportation officials including acting Maryland Secretary of Transportation Darrell B. Mobley for roughly two hours in the Washington County administration building.

Local elected officials praised state transportation officials for their immediate attention to local transportation issues but they had a list of concerns and priorities to air.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, and Washington County Commissioner Jeff Cline talked about the economic benefits and the benefits of improved emergency medical response times as a result of a new bridge connecting Eastern Boulevard and Professional Court.

There have been projections of how traffic congestion will increase in the area of Robinwood and Edgewood drives in coming years and the bridge project has been considered as a way to head-off the problem.

Not only will the bridge project be good for economic development in the area but now that Meritus Medical Center is in the area, emergency medical crews said the bridge project is needed to improve response times to various areas of the county, according to Cline and Serafini.

Cline and Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham talked about the long period of time it takes new businesses to get approval for new accesses to state roads. Cline and Callaham said a new business might wait 10 or 15 months to get state approval for a new road access and Callaham said that is troubling for economic development because “time is money for businesses.”

State Highway Administrator Melinda B. Peters said her agency is involved in a two-year process of reviewing the process of access to state roads, but she emphasized that changes to the system are not an “overnight” process.

Callaham said she is also worried about the safety of bicycle lanes that have been established on state highways in the county.

Callaham, a bike rider herself, said some motorists use bike lanes to pass vehicles and she suggested the state make changes in how bike lanes are marked.

“A cyclist is safest on the sidewalk. We don’t want to be out in traffic,” Callaham said.

Peters said state transportation officials are looking at new guidelines regarding bicycle travel. The process is expected to be completed this year and new signage and marking for bike lanes are among the considerations.

State Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he travels a lot between Hagerstown and Washington, D.C., and has noticed the state’s use of speed cameras in work zones. Shank said he has driven through work zones at night where no crews are working but the cameras are snapping pictures.

Shank said he then goes through other work zones where crews are working but there are no cameras. It “doesn’t seem to be the right way to deploy those resources,” Shank said.

Peters said the camera systems are rotated among work sites and the important point is that citations are decreasing at work zones. Peters said the overall effort with the system is to get motorists to “think orange.”

Mobley sympathized with the challenges in the county.

“We continue to make progress where and when we can,” Mobley said. “We’re definitely committed to try to work with the community,” Mobley said later in the meeting.

State transportation officials gave updates on various transportation projects, including:

• rehabilitation of the bridge over Conococheague Creek on Interstate 70. Construction is underway and the deck will be widened.

• construction is expected to begin this fiscal year on a new dual bridge on I-70 over Md. 63. The bridge is being replaced because of a “structurally deficient deck and superstructure.” Because of its condition, heavy vehicles weighing over 120,000 pounds are banned from crossing it.

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