SHA: Route 222 doesn’t need upgrades for growth now
— Cecil County officials received some good news last week from Maryland State Highway Administration that could open doors to economic development at the Chesapeake Overlook property near Hollywood Casino and nearby areas.
Results of a traffic study requested by county officials last year during the state’s annual Consolidated Transportation Program reveal no upgrades to the Route 222 bridge over I-95 are needed at this time.
The news was delivered in a letter dated June 10 and signed by Gregory Slater, deputy administrator of planning, engineering, real estate and environment at SHA, and sent to elected officials in Port Deposit, Perryville, Cecil County and state lawmakers representing Cecil County.
In fact, the study shows that the interchange can cur-
rently handle approximately 50 percent more traffic at peak times during the week before it warrants widening or replacement to accommodate more turn lanes.
“This is positive news,” County Director of Administration Al Wein said at a council work session Tuesday morning.
Council President Robert Hodge said the news didn’t surprise him, as he felt previous efforts to deny development were a byproduct of the Democratic O’Malley administration.
“It’s been my perception all along that this intersection didn’t need improvements before more economic development could take place,” he said. “I always thought the previous administration didn’t want growth in this area.”
“I believe that’s one of the reasons County Executive Tari Moore removed it from our priority list this year,” he added.
“But, I know the town (Perryville) is still worried,” Hodge added, referencing a letter the town sent to SHA in the last week emphasizing their transportation priorities.
Councilman Dan Schneckenburger concurred with Perryville’s concerns about increasing traffic in that corridor.
“I’m glad SHA did this, but it doesn’t resolve the issue of traffic backups during peak hours at Route 40 and Route 222 with so many people taking the Hatem Bridge to avoid the higher toll at I-95,” he said. “This study should help Perryville’s argument for toll relief during rush hour on I-95 ... I know more people would use I-95 bridge if toll relief was given.”
The lock-out of future economic development projects in the area of the I-95 and Route 222 interchange was the result of a 2012 traffic study that based its findings on traffic generated if potential commercial and residential projects including Bainbridge, Woodlands at Perryville, Granite Cliffs, Happy Valley, Cedar Corner and Chesapeake Overlook were completed by 2035. Most of those projects never took off, however.
This new study focused on what additional traffic capacity is available at the bridge now, SHA officals said.
Traffic growth thresholds that would trigger improvements to the interchange, according to the study, were a 40 percent increase to improve the ramps and a 50 percent or greater increase to widen or replace the bridge.
Traffic heads north on Route 222 from the Hatem Bridge toll booth and the red light at the intersection of Route 40 and Route 222 in Perryville. Town officials want state transportation officials to give locals a discount at the Interstate 95 toll during rush hour.