404 widen­ing plan raises ques­tions

Record Observer - - News - By AN­GELA PRICE bay­times@kibay­times.com

QUEEN ANNE — Sev­eral of the 60-plus peo­ple who turned out Wed­nes­day evening, Aug. 3, to find out more about the Md. 404 Widen­ing Project had con­cerns about the plans — some in­volv­ing per­sonal prop­erty rights and some about safety and emer­gency re­sponse. The Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion hosted the meet­ing at the Queen Anne-Hills­boro fire­house, where large maps set up around the hall dis­played de­signs show­ing por­tions of the high­way and nearby prop­er­ties in­volved.

The long-awaited du­al­iza­tion of Md. 404 be­tween U.S. Route 50 and the Den­ton by­pass was re­cently fast-tracked when Gov. Larry Ho­gan put it on his list of pri­or­ity trans­porta­tion projects. When fin­ished, Md. 404 in that area will be a four-lane di­vided high­way with wide shoul­ders and a 34-ft. me­dian with traf­fic bar­rier. Plans call to com­plete the re­main­ing 9.2 miles of the project by spring 2018 at a cost of $160.5 mil­lion ($36 mil­lion state, $124.5 mil­lion fed­eral), ac­cord­ing to an SHA in­for­ma­tion sheet.

The project will im­prove safety and op­er­a­tions and re­duce traf­fic con­ges­tion, ac­cord­ing to SHA.

There was no for­mal pre­sen­ta­tion. Cit­i­zens wan­dered be­tween the dif­fer­ent maps and asked ques­tions of of­fi­cials sta­tioned around the room. Sev­eral gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials at­tended, in­clud­ing Caro­line County Com­mis­sioner Wil­bur Le­ven­good, 36th Dis­trict Del. Jeff Ghrist and Md. Sen. Ad­die Eckardt.

At­tor­ney Chip MacLeod of Ch­ester­town was there with his client Bill Sylvester of Queen Anne. He said Sylvester is “jus­ti­fi­ably con­cerned as the largest landowner af­fected by this project.”

The widen­ing project af­fects large por­tions of Sylvester’s prop­erty — some part of the cur­rent project at the Tuck­a­hoe Bridge and Md. 309 in­ter­sec­tion and more in the new project, which af­fects his home, Part­ner­ship Farm. His house, which is listed on the Na­tional His­toric Reg­istry, is not af­fected, but the lane to the house and the prop­erty along the high­way are.

Pre­vi­ous plans for du­al­iz­ing Md. 404 showed lanes be­ing added on the other side of the high­way, he said.

Sylvester said he be­lieves the de­sign was too hasty and the state has been “less than truth­ful” in deal­ing with him.

“They’re not deal­ing good faith,” he said.

Sylvester would like the state to re­build his lane to main­tain the curve and view from his house and give him room to recre­ate the buf­fer he will lose when his trees are re­moved to make way for the widened road.

“And, a year and a half later, they still haven’t set­tled with me” on the cur­rent project, he said.

Sylvester was pleased, how­ever, that plans to put five storm wa­ter man­age­ment ponds on his prop­erty have changed and now call for only one.

Bob Clancy of Den­ton said he was as­sured by the real es­tate com­pany when he bought his house that the 404 project wouldn’t touch his prop­erty, now the state wants to take his prop­erty for a wa­ter drainage area.

“And they’ve of­fered me a ridicu­lous sum of money for it,” Clancy said.

The state has of­fered $131 for the du­ra­tion of the project, for dis­rupt­ing his life for more than a year, he said.

He said he has put his house on the mar­ket, but no one is in­ter­ested be­cause of the project.

Also, ex­pect driv­ers to go 80 mph once the road is du­al­ized, Clancy warned. Sev­eral peo­ple grum­bled about the “reach the beach” men­tal­ity.

Plans dis­played showed where all at-grade cross­ings be­tween U.S. Route 50 and Md. 309 will be elim­i­nated. Ex­ist­ing crossovers will be­come T-in­ter­sec­tions where driv­ers can only make right­hand turns. So, those on the south side of Md. 404 will only be able to turn east; those com­ing from north of Md. 404 will only be able to turn west. in

In or­der to travel in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, driv­ers will have to go about a mile down the road to a new J-turn, with the ex­cep­tion of Owens Road. Be­cause of its prox­im­ity to U.S. Route 50, there’s not room to cre­ate a J-turn, said Rob Marchetti with SHA. As plans now stand, driv­ers com­ing from Owens Road who want to go east on Md. 404 will first have to go west, cross over U.S. Route 50 and turn around some­where on the other side.

Elim­i­nat­ing all the left turns cre­ates prob­lems, es­pe­cially for farm equip­ment and emer­gency ve­hi­cles, peo­ple said.

Fire­fighter Dave Chaires, a vol­un­teer with QA-Hills­boro Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany, said the plan is just un­ac­cept­able.

Re­mov­ing any left turn is go­ing to im­pact re­sponse time, he said. And, be­cause there’s no J-turn be­yond Owens Road, there’s no way for the fire com­pany to re­spond to calls on New­town Road — not with­out hav­ing to go all the way to U.S. Route 50 and turn around on or be­yond it.

SHA has sug­gested emer­gency ve­hi­cles take the pre­vi­ous J-turn, travel back to Dulin Road and go in “the back way” — no one said how much time that would add to re­sponse.

SHA Dis­trict II En­gi­neer Greg Holsey said he would set up a meet­ing with the fire depart­ment to dis­cuss their con­cerns and see what could be done.

SHA Com­mu­nity Li­ai­son Bob Rager said the Md. 404 Widen­ing Project was bid as a de­sign-build project, mean­ing only 15 to 20 per­cent of the project was de­signed when it was bid, and the con­trac­tors are de­sign-build part­ners who know there may be changes along the way.

The con­trac­tor is “404 Cor­ri­dor Safety Con­struc­tors,” which is a part­ner­ship among David A. Bram­ble, Wag­man Heavy Civil and Al­lan My­ers, Rager said. Bram­ble will work the west end of this project; Wag­man will con­cen­trate on the mid­dle sec­tion and struc­tures in­clud­ing the bridge over Nor­wich Creek; Al­lan My­ers will fo­cus pri­mar­ily on the east­ern sec­tion to­ward Den­ton.

Work is al­ready in progress, mostly clear­ing and in­stal­la­tion of con­struc­tion en­trances. By Septem­ber you’ll see quite a bit of ac­tiv­ity through­out the 9.2 mile project, he said.

Mean­while, the cur­rent project in Queen Anne, which started in 2014, is near­ing com­ple­tion. Ex­pect to see a traf­fic shift af­ter La­bor Day, Rager said.

“We’re go­ing to shift traf­fic onto the new west­bound bridge over Tuck­a­hoe Creek shortly af­ter La­bor Day and run one lane in each di­rec­tion while we com­plete bioswale and traf­fic bar­rier work. When this is done, we’ll com­plete in­stal­la­tion of new sig­nals at the Md. 309 in­ter­sec­tion, pave the en­tire project length with sur­face as­phalt, stripe and open all lanes,” Rager said.

He said he ex­pects fi­nal strip­ing to be com­plete and all four lanes to be open by the end of Oc­to­ber.

“We’ll still have sea­sonal land­scap­ing and punch-list items into 2017, but with good weather we ex­pect this phase to be sub­stan­tially com­plete and fully open to traf­fic this year,” Rager said.

As for the new por­tion of the project, the gov­er­nor’s ini­tia­tive calls for the four lanes to be done and open by Thanks­giv­ing 2017, he said, and fin­ish­ing touches should be com­pleted by spring 2018.

Ac­cord­ing to an SHA handout, 21,150 ve­hi­cles reg­u­larly travel this sec­tion of Md. 404, and that num­ber in­creases by 20 per­cent dur­ing sum­mer months.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the widen­ing project, visit MD404Pro­ject.com.

PHOTO BY AN­GELA PRICE

At­tor­ney Chip MacLeod of Ch­ester­town, left, asks SHA Project Man­ager Harry Smith of Milling­ton a ques­tion about the de­sign for the widen­ing of Md. 404. Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36-Caro­line, ob­serves at far right.

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