SO4S group sees project

Record Observer - - Front Page - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­

CENTREVILLE — As the over­pass across US 301 approaches its fi­nal con­struc­tion phase, Sup­port Over­pass 4 Stu­dents or­ga­niz­ers are thrilled to see the project near­ing com­ple­tion. A move­ment by stu­dents and cit­i­zens of Queen Anne’s County to ad­vo­cate for an over­pass at the in­ter­sec­tion of US 301 and MD 304 in Centreville, the group be­gan their pe­ti­tion in 2011.

The group be­gan ad­vo­cat­ing for a safer way to cross 301 at Ruths­burg Road fol­low­ing yet an­other tragic ac­ci­dent at that in­ter­sec­tion. An excerpt from the Record Ob­server in 2014 when ground was first bro­ken for the high­way over­pass, “Con­nor Rice is a name etched in the hearts and minds of Centreville res­i­dents, and his mem­ory has not been for­got­ten by the peo­ple or lead­er­ship of Queen Anne’s County. On Sept. 23, 2014, al­most three years to the day af­ter Rice was killed in a car crash on his way to Queen Anne’s County High School at the in­ter­sec­tion of Route 304 and US Route 301 in Centreville, a ground­break­ing cer­e­mony was held at that very in­ter­change to mark the be­gin­ning of con­struc­tion of a high­way over­pass.”

Bar­bara Burkhardt was one of the women who said, enough is enough. She, along with Jen­nifer Fitz­mau­rice and Nikki Pino,

col­lected nearly 8,000 sig­na­tures and then went be­fore the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion im­plor­ing them to act.

Speak­ing with Burkhardt, six years af­ter that fa­tal ac­ci­dent, the emo­tion is still ev­i­dent in her voice. Rice was in the ve­hi­cle with his brother, who was driv­ing, and an­other stu­dent rid­ing to school with them, his fa­ther, said Burkhardt, was just a few cars back. The fam­ily was griev­ing, said Burkhardt, this was not a time for them to take ac­tion, but we could.

If we didn’t do some­thing, who would, asked Burkhardt.

It was ter­ri­fy­ing, there had been an in­creas­ing num­ber of ac­ci­dents along 301 near 304, she ex­plained, and it was im­por­tant for of­fi­cials to re­al­ize there were names as­so­ci­ated with those num­bers. When Burkhardt and mem­bers of the SO4S made their pre­sen­ta­tion, she read those names aloud.

“We will not stand idle while the mem­bers of our com­mu­nity and our young driv­ers are at risk ev­ery time they ap­proach this cross­over,” she read. Those words be­came the mis­sion state­ment of SO4S.

Dur­ing the ground­break­ing cer­e­mony back in 2014, the mem­bers of SO4S were rec­og­nized for their role in push­ing the project onto the gov­er­nor’s desk by Sen. Stephen Her­shey (R-36), Mar yland Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary James Smith, ad­min­is­tra­tor of the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion Melinda Peters, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Comptroller Peter Fran­chot’s of- fice, and the Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers.

Jen­nifer Fitz­mau­rice, one of the founders of the group, thanked mem­bers of county and state gov­ern­ment for their help in bring­ing the project to fruition and re­minded them why the project was so im­por­tant.

“Three years ago, Barb, Nikki and I came to­gether and com­mit­ted to make a change by se­cur­ing fund­ing and let­ting our gov­ern­ment know that we wouldn’t back down un­til the chil­dren in our com­mu­nity could safely get to school,

our com­muters to work, and our loved ones home,” she said.

Speak­ing to the crowd, Her­shey praised the level of com­mit­ment from SO4S in their ef­fort to help se­cure state funds for the project. He said when the group ini­tially ap­proached him about the over­pass, he told them, “Pub­lic works projects like this are like turn­ing around an air­craft car­rier, they’re not very sim­ple at all.” He said he be­lieved the group had a fight­ing chance to achieve what they wanted to ac­com­plish but had doubts it could be done as quickly as it was.

“What I didn’t ex­pect was the ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment of these women, and most im­por­tantly the stu­dents, that they got to back them and be with them ev­ery step of the way in ad­vo­cat­ing for this project,” Her­shey said.

Burkhardt said fund­ing for the project had been set aside by Gov­er­nor Robert Ehrlich dur­ing his term, which ended in 2007. Then Gov­er­nor Martin O’Mal­ley, re­al­lo­cated monies from the Trans­porta­tion Fund to the Gen­eral Fund, es­sen­tially stalling the project. Through the ef­forts of SO4S, O’Mal­ley gave full fund­ing to the over­pass in 2013, said Burkhardt.

An­tic­i­pated lane clo­sures in the next two weeks will cause in­ter­mit­tent road clo­sures on 301 at Ruths­burg Road, but con­trac­tor David A. Bram­ble is mov­ing ahead of sched­ule, re­ports the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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