Rt. 404 widen­ing project near­ing its fi­nal stages

Record Observer - - News - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

QUEEN ANNE — Lo­cal of­fi­cials Sen. Steve Her­shey and Del. Jeff Ghrist met with State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives on Thurs­day, July 27, to tour and re­ceive an up­date on the project to widen Mary­land Route 404. This week also marked the 17th an­niver­sary of the car crash that took the life of Bri­anna Ni­cole Free­man.

As the project nears com­ple­tion, Marie Free­man, Bri­anna’s mother, who has been in­spi­ra­tional in help­ing the state see the need for this project, said, the crash oc­curred on a “day that for­ever changed our lives. Two days later, 10-month-old Bri­anna Ni­cole gave the gift of life to three oth­ers — her liver to a 2-month-old, her kid­neys to a 57-year old, and her heart to 3-year-old Chase Page.”

Free­man worked closely with the C-TEAM (Cit­i­zens for Trans­porta­tion Emer­gency Ac­tion for Mary­land), which was de­vel­oped in re­sponse to the cor­ri­dor’s crash his­tory, and pro­vided sug­ges­tions for im­prove­ment and worked closely with SHA to se­cure fund­ing for the project.

Of her daugh­ter, Free­man said, “her pass­ing be­came sig­nif­i­cant in the re­birth of the Route 404 du­al­iza­tion ef­fort. It is amaz­ing to see where that project is now, and as I tell MD State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion, I’m not go­ing away.”

The cur­rent project will com­plete widen­ing the high­way to four lanes from U.S. Route 50 past Den­ton. MD 404 needs to be du­al­ized to the Delaware line and be­yond, said Free­man.

Her­shey, Ghrist and Free­man gath­ered around the ta­ble of the field of­fice — a farm­house near ad­ja­cent to the lot where Pizza Em­pire most re­cently stood — and viewed aerial footage of the project, along with SHA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Greg Slater, Dis­trict En­gi­neer Greg Holsey and As­sis­tant Dis­trict En­gi­neer Bret Hadz­imichalis.

The widen­ing of 404 — to in­clude two east-bound and two west-bound lanes sep­a­rated by a me­dian — is slated to be com­pleted by Thanks­giv­ing of this year, ac­cord­ing to SHA of­fi­cials. The project was a bit of a de­par­ture from tra­di­tional SHA projects in that it evolved as it pro­gressed, Slater said. This for­mat had sev­eral dif­fer­ent con­trac­tors work­ing on the three seg­ments of Route 404 from Route 50 to Den­ton si­mul­ta­ne­ously and al­lowed for open dis­cus­sion be­tween agen­cies, he said.

Some of the de­sign was ac­tu­ally done af­ter the project was started, as builders and de­sign­ers looked at the chal­lenges pre­sented by the project and how to most ef­fec­tively work with them. Work­ing with the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment, we were able to find new so­lu­tions and al­ter­nate ways to do things with­out af­fect­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trols — some­thing SHA takes very se­ri­ously, Slater said.

An­other dif­fer­ence in this project, and per­haps one of the great­est achieve­ments, was how SHA was able to work with the lo­cal res­i­dents af­fected by the new high­way, Ghrist said.

They were able to look out­side the box, said Ghrist, cit­ing one prop­erty in par­tic­u­lar that re­mov­ing the trees ad­ja­cent to would im­pact their home’s foun­da­tion work — and they have done an out­stand­ing job of work­ing with prop­erty own­ers.

“It’s very im­pres­sive to see how this ad­min­is­tra­tion has been able to mod­ify pro­cure­ment strate­gies to build th­ese trans­porta­tion projects more ex­pe­di­tiously and more cost ef­fec­tively,” said Her­shey.

Slater said, “We have chal­lenged our engi­neers and they have met us each step of the way.”

Notably, a $5 mil­lion in­cen­tive was given to the con­trac­tors to com­plete the project in one con­struc­tion sea­son — a bonus the con­trac­tors are work­ing hard to achieve. The bonus will save SHA nearly $20 mil­lion for what would have been a length­ier project.

On Thurs­day, paving op­er­a­tions were tak­ing place on what will be the new lanes of Route 404 west and the project is mov­ing ahead on sched­ule to its tar­get date. As that date ap­proaches mo­torists are en­cour­aged to pay close at­ten­tion in the work zones and ex­pect pe­ri­odic lane clo­sures in both di­rec­tions.

“We never know what our day is go­ing to hold ... look­ing out [on 404] I was sit­ting here 17 years ago, know­ing my daugh­ter wasn’t go­ing to make it, and pray­ing for a mir­a­cle,” said Free­man, “and now, here, fi­nally is my mir­a­cle.”

PHO­TOS BY HAN­NAH COMBS

From left, Sen. Steve Her­shey, Marie Free­man, and Del. Jeff Ghrist at the MD 404 high­way project.

Paving op­er­a­tions, July 27, on what will be a new sec­tion of Route 404 west.

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