Which roads make the grade?

Tal­bot coun­cil sends roads pri­or­i­ties to state

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CON­NIE CON­NOLLY cconnolly@ches­pub.com

EAS­TON — Even as the Tal­bot County Coun­cil was de­lib­er­at­ing county pri­or­i­ties for state road pro­jects, the state’s trans­porta­tion agen­cies were about to an­nounce an im­mi­nent pro­ject for re­liev­ing con­ges­tion at a key in­ter­sec­tion in St. Michaels.

Dur­ing the Tues­day, March 27, meet­ing of the Tal­bot County Coun­cil meet­ing, County Roads Su­per­in­ten­dent War­ren Ed­wards, En­gi­neer Ray Clarke and As­sis­tant En­gi­neer Mike Mer­taugh pre­sented road pro­ject pri­or­i­ties for the Mary­land De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion and State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ev­ery year, the coun­cil asks the state to fund pri­or­ity state high­way pro­jects in the county.

“Un­for­tu­nately, they are the same pro­jects (we’ve listed) for the last four or five years,” Clarke said. “Un­til fund­ing changes within the state, we might con­tinue this.”

Al­though not specif­i­cally listed as a county pri­or­ity, coun­cil Vice Pres­i­dent Corey Pack brought up the

is­sue of “bot­tle­neck­ing on state Route 33 in St. Michaels.” He said he hoped SHA would make a de­ci­sion and asked if Clarke had heard from SHA.

Clarke said he had sent emails to Greg Holsey, the SHA District 2 en­gi­neer, who said he was work­ing with the town of St. Michaels. One of the is­sues con­cern­ing mer­chants was the pos­si­ble loss of park­ing spa­ces if a left turn were cre­ated at Rail­road Av­enue.

Two days later, MDOT/ SHA an­nounced in a press re­lease that SHA will be­gin, dur­ing the week of April 1, an $80,000 pro­ject to “add a left turn lane from west­bound MD 33 (Tal­bot Street) onto Rail­road Av­enue. The pro­ject will take just a few days and re­quire only min­i­mal pav­ing and strip­ing, but the change will sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce mid­town back­ups by sep­a­rat­ing turn­ing ve­hi­cles from through traf­fic at this busy in­ter­sec­tion.” Three park­ing spa­ces on Route 33 west will be elim­i­nated.

Dur­ing the coun­cil’s dis­cus­sion of state road im­prove­ment pri­or­i­ties, Pack and Coun­cil­man Dirck Bartlett gave MDOT/SHA credit for con­struct­ing the new Dover Bridge con­nect­ing Tal­bot and Caro­line coun­ties, and for the state Route 404 du­al­iza­tion.

How­ever, top­ping the list of pri­or­i­ties for Bartlett and Coun­cil­man Laura Price was “MD Route 33 Ca­pac­ity and Evac­u­a­tion Im­prove­ments.”

Ac­cord­ing to the list, “por­tions of this cor­ri­dor, be­tween the Town of St. Michaels and the Town of Eas­ton, ex­pe­ri­ence some week­day ca­pac­ity is­sues which are an­tic­i­pated to in­crease in the fu­ture. Also, dur­ing re­cent weath­er­re­lated emer­gen­cies such as Trop­i­cal Storm Is­abel and Hur­ri­cane Irene, this cor­ri­dor ex­pe­ri­enced ar­eas of sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing, lim­it­ing ingress and egress from this por­tion of the County. The MD Route 33 cor­ri­dor is the sole evac­u­a­tion route for this pop­u­lated neck or penin­sula. Ac­cord­ingly, ca­pac­ity im­prove­ments as well as el­e­va­tion mod­i­fi­ca­tion to elim­i­nate or min­i­mize storm surge road flood­ing, should be pur­sued.”

“Rais­ing of the road­ways in the event of flood­ing is the num­ber one pri­or­ity, and our big­gest po­ten­tial prob­lem,” Bartlett said.

Clarke said while they are state high­way pro­jects, the county has eval­u­ated cul­verts in the Bay Hun­dred area and re­placed some, cit­ing as an ex­am­ple the cul­vert at Sta­tion Road at New­comb.

Clarke said they plan to in­cor­po­rate some im­prove­ments re­lated to sewer work in St. Michaels.

“We’re try­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can,” Clarke said.

Bartlett and Price asked Clarke, Mer­taugh and Ed­wards to com­mu­ni­cate the top pri­or­ity need to the state with vi­su­als de­pict­ing the “top 10 ar­eas of the county prone to flood­ing and the ef­fect in the event of a mass evac­u­a­tion as a way of mar­ket­ing to the state how bad this sit­u­a­tion is,” Bartlett said.

“We need to have vi­su­als and hand­outs to make a big­ger im­pres­sion,” Bartlett said. “Dover Bridge, Route 404 and all are all great, but if we do have a storm and emer­gency ve­hi­cles are cut off from re­spond­ing be­cause they can’t get through be­cause of wa­ter — it’s a real vul­ner­a­bil­ity that we have. We have to start a mar­ket­ing cam­paign to get the money out of the state.”

Price agreed. She said pho­tos are im­por­tant and that she used them when tes­ti­fy­ing (about state high­way user rev­enues) in An­napo­lis.

“I showed a pic­ture of Mr. Ed­wards stand­ing in one of those big ol’ gap­ing holes. I got some chuck­les, but peo­ple were also look­ing at that,” Price said. “Let’s have pic­tures of flood­ing ready (when MDOT/SHA) comes around in the fall.”

“We do have a map within Emer­gency Man­age­ment Ser­vices that iden­ti­fies those low ly­ing ar­eas,” Clarke said. “The hard part for us is try­ing to find the funds.”

“Ev­ery time we fill up our gas tank, those funds are com­ing out of our pocket and go­ing to the state of Mary­land,” Bartlett said. “Th­ese are not in­signif­i­cant is­sues for the peo­ple in the event of a big storm or hur­ri­cane. We’ve got to rely on you guys to iden­tify the top 10 spots.”

Price also asked to have more ef­fec­tive word­ing to em­pha­size the ur­gency of the pri­or­ity “for safety rea­sons.”

“We need to em­pha­size the emer­gency is­sues, not “ca­pac­ity” in the first sen­tence,” Price said. “This is a big deal. Let’s sell it.”

Also part of pri­or­ity num­ber one is eval­u­at­ing the heavy traf­fic vol­ume at the in­ter­sec­tion of Route 33 with Eas­ton Park­way (state Route 322). “As an in­terim mea­sure, the MD Route 33 cor­ri­dor should be eval­u­ated for any is­sues or prob­lems that would need to be re­solved in fu­ture im­prove­ments,” the pri­or­ity re­port stated.

The rec­om­mended pri­or­ity ranked se­cond is im­prov­ing ca­pac­ity and safety at the in­ter­sec­tions of U.S. Route 50, state Route 309 (Cor­dova Road) and state Route 662 (Long­woods Road).

The busy con­flu­ence of roads near Eas­ton Air­port/ New­nam Field also is the planned lo­ca­tion for the re­lo­cated Univer­sity of Mary­land Shore Med­i­cal Center at Eas­ton as a fu­ture re­gional med­i­cal center.

Im­prov­ing con­ges­tion and safety will re­quire the “the con­struc­tion of an over­pass that meets FAA re­quire­ments and serves th­ese fa­cil­i­ties,” the re­port stated.

The third-ranked pri­or­ity con­tained two sub­sec­tions, with a third sug­gested by Pack. All fo­cused on im­prov­ing three busy in­ter­sec­tions with Route 50 at Golds­bor­ough Street, Dover Road and Chapel Road.

Pack added as pri­or­ity num­ber 3-C im­prov­ing the eroded right turn seg­ment on Chapel Road south onto Route 50.

“The pri­or­i­ties are up to you all,” Clarke said. “If you want us to change the pri­or­i­ties, we can do that. “We’re here to tell you that this is the pri­or­ity list we’ve had for the last four to five years.

The coun­cil ap­proved the amended list to in­clude the five pri­or­i­ties and a re­vi­sion of the first pri­or­ity to em­pha­size safety is­sues rather than road ca­pac­ity for Route 33. The list will be sub­mit­ted to MDOT SHA for con­sid­er­a­tion. Fol­low me on Twit­ter @con­nie_s­tar­dem.

PHOTO BY CON­NIE CON­NOLLY

Dur­ing the Tues­day, March 27, Tal­bot County Coun­cil meet­ing, County Roads Su­per­in­ten­dent War­ren Ed­wards, En­gi­neer Ray Clarke and As­sis­tant En­gi­neer Mike Mer­taugh present road pro­ject pri­or­i­ties for the Mary­land De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

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