Landowners briefed on plans to widen Rt. 5
More than 30 in south county need to be paid by state for project near Pt. Lookout park
Aerial photographs of a two-mile stretch of Route 5 in southern St. Mary’s gave adjacent property owners a bird’s-eye view last week of the state’s proposal to widen the road by purchasing strips of their land, and an opportunity to voice their displeasure.
Much of the farmland targeted for acquisition by the state belongs to members of the Trossbach family, who attended Thursday evening’s presentation at the Ridge firehouse by representatives of the Maryland State Highway Administration.
“It’s not going to do me too bad on the produce stand” the family runs there, George “Junior” Trossbach of St. Inigoes said, but “I want to know why they can’t take land they already own [on the other side of the highway] instead of my land.”
About 50 people attended the gathering, where other comments before the formal presentation also delved into who would benefit the most from widening the travel lanes, adding paved shoulders and making other upgrades. The planned work along Route 5 starts near the intersection with Camp
Brown Road and continues into Point Lookout State Park, where visitors arrive with their recreational vehicles mainly during the summer, and pay fees to state employees.
“They’re worried about the RVs, three months out of the year,” Jessica Gatton, Trossbach’s daughter, said. “A lot of them aren’t even Maryland residents.”
The farm supports three families, Gatton said, and taking a 10-foot-wide strip of farmland amounts to 60 acres on each side of the highway. “It adds up. Every foot counts,” she said, adding that if the project takes parking spaces used by their produce stand’s customers, it would cost at least $30,000 to relocate the stand.
The state is seeking bidders to take on “the appraisal assignment” to help determine how much will be paid to the affected private property owners, and Kamala Alexander, a project team member, said there are “30 to 35” of them.
Virginia Collier, the project manager, told attendees that the paved shoulders would be an improvement over the ditches that now border the travel lanes.
“We’re trying to improve the traffic and the safety along the corridor,” Collier said. “It’s going to be easier to turn into driveways.”
Collier acknowledged that “groundwater’s pretty high here,” and that even improved ditches could overfill. “We deal with the road,” she said, “but we’ll raise the issue with the other agencies.”
The right-of-way acquisitions are scheduled to be- gin before winter, according to an SHA mailing, with construction targeted to begin a year from now and be finished by the fall of 2021.
Collier called the projected three-year construction period a “worst-case scenario,” after telling the audience, “This project is on its way.”
Margaret Padukiewicz of Scotland said after the presentation that she and her husband ride bicycles in the area.
“Anything that’s going to be safe is good. Safety is very important,” Padukiewicz said, adding that “we want to make sure the [longtime residents affected by the project] are properly compensated, and comfortable with what’s happening.”
A proposal to widen Route 5 in southern St. Mary’s would require buying strips of land from adjoining property owners.