404 widening project nears final stages
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. The 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 (Maryland) 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. Route 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 ef fectively 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, Ghrist said, 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,” Hershey said.
“We have challenged our engineers and they have met us each step of the way,” Slater said.
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,” Freeman said, “and now, here, finally is my miracle.”
Contractors work to place hot mix asphalt on a new section of state Route 404.