Dover Bridge, 404 top MDOT talks

Times-Record - - Front Page - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­record.com

DEN­TON — The Caro­line County com­mis­sion­ers met with Mary­land De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials Tues­day, Nov.7, to get an up­date on cur­rent trans­porta­tion projects in the county and dis­cuss up­com­ing needs.

Deputy Sec­re­tary Jim Ports said both ma­jor cur­rent trans­porta­tion projects in Caro­line County — the state Route 404 widen­ing and the Dover Bridge re­place­ment — are on track to open to traf­fic on or be­fore sched­ule.

DEN­TON — The Caro­line County com­mis­sion­ers met with Mary­land De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials Tues­day, Nov.7, to get an up­date on cur­rent trans­porta­tion projects in the county and dis­cuss up­com­ing needs.

The meet­ing was part of MDOT’s an­nual tour of the state, meet­ing with of­fi­cials in all 24 ju­ris­dic­tions to go over MDOT’s draft six-year con­sol­i­dated trans­porta­tion plan.

Deputy Sec­re­tary Jim Ports said both ma­jor cur­rent trans­porta­tion projects in Caro­line County — the state Route 404 widen­ing and the Dover Bridge re­place­ment — are on track to open to traf­fic on or be­fore sched­ule.

The $168 mil­lion Route 404 project, to du­al­ize the re­main­ing 11 miles be­tween state Route 50 and the Den­ton by­pass, will be open by Thanksgiving, as promised, Ports said.

A date and time for a grand open­ing cer­e­mony later in Novem­ber will be fi­nal­ized, Ports said.

Ports said three con­trac­tors, work­ing around the clock, were used to com­plete the project on time.

“It was the first of its kind,” Ports said of the strat­egy.

Adding an­other travel lane in each di­rec­tion and a wide me­dian will make the high­way much safer, Ports said.

Marie Free­man, a long­time mem­ber of C-TEAM, the cit­i­zen-formed or­ga­ni­za­tion that has pushed for years for the Route 404 widen­ing, said her group is grate­ful for all the progress made, but will con­tinue to ad­vo­cate for widen­ing the high­way all the way to the Delaware line.

Free­man’s daugh­ter, Bri­anna Free­man, was 10 months old in 2000 when she died, af­ter the car in which she was a pas­sen­ger was rear-ended at the in­ter­sec­tion of Route 404 and state Route 313, east of the cur­rent end of the widen­ing project.

“She would be 18 this year. We should be plan­ning her high school grad­u­a­tion, but we’re not,” Free­man said. “I’m not go­ing away. I’m a pa­tient per­son.”

Ports said fur­ther du­al­iza­tion would first have to be added to the county gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­ity list, and then go through a scor­ing sys­tem used to rank trans­porta­tion projects on the state’s list.

“Spoiler alert: It’ll be there (on the county’s list) next year,” said Caro­line County Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Dan Franklin.

The new Dover Bridge on state Route 331, con­nect­ing Caro­line and Tal­bot counties, should be open to traf­fic some­time next spring, Ports said, a year and a half ear­lier than orig­i­nally pro­jected.

Fur­ther work will con­tinue un­til the fall of 2019, he said.

The cur­rent bridge will re­main in place, with the cen­ter span swung open, for use as a pub­lic fish­ing pier.

Also in 2017, Ports said, MDOT has nearly com­pleted repaving Al­ter­nate Route 404 through Den­ton, be­tween First and Ninth streets.

Ports said the state’s trans­porta­tion plan in­cludes $3.8 mil­lion in high­way user rev­enues for Caro­line County and its mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties over the next six years. That rev­enue — gas tax money re­turned to lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions for road main­te­nance — took a big hit in the years fol­low­ing the re­ces­sion, as the state held on to it to bal­ance its own bud­get.

Franklin said the county ap­pre­ci­ates Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s and the lo­cal del­e­ga­tion’s ef­forts to even­tu­ally re­store those funds to their orig­i­nal lev­els.

Ports said Ho­gan is com­mit­ted to fully restor­ing that fund­ing level over the next eight years, while con­tin­u­ing to pay for trans­porta­tion projects.

Look­ing ahead, of­fi­cials brought up sev­eral ar­eas of con­cern in the county they would like MDOT to look into for the near fu­ture.

Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36, said im­prove­ments need to be made to the in­ter­sec­tion of Route 404 and River Road in Den­ton.

“I un­der­stand there isn’t enough room there for an over­pass, but some­thing needs to be done,” Ghrist said, sug­gest­ing adding a left turn-only lane on the side of River Road near North Caro­line High School.

Dis­trict 2 En­gi­neer Greg Holsey said MDOT is cur­rently look­ing over crash data at the in­ter­sec­tion from 2013 to 2016 to look for pat-

terns to best ap­ply en­hance­ments.

Holsey said im­prove­ments at the in­ter­sec­tion of Route 404 and state Route 16 east of Den­ton, in­clud­ing a flash­ing red ar­row for ve­hi­cles try­ing to make a left turn, have de­creased col­li­sions at that in­ter­sec­tion dra­mat­i­cally, though some are still hap­pen­ing.

The in­ter­sec­tion of Cen­tral Av­enue and state Route 480 in Ridgely con­tin­ues to be a high con­cern for lo­cal of­fi­cials.

Holsey said traf­fic counts at in­ter­sec­tions have to meet at least one of 11 war­rants to jus­tify the stop­light of­fi­cials have been re­quest­ing for years. So far, no traf­fic counts have met one.

How­ever, Holsey said, the next one will try to cap­ture “worst case sce­nario” traf­fic.

Ridgely Com­mis­sioner An­thony Casey said the in­ter­sec­tion is busiest in the spring and fall, due to youth sports leagues us­ing the nearby park fields. The close prox­im­ity of the in­ter­sec­tion to three schools — North Caro­line High School, the Caro­line Ca­reer and Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter and Ridgely Ele­men­tary School — also con­trib­utes to con­ges­tion.

Holsey said even if the next count does not meet a war­rant for a stop­light, MDOT will look into dif­fer­ent en­hance­ments, like a small round­about or a four­way stop.

Caro­line County Com­mis­sioner Wil­bur Le­ven­good said garbage trucks head­ing to the nearby land­fill and grain trucks would not be able to nav­i­gate a round­about.

Ghrist asked about cre­at­ing a left turn onto Le­gion Road for traf­fic leav­ing the Den­ton Plaza to more eas­ily re­turn to Route 404.

Holsey said the me­dian in front of the Den­ton Plaza is on a part of Le­gion Road owned by the Town of Den­ton, not the state, so it would be the town’s op­tion to make a cut through it.

He also said the state is con­sid­er­ing cre­at­ing an­other ac­cess to west­bound Route 404 from the in­ter­sec­tion on Le­gion Road at the Wal­mart en­trance.

“(MDOT) re­cently met with the town and the (com­mer­cial) de­vel­oper to talk about what else is go­ing to be built in that area,” Holsey said. “We need more de­tail be­fore we can de­cide.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF GE­ORGE JACK­SON

Amer­i­can Cor­ner res­i­dent Ge­orge Jack­son stands on the new Dover Bridge with Caro­line County in the back­ground dur­ing an Oc­to­ber tour.

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