When a section of Monocacy Boulevard was closed in October 2017 to widen the road and add a second bridge over the Monocacy River, the hope was that the 18 months scheduled for the project would ultimately be irritating but rewarding.
Now more than three months past the scheduled completion date, the project at the site between Gas House Pike and Schifferstadt Boulevard and East Church Street in Frederick is a frustration for drivers trying to get from the southern to the northern side of the city. The closed stretch effectively cuts off parts of the city from each other.
Now, with no date set for completion, there’s no clear answer to why the project is far from being finished.
The Monocacy Boulevard project was originally supposed to reopen in April, but by May, city officials were hoping for an opening in late July or early August.
The project is expected to widen about 3,550 feet of the road to a four-lane arterial road, add a new traffic signal at Monocacy Boulevard and Gas House Pike and construct a second bridge adjacent to the existing one over the Monocacy.
But there are still a number of things to do before the road can be opened to traffic, including completing a section of gas line and a segment of water line, filling in areas for the road behind a retaining wall and near the bridges, paving, curb and gutter work, sidewalks, streetlights and other details, Tracy Coleman, deputy director of public works for engineering and operations for the city of Frederick, said Thursday.
The city is working through some “issues” with Washington-based contractor Milani Construction, including a more realistic, hard-and-fast schedule for the project, Coleman said.
“As far as opening the road, I can’t give a hard date yet,” she said.
Coleman would not elaborate on what the issues were, and Milani did not return calls seeking comment on Thursday or Friday.
When a project is bid, the city’s hope and expectation is that it will be finished when the contract says it will be, Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor said Friday.
When that doesn’t happen, it’s disappointing, he said.
Meanwhile, the city is working as hard to make sure that the project is done as soon as possible, and is pursuing all of its options to ensure compliance with the contract that both parties agreed to, O’Connor said.
This isn’t the first time the Monocacy Boulevard project has run into controversy.
The project had a troubled history even before it began. It had to be rebid in August 2017, after the first round of three bids all came in higher than the anticipated cost of $16.7 million. The second round of bids ranged from Milani’s $21.8 million to $24.5 million by a Gaithersburg firm.
While the closed road has been frustrating for drivers and city officials, the disruptions it has caused have also been difficult for businesses.
Rick Weldon, president and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, said he hears from numerous chamber members around the work area whose business has been affected by the project.
“It’s a huge, huge impact to those businesses,” Weldon said.
The work has to be having an impact on people getting to and from work, Weldon said.
Once an employer starts wondering about why they’re in a location, they may consider moving, Weldon said.
Tim Guinan, owner of Otherworld Fitness on Spires Way, said the closure has been frustrating for his business, which opened in August 2018.
Numerous studies have reported that people won’t travel more than 15 minutes to get to a gym, Guinan said.
The road closing has essentially cut him off from people in the southern part of Frederick, he said.
“When people have to go 20 minutes around [a detour], they’re not coming here,” Guinan said.
O’Connor said he hears from residents regularly asking when the project will be done.
“They want that inconvenience to end. And I want that inconvenience to end for them,” O’Connor said.