US 15 Traffic Priority (copy)

Heavy traffic travels southbound on U.S. 15 South near West Patrick Street earlier this year. Money for design work to improve the highway has been included in a federal transportation funding bill being debated by Congress.

Addressing Frederick County’s top transportation priority could be a step closer to being realized, with money for a design plan included in a federal transportation funding bill being debated in Congress.

The larger fate of infrastructure spending remains to be seen, however.

The House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to have a mark-up session Wednesday to make changes to the $547 billion INVEST in America surface transportation reauthorization bill.

The bill includes an $8.8 million request from Congressman David Trone (D) for U.S. 15 reconstruction.

Widening the stretch of road from four lanes to six between Interstate 70 and Md. 26 to relieve congestion has been the county’s top transportation priority with the state for several years

All of the interchanges in the area fail their traffic volume limits during both the morning and afternoon peak rush hours, and local leaders have repeatedly told state officials that improvements are critical to the community.

Trone sits on the House’s Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Transportation. He included the project among eight submissions for funding for local projects in his Sixth Congressional District.

After a vote in the committee, the bill would go to the full House for a vote. Its final fate will likely depend on negotiations on an infrastructure bill between Republicans in the U.S. Senate and the Biden administration.

While negotiations seemed to be at a stalemate Tuesday, the White House said President Joe Biden would continue to talk to senators from both parties to work toward a deal.

The funding for projects in his district will help create jobs and growth and improve quality of life, Trone said in a news release.

In May, the congressman joined Maryland Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater for a tour of the U.S. 15 corridor. The visit raised hopes among local officials for funding for the project.

County Executive Jan Gardner (D) praised Trone’s inclusion of the project.

“I am excited to see federal infrastructure funding to advance the construction of U.S. 15 through the city of Frederick,” Gardner said in a statement Tuesday. “This section of U.S. 15 has been the county’s and the city’s top priority transportation project for several years and is greatly needed to address congestion and accommodate both local and through traffic. The U.S. 15 project improvements are extremely important for business development and job growth, as well as for local residents who are traveling to shop, go to a doctor’s appointment or to just get across town.”

Along with the U.S. 15 project, Trone also included a request for $2.56 million in funding for the Frederick and Pennsylvania Railroad Trail, which would stretch from the end of a trail along East Street in the city of Frederick to north of Monocacy Boulevard, then out to Walkersville before ending in Woodsboro.

The 10-mile stretch would follow the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks out to Woodsboro. It would be built on an old rail bed until it reaches Md. 26, at which point it would run along the existing tracks to Woodsboro.

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Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(13) comments

Greg F

The whole thing reminds me of the Monty Python committee scene in Life of Brian...where nothing gets done but planning for more meetings and movements to consider making more movements.

Rockfish

It took 70 years to get the Intercounty Connector (MD Rte. 200) built, just saying...

petersamuel

The headline is a little misleading, suggesting at a glance that construction on US15 is being funded in this bill. The first sentence correctly says the $8.8 million covers the design work, surveying, design of bridges, earthmoving estimates, drainage design, new pavement and staging needed to put the project out to contract. It would hav e been helpful to point out that the whole project is some $120 million cost. It is progress. There has been all the public outreach and the concept of widening inward was adopted. The design work proposed for funding with $8.8m will be an important next step. But the bulk of the money -- over $100m -- remains to be raised after the design is funded.

gabrielshorn2013

"Build it, and they will come"

mrnatural1

My thoughts exactly Gabriel.

If 15 is ever widened, within a few short years the traffic congestion will be just as bad as it is now, if not worse.

In addition, US 15 has already eaten into several back yards as it is. Whether homes are bulldozed, or more of their property is taken from them (leaving the house), those homeowners adjacent to the ROW will suffer significant harm. Either they are forced to move, and given what the MDOT determines is fair market value (no money for moving costs); or, they will be reimbursed for just the value of the land that was confiscated. Never mind the massive highway right outside their back door that just dropped their property value by $125,000.

MDOT sez, "C'mon, take one for the team! What's 100 grand between friends?"

Awteam2021

Does highway improvement mean a bigger road to handle traffic or a better road to travel on? Rte.15 from Virginia through New York is one of the most dangerous roads in the country to travel on.

gary4books

US15 north of 26 remains a problem with too many unsafe intersections. And it does have room for extra lanes now. Best to buy up the needed land while it is available.

Brookhawk

Widen Rt 15 between I-70 and Rt. 26 from four lanes to six? How? You'll have to buy up some property along the way, including homes, and probably wreck the property values of homes that remain. The notion of Rt. 15 as a six-lane commuter 70 mph highway is a fool's dream. It comes from another era. If you want traffic relief north to south, you are going to have to build a beltway - oh but we've allowed builders to build new neighborhoods where the farmland was and take up all the room we might have done that with too, didn't we?

Joeseamhead

Brookhawk, I’m glad you’re showing all of the negatives. But, quite simply, “can’t” is not an option. Yes, it should have been addressed years ago, but it will be easier, and less costly, today than it ever will be again.

petersamuel

Brookhawk: Widening from 4 lanes to 6 doesn't require any property buy-ups because the plan is to use the central median (about 30 feet wide) for the extra lanes. They looked at outward widening and rejected that.

Guy T. Ashton

Any discussion on any study or need for sound attenuation walls? Those of us who live near 15 would appreciate that.

Greg F

Good luck with that. Not much room to put anything there and seemed eventually eminent domain will claim those homes in the path of more widening that will surely be needed.

mrnatural1

Spot-on Brookhawk, great comment! [thumbup]

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