Improvements to U.S. 15 between Interstate 70 and Md. 26 remain the top road improvement priority for county officials, according to a letter approved by County Council members during their Tuesday meeting.

Mark Mishler, the transportation engineering supervisor in the county’s Department of Development Review and Planning, said the Maryland Department of Transportation has shut down funding for planning and design for many projects in the Frederick County area due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But state officials remain optimistic that funding will gradually return to those projects in the coming months. The No. 1 priority—a project that has been at the top of the list for several years—is adding a lane in each direction on U.S. 15 through Frederick between I-70 and Md. 26.

The stretch of road is the only section of road in the U.S. 15/Interstate 270 corridor that sees traffic that is over capacity during morning and evening peak rush hours, the letter states.

Despite less traffic being on the road due to the pandemic, Mishler said it’s imperative that improvements are made to the road, especially as the state continues with its public-private partnership to widen I-270 from Frederick to Washington, D.C.

“If there are improvements on I-270 and not concurrent improvements on U.S. 15 and I-70, then we’re going to have serious congestion issues that aren’t already there,” Mishler told council members.

Councilman Phil Dacey (R) said some quick fixes to that stretch of road could involve building auxiliary lanes in order to at least provide some relief until the overall widening project is constructed. Dacey works as a deputy administrator at the Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration.

Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll) and Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick) led the charge in 2019 to secure $1 million for one of those projects.

Mishler repeated that the stretch of U.S. 15 was the county’s No. 1 priority, but he noted he would support any auxiliary lanes as they do serve as “minor improvements.”

Mishler also said during Tuesday’s meeting he is hopeful a federal infrastructure package could address this project and other high priority projects in the letter, including:

  • Planning and design funding for widening Md. 85 in the Ballenger Creek area north to Guilford Drive
  • Planning funding for widening Md. 194 between Md. 26 to Devilbiss Bridge Road, through Walkersville
  • I-70 improvements between I-270 and Mt. Phillip Road

There is also interest to improve some of the county’s transit services, especially in rural areas outside Frederick, Mishler added.

In other business:

Council members unanimously approved a bill that allows more flexibility to the county’s Board of Appeals to grant variances to property owners of nonconforming structures.

The Board of Appeals could not approve variances to homeowners who build a porch and permanently enclose a porch or who construct stories above a porch. The bill essentially gives homeowners more flexibility in increasing footprints or extending into their setbacks at the rear of their properties.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(1) comment

petersamuel

Phil Dacey is right about the need for more so-called 'auxiliary lanes' which connect the present end of each entry ramp to the beginning of the next exit's off-ramp. As he says 'aux' lanes would provide some immediate relief to the present congestion. Just as important though they would make the highway safer by giving entering drivers more time to get up to speed to merge into the through lanes. Driving would be safer too with the aux lanes allowing exiting drivers to get right earlier. We know this works. Not long ago State Highways built such auxiliary lanes between Motter and 26, first northbound and more recently southbound. It's way more comfortable now to drive those stretches of 15. The County and the City should urge the State to get moving on the third center lanes. They could demonstrate local seriousness by taking on the aux lanes themselves. Then we'd have a chance to get a smooth-flowing modern 15 to help us get around better.

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