Highway (copy)

Traffic typically backs up on U.S. 15 between Motter Avenue and West Seventh Street during peak hours.

As Maryland’s Department of Transportation deals with the impacts of budget constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Frederick County officials continue to press the state to address improvements to U.S. 15 through the city as a major priority for the county.

The issue of improvements to U.S. 15 between Interstate 70 and Md. 26 remains the county’s top transportation priority, County Executive Jan Gardner told Transportation Secretary Greg Slater and other state transportation officials during a virtual meeting Wednesday night.

The project has been the county’s top priority for several years.

With all the interchanges in the area failing their traffic volume limits during both the morning and afternoon peak rush hours, improvements are critical to the community and are supported by municipal leaders around the county as well as county officials, Gardner said.

The county is disappointed that there’s been no commitment from the state to fund a portion of design for improvements and even more disappointed that an environmental assessment for a project hasn’t been completed, she told Slater.

The federal government won’t consider further funding for any work unless there’s a commitment from the state to a design, she said.

The cost for a design plan for the corridor would be “hefty” for the state right now, but they would be happy to look at breaking a portion of the project out for design funding, State Highway Administration Administrator Tim Smith said.

That could allow approval for the environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, he said.

Slater confirmed that the state will look for every opportunity to move the project forward.

Gardner said she believes it would be hard to break the project into pieces since it all needs to be done, but the county would be happy to have a conversation on the issue.

“I just really think it’s important for us to get this project ready to go,” she said.

Sen. Ron Young, the vice chair of the county’s delegation to the General Assembly, also emphasized the importance of the U.S. 15 projectand said the state and county need to do whatever they can to move the project forward.

Consideration for funding of projects such as the U.S. 15 work comes as the Department of Transportation looks at a significant drop in revenue from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Revenue for the current six-year consolidated transportation plan trust fund is down in every area, Slater said.

Fuel tax revenue is down $636 million from last year, titling tax revenue is down $190 million, and corporate income tax revenue is $183 million less than last year, he said. Also, Maryland Transportation Administration revenue has dropped by $174 million, and aviation revenue by $146 million.

Overall, the state has seen a $2.9 billion drop in funds from the fiscal 2020-25 CTP that they introduced nine months ago, he said.

As a result, agencies within the department have seen dramatic cuts in their budgets.

The State Highway Administration alone saw a $900 million reduction in funding for capital projects and a 7 percent drop in its operating budget, Slater said.

As a result of the cuts, residents should expect to see a decrease in road maintenance, less cutting of grass and picking up litter near roadways, and cuts in MARC train and commuter bus service, among other things.

“The reality is, we just couldn’t find a way to cut $1.9 billion in capital and $98 million in operating costs without having every Marylander across the state feel it,” Slater said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP.

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

(17) comments

Greg F

I lived in suburban Chicago when sears moved to the far far western burbs....and when they did they were required to upgrade off ramps and widen the roads by a lane to accommodate for about 4 miles. I said it as they were building that when it’s done, it will be over capacity in a few years. It was. Now it’s jammed for 20 miles further than before due to all the people who followed the jobs and the new access. Used to get jammed up at O’Hare now it’s into the next county and you lost all the light pollution free sky between that and rockville entirely.

petersamuel

It really would improve our quality of life and our safety to get on with these improvements. The City and the County should offer to take on parts of this project in return for the State doing its part by a date-certain -- say a construction start February 2022 and substantial completion December 2024. In the deal local officials would facilitate the environmental and property issues, storm water, landscaping and signals at the bottom of the ramps. The State would focus on the central median lanes work, a major part of which will be the new bridging needed for the new third lanes.

As other commenters say we need to lengthen the merge lanes for safer entry to the highway. And since the interchanges are so close it makes sense to make it a continuous rightside lane linking the merge lane of one with the next exit lanes -- as recently constructed between Motter Avenue and MD26. These auxiliary lanes as the engineers call them don't do as great deal to improve highway carrying capacity so the State Highway Administration plan focuses on the inside third lanes. Maybe local government could take on auxiliary lanes as part of the deal. They are more urgent at the southern end -- I-70 to Patrick and Patrick to Rosemont. So that outside work could be staged.

timberman

The cart before the horse over development without adequate infrastructure seems to be the norm The Developers Win all the rest of us loose Who’s pockets are Getting lined

mrnatural1

Excellent comment timberman.

It is possible to have the infrastructure in place first -- before any development begins. My wife and I have family in Iowa, and that's how it is done out there. You may find yourself driving on a practically deserted, brand new, 4-lane road through corn and soybean fields and wonder why it's there -- only to discover that there is a development planned for a couple years in the future.

Imagine that.

The way it works here in Maryland is that the developers throw a tantrum because they want to eat dessert before dinner. They promise to be good boys and girls and eat their dinner later if gov't officials will just give them dessert now.

Then they sell their ugly boxes and run off with piles of money -- with their dinner still on the table.

It went past the point of being ridiculous and became gross negligence/incompetence long ago.

Part of the problem is developers act like they are doing everyone a huge favor if they pay for a turn lane and perhaps a traffic light at the entrance to their collection of ugly boxes. There is generally no consideration given to funding the improvements to area roads and highways -- like US 15 -- that will be required, due to the fact that residents of their development will drive and add to the already horrendous traffic congestion on area roads.

The way development is done around here -- and to be fair, most areas of the country -- is mind-numbingly stupid.

C.D.Reid

I couldn't agree more, mrnatural. [thumbup]

Greg F

Nailed it!

DickD

Can you imagine what a loop around the City of Frederick would do?

mrnatural1

Sadly Dick, while it would reduce traffic congestion, that relief would be short lived, because developers would rush to take advantage of what they would see as an opportunity.

oldmagpie11

my dad worked heavy civil projects all through the state (1950-1990 or thereabouts) and said that designwork was approved for the "Frederick beltway" in the early 1960's. Baltimore and DC got theirs but Frederick is somehow still below the payline. :(

gabrielshorn2013

Think pre-beltway DC Dick. The 496 Beltway just promoted development along its length, causing even more "urban spread". Mr. Natural's 2:27 post is spot on.

Whatsup

Well, wouldn't this be nice. However, I do not anticipate this will happen in my lifetime and I figure I've got at least another 20 years or so.

frankwell

Just continue connecting the merge lanes!

No expensive engineering, land acquisition

higher government surfer vision costs & better chance of local contractors doing the work.

FrederickFan

Thank you Jan Gardner. What is our state delegation doing to get funding for this project?

Brewerpaul

What bugs me is how once you get onto 15 off of 70, the traffic often grinds to a halt for no apparent reason. I'm not talking about rush hour,which would be understandable. It seems to happen randomly at any hour during the day.

elmerchismo1

It's the merges that really slow things down.

wran

Merging traffic?

petersamuel

Entering traffic has to merge at the top of each entry ramp so it can be called merging traffic. To put it another way: Where traffic lanes join or come together vehicles have to 'merge'.

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