Highway (copy)

Traffic begins to back up on a Friday afternoon on southbound U.S. 15 between Motter Avenue and West Seventh Street in Frederick.

Money for improving U.S. 15 through the city of Frederick is once again Frederick County’s top transportation priority, according to a letter sent Monday to Maryland’s Department of Transportation.

The letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn lists construction funding for U.S. 15 between Interstate 70 and Md. 26, design funding for widening and reconstructing Md. 85 from Ballenger Creek to Guilford Drive, and planning funding for widening Md. 194 from Md. 26 to Devilbiss Bridge Road through Walkersville as the county’s top priorities.

The letter was signed by County Executive Jan Gardner and Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick), the chairwoman of the county’s legislative delegation.

At a meeting with Rahn and state transportation officials in November, Gardner, Krimm, and Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor told the secretary that the section of U.S. 15 is crucial to the city and county’s economic and transportation needs.

“This stretch of [U.S.] 15 is critically important because it is the lifeline for the city,” O’Connor said.

The Md. 85 project would widen and reconstruct the road to a six-lane divided road between Spectrum Drive and Guilford Drive — with pedestrian, bicycle and streetscape improvements — and to a four-lane divided road from Executive Way to south of Ballenger Creek, with a new bridge over the creek included as part of the project.

On Md. 194, the county’s plan would widen the road from two lanes to four, with the first phase of construction between Md. 26 and Walkersville High School.

The county’s priorities list also includes projects in road system preservation and safety, local bus transit, commuter bus transit, MARC commuter rail, off-street paths, sidewalks, and projects at Frederick Municipal Airport.

The county’s priorities list traditionally included only the top three major road projects, but last year Gardner wanted to emphasize that the county’s needs were not only highway-centric, said Ron Burns, transportation engineering manager in the county’s Department of Development Review.

Other road projects listed in the letter include a southbound auxiliary lane on U.S. 15 between Md. 26 and Motter Avenue, extending on-ramps on U.S. 340 at Md. 17 and Md. 180 and lengthening the acceleration lane from northbound U.S. 15 to eastbound U.S. 340.

In transit, the letter requests help with expanding the county’s TransIT-plus program, adding three or four large electric transit buses per year over the next three years, and funding to increase the frequency of the system’s connector service.

Public transit operates on a funding model of 50 percent federal funding, 25 percent state, and 25 percent local funds, but the TransIT-plus paratransit service doesn’t work that way, said Nancy Norris, director of TransIT Services of Frederick County.

The state has provided funding of a little more than $159,000 for years, causing the county to pick up more and more of the funding, she said.

With the county’s senior population “exploding,” more older passengers need to be able to get to medical and other appointments, and if the state wants people to be able to age in place, people need to be able to get to their appointments, she said.

The system has applied for money to provide another driver and a small vehicle, likely a minivan.

Meanwhile, increased funding for the connector service would allow the system to provide service every 30 minutes throughout their schedule.

They currently provide half-hour service for three hours each in the morning and evening peaks on five of their 10 routes, Norris said.

The county’s letter also advocates increasing service on the Maryland Transit Administration’s commuter bus service, improvements to allow commuter buses to travel on the shoulders of Interstate 270, increasing MARC train service between Frederick, Brunswick and Washington, D.C., and building a sidewalk along Urbana Pike between Stone Barn Drive and Urbana Elementary School to connect the school with part of Urbana.

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.

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