The town of Thurmont is considering a multimillion-dollar streetscape project that would fix problem spots on Carroll Street and Woodside Avenue with the possibility of a new stormwater drainage system.
At last week’s town meeting, Doug Smith, senior project manager for Arro Engineering in Hagerstown, presented the mayor and commissioners with preliminary findings of problem spots on those two streets as well as two possible projects that would eliminate those problem areas.
In surveying the two streets, Smith looked at about 4,900 feet of road and concluded that 20 percent of it is in need of complete rehabilitation, meaning excavating down to the original soil subgrade — 12 to 18 inches down — and bringing the full section back up.
He also found gutter pads that were paved over, which will eventually crack due to heavy traffic.
“The streets are in bad shape,” Smith told commissioners. “It’s apparent that there is subgrade failure in some sections, although all is not lost. There are some areas that are performing better, there are some areas that are performing worse.”
Along with pavement problems, he also looked at the stormwater problem on Carroll Street, Woodside Avenue and Carroll Street Extended. If a system were put in place, Smith looked at a water discharge near the water tower or tying it into the stormwater management pond.
“There are some storm drain structures there. However, they are few and far between,” he said. “More storm drains would allow that water to get off the street ... and be taken to where it needs to be.”
He planned to prepare an engineering proposal by the end of the week which would include sampling the subgrade, testing the soil and evaluating the pavement to see how much of truck traffic it can carry.
He would also conduct a traffic survey to understand the amount of truck traffic on the roads and how much the town can expect in 20 years.
He then presented the commissioners with two estimates — one with the storm drain project, one without.
A project without new storm drains would cost $3.149 million; a project with storm drains would cost $5.3 million.
A full project is estimated to take 12 to 15 months to complete. During that time, only one lane would be open to traffic.
Mayor John Kinnaird said the town of Thurmont has historically had stormwater issues. Adding a system to get water off Carroll Street would be in the best interest of residents and businesses, he added.
“We have been remiss in the past in not putting in sufficient stormwater facilities,” he said. “If we’re going to do this roadway, and do it right, I think this is a critical, critical part of the equation ... that we make sure we take care of stormwater runoff.”
While there is a price difference of $2 million, he believes adding new storm drains is worth the investment.
Commissioner Martin Burns, though, raised a concern that the estimated cost may actually be more.
“I would rather know it’s going to be $7 million versus $5 million and know that it’s not going to be any more than $7 million,” he said. “I’d rather have that number now than you come back to us later and say, ‘we did all this engineering work and it’s really going to cost you six and a half.’”
He also suggested using the $5 million on multiple streets throughout the town that need work, instead of just two.
“It’s not about the money,” he said. “We’ve got to spend it here or at a different road over time. My issue is, is this the best bang for your buck to serve a majority of the residents.”
He suggested a traffic study to analyze all roads in Thurmont, which would then give the commissioners more information to make a better decision for such a project.
“The bottom line is, you keep what you have good as good and what you have bad you plan on completely tearing out and rebuilding,” Smith said. “Trying to patch it and putting in an inch of overlay sometimes does not fix the problem.”
The commissioners did not vote on the project but asked Smith about the life expectancy of the roads if they continue to patch the problem areas. Smith answered that patching problem areas would buy them only about seven years.
In previous years, the town has patched Carroll Street and Woodside Avenue several times, according to Jim Humerick, Thurmont’s chief administrative officer.
“If you try to do something halfways, you really get half the life,” Smith said. “Until you do it correctly, it’s never going to get any better. You’re going to spend three times as much in maintenance.”
Commissioner Bill Buehrer added that putting a Band-Aid on a problem is just putting good on top of bad.
“You’ll never catch up,” he said. “It’s a vicious circle.”