ANNAPOLIS — The Frederick County state delegation unanimously approved the county’s proposed transportation priorities on Friday.
Chairwoman Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick) and County Executive Jan Gardner will next sign a joint letter to the Maryland Department of Transportation to ask for state funding between 2020 and 2025 to complete 24 major road, transit, sidewalk, safety and airport projects.
The top priority of the delegation and county remains the widening of U.S. 15 through the city of Frederick. But county Transportation Engineer Manager Ron Burns reminded the delegation that the state said over a year ago that drivers shouldn’t expect new lanes to open before 2030.
“If there’s an increase in revenues, then maybe it could move up. But the [State Highway Administration] is working with the city of Frederick to try to reduce some costs associated with water quality mitigation,” Burns said.
The project is estimated to cost $180 million to add a lane in each direction by building in toward the median. About $10 million could be knocked off the project if the city can address some water quality concerns.
The county also does not support a piecemeal approach to the project.
“The [SHA] administrator seems to think you can build half of it at a time, and you can’t. Because if you build half of it, that only transfers the bottleneck a mile further up. It’s really an all-or-nothing project,” Burns said.
The southern portion of the county, however, could see some meaningful change come to U.S. 340.
The State Highway Administration has committed $6 million to design new on-ramps between Brunswick and Jefferson. The project will provide drivers a safer merge area onto Md. 17 and Md. 180 by extending the on-ramps and acceleration lanes.
The short ramps used to have yield signs, but the signs were removed after drivers kept being rear-ended, said Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick & Carroll), who lives in the area. He said he has witnessed many crashes and near misses between merging and traveling vehicles.
“They’re very dangerous. I’ve seen school buses trapped on the side of the road,” Hough said.
He was happy to see movement on the project. The delegation refused to sign the county’s transportation request letter two years ago until it added the on-ramps to its priority list, Hough said.
The State Highway Administration has not yet committed funds to the construction of the project, Burns said.
“When [the State Highway Administration] commits money to design, there’s an expectation that funding would follow. It just hasn’t been allocated out of their larger fund yet,” Burns told the delegation.
The delegation made one change to the county’s transportation priorities to downgrade the construction of a new MARC platform at Point of Rocks, at the recommendation of the Frederick County Planning Commission.
CSX would like the county to construct a skywalk over the railroad tracks between the platforms, said Del. Ken Kerr (D-Frederick). This has turned a “very affordable” project into a “not feasible” one, he said.
Frederick County will instead focus on adding a third CSX track to the Burnsville Hill section in Montgomery County, which seems to have wide support. The delegation is also advocating for added morning and evening service between Brunswick and Union Station in Washington, D.C., as well as midday, reverse peak and weekday service to Frederick.