The eternal construction project on Monocacy Boulevard, which has paralyzed traffic on the east side of Frederick for almost two years, has blown through completion deadlines to the point at which the city no longer wants to even guess when it might be done.

Monocacy Boulevard has long been designated the major surface road artery on the east side. From the new interchange with U.S. 15 on the north side, which was finally completed this year, the road wends its way around the city center to end at South Market Street, in front of Costco.

With burgeoning growth on the area, the city needed to add traffic capacity by building a second span to the bridge over the Monocacy River and widening the road to four lanes from Gas House Pike to the intersection of Schifferstadt Boulevard and East Church Street, where Monocacy turns south.

But, in one of the worst decisions in local government history, the city decided to close the entire road over the course of the project rather than find a way to build a temporary route to allow drivers to continue using the original bridge.

A half-mile section of the road was closed in October 2017. The project was supposed to take 18 months, but 22 months have now gone by. The new bridge appears to be done, but the road is still unfinished.

The road was supposed to reopen in April, but by May, city officials were hoping for an opening in late July or early August.

But Tracy Coleman, deputy director of public works for engineering and operations for the city, told The Frederick News-Post last week that there are still a number of things to do before the road can be opened to traffic. The contractor must complete a gas line and a water line, fill in areas for the road behind a retaining wall and near the bridges, paving, curb and gutter work, sidewalks, streetlights and other details.

“As far as opening the road, I can’t give a hard date yet,” she told our reporter.

That is really not a good answer.

The impact on commuters and business owners has been terrible. Md. 26, Schifferstadt Boulevard, North Market Street and U.S. 15 have all been stressed to the maximum.

It was a misbegotten project from the beginning. In an editorial at the time of the closing, we wondered if any city official had looked at the 18-month timeline and thought: ”Well, this will never work.”

No one came forward to take the credit or blame, but the city’s voters turned Mayor Randy McClement out of office weeks later. Did the project cost McClement the election? We will never know for certain, but it appears that, if it did not cause his defeat, it contributed to it.

Mayor Michael O’Connor should take heed. We trust the road will be opened long before voters return to the polls in November 2021 to choose a mayor, but some irritated drivers and business owners can be expected to have a long memory.

The mayor needs to show strong political leadership and swiftly bring this project to completion. Whether the long delay is the fault of the contractor or the city supervisors, the mayor’s office is where the public will express its opinion.

It will be no fun for O’Connor to have to explain during a political campaign why the road project was allowed to drag on into a third year or worse.

(40) comments

ABG

The comments from Frayou have especially incited me to think that there must be far more to this story as well as many construction projects in our areas that are so poorly managed, go over their already exorbitant budgets, with missed or bloated deadlines and yet they get paid without incurring delay penalties?

Moreover, how is it that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel complex, 17 miles long built over "open" water, with project setbacks (including damage to a toppled custom machine during a storm), was delivered in 42 months back in the 1960's while this very short section requires road closure and can not be accomplished? Hmmm... The incompetence abounds!!



I was not born yet, but the accomplishment of the tunnels alone are extraordinary. Check out a short story below...

http://www.cbbt.com/about-us/history/

Wilbur

I'm glad someone finally brought this debacle up. To make matters worse, the apartment project on Market St. has also cause traffic issues as the primary exit out of Frederick. If we could somehow start a project near a few Rt 15 exits, then the city would be trapped. Enough ranting, fact is, this project, primarily the management of the project is disgraceful, and there needs to be some accountability. I can't point a finger at the mayor, but whomever was involved in planning and the contractor himself come to mind as responsible parties. There should be penalties assessed and heads should roll.

Hammer

Apparently they need to sandblast the failed new City logo off the bridges. NO excuses for O'Connor, he was a legislator twelve years, he should be more capable, but then who voted for him?

gary4books

Sandblast? Bridges? Are you serious? Or is this another "joke?"

gary4books

This really calls for photographs from the air to show the retaining wall, the bridge and the pipelines under construction. A fly-by video would be great.

KellyAlzan

Well then go buy yourself a drone and have at it

gary4books

The FNP does lots of pictures. Why not this one. Just a suggestion. I would never be able to do this myself.

SFast61

I haven't been north of Rosemont Ave since this project started. The only reason I even go that far north is to get to work at Detrick. The north side of the city might as well not exist because traffic is so bad on all roads. Literally takes 20 minutes to go anywhere in Frederick now. Live here my whole life seriously considering moving out of Frederick in the near future.

cebcnb

It appears Milani's work in Frederick is similar to the work they have been doing in Emmitsburg. In north county the firm is replacing a bridge of much smaller scale over Flat Run Creek. See the timeline below as stated from the Carroll County Times dated 10/19/2016.

"The SHA project will replace the Md. 140 (East Main Street) Bridge over Flat Run and sidewalk construction along Md. 140 between North Avenue and Silo Hill Road in Emmitsburg, according to a release from SHA. Preliminary utility work is beginning this week, and the project will be complete summer 2018, weather permitting."

This project too is well past completion date without any final finishes to be completed in the near future. When I drove past this morning, the workers were building a concrete form to prepare for pouring the sidewall of the bridge.

Hopefully, Emmitsburgians will have E Main St returned to a state of normalcy before the year 2020...but I will not hold my breath or make any bets!

i heart frederick

Leave it to FNP to blame it on Randy somehow.

There's literally zero correlation between that project and his "ousting" in the last mayoral election. Nobody had an issue with the inception of this project, as its clearly necessary. The delays are the issue. The current mayor (useless as he's proven himself to be) needs to get better connected with the issues resident's face on a daily basis. This project is a big deal to those who live, work and commute through the east side of the city. Somebody needs to light a fire under public works and it should be him.

benedictus

From the beginning, people questioned setting up the project such that the bridge would be out for such a long time. I agree that it likely had little to do with his defeat though. Maybe a few votes were lost.

ABQ2013

This reminds me of the Ijamsville road project that dragged on for years-- a similar situation in which the entire road was closed for months on end, and no completion date in sight. It seems to me that county and city officials need to have more penalties in place for contractors that fail to meet deadlines.

KellyAlzan

It’s really concerning that the city has not offered an explanation. 2018 was a rainy wet year. Is that the reason? Is the contractor having financial issues? Are they uncovering unforeseen issues? What exactly is the delay?

i heart frederick

You have to assume if it was an uncontrollable issue (weather), they wouldn't have a problem disclosing that. Has to be something that makes them look bad. "Them" being the city or contractors.

KellyAlzan

Agreed. That was kinda my point :)

gary4books

Time is money to them. The more time they take the less it costs. To a point, of course. Time to turn up the heat.

rbtdt5

Mike needs to move on. Lets hope he is a one term mayor

gary4books

And why would you want another inexperienced Mayor to make more mistakes. Keep the one who knows.

rbtdt5

We have had other inexperienced mayors that didn't make mistakes like these. Lets get someone new and if they fail like this get someone new again. Mike has years of experience on the board so I see no excuse for his errors.

zzh7030

The response from both the Deputy Director and Mayor are utter nonsense. Why is the Deputy Director responding to this question, and not the Director? Mayor O’Connor has proven himself to be a weak and ineffectual leader in his short tenure. The debacle with the City logo and his response that this delay in completion is “disappointing” speaks volumes about him and his leadership. Perhaps the $50,000 failed City rebranding would have been better spent in the form of an incentive for the builder to complete the project by a timely hard date. O’Connor will hopefully decide that the City is best served by him returning to his former occupation as the mild-mannered political host on a local cable network. He is much better suited to that role than the one he has currently undertaken. Hopefully he can find the intestinal fortitude to step up, lead for a change, and bring this project to a much needed completion.

billykeyc

Thank you for writing this editorial because a voice needed to be given to the frustrated citizens who live, work, or operate businesses in this area. I do think attributing the mayoral election results to this may have been a bit of a stretch, but I really appreciate you giving this issue attention with a strong voice. This has been a headache since the first day the road closed and even though we are no experts on road construction, we have been questioning the project’s timeline and timeframe all along. They started the project right when MD-26 was still undergoing the final stages of construction between Routzahns Way and Monocacy, despite this being the exact stretch of road that had to absorb the majority of the traffic from closing Monocacy. That caused crippling traffic that has only slightly eased since the 26 construction was completed. As another commenter stated, it has also kept us from going downtown for dinner many nights. On May 22, 2019 when it had been reported in the FNP that the road would be opened by “late July to early August,” I was stunned. I told my wife I must have missed something when I drove by earlier in the week because it looked nowhere close to being done. I hate to question anyone’s word without knowing all the facts, but I find it incredibly difficult to understand how the contractors or the city could have actually believed this work was only a few weeks away from completion based on what we could see. For those questioning the intent of the current mayor in their comments, please look at the timeline of when this project started in the planning and construction phases. I am incredibly frustrated at the entire experience and am very happy that this editorial was written, but I don’t yet know where the blame should fall yet. I think asking for answers on a timeline is where we should be focused first then figure out why the public has been misled. This area has seen incredible growth and not leaving a passable section of the road open during construction has been even worse than expected, especially when the reason given for not leaving part of the road open was so it could be completed quicker.

As citizens we don’t expect miracles and understand there’s inconvenience when construction projects are going on, but just please be open and informative to what is actually going on. Since Wegmans, Lowe’s, Home Goods, Marshall’s, One Life Fitness, multiple other retail businesses, restaurants, and hundreds of houses, apartments, and condos have gone in, there is still only one entrance/exit to this entire area! In the past when I’ve asked city officials why the planned Mill Pond Rd extension to Monocacy hadn’t been completed they had no answer except it would be completed by the developers when Walmart went in. Walmart shopping center went in but construction on another way in and out of the area hasn’t even broken ground and nobody has a reason why. Just please be upfront with the community to what is actually going on.

Another issue is that Monocacy Blvd between 26 and 15 used to be closed to tractor trailers, but now it’s open despite no road improvements to prepare the road for truck use.

Many of us are not against development and are happy to see new businesses thriving in our area, but please prepare the infrastructure and be open with the citizens as the area grows if you want our trust and support.

Thanks again for writing this

Thanks



https://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/economy_and_business/monocacy-boulevard-project-on-pace-for-summer-opening/article_6659f02f-ad25-5681-88ef-32dcfa227d72.html

gary4books

I do not drive by the Monocacy construction, so I asked for aerial photographs and all and made no progress in getting them. Roger Wilson did take some pictures and share them. There was an aerial photo planned for early Spring this year, but for some reason, it never happened. I was told that there was nothing new in it. Apparently, they were right. No progress to show. Even Google maps has been slow to update its aerial map.


ABQ2013

Get some local teenager to send a drone over it!

gary4books

Drone: Great idea.[thumbup][thumbup]

FCPS-Principal

The Deputy Director of Public Works doesn't know when work on a contract with the County will be complete?? If the Deputy doesn't know the the Director doesn't know. That's pretty pathetic. In fact, that's damm pathetic.

Crusty Frederick Man 64

What has been paid in change orders ?

Frayou

Typical government mismanagement or inexperience. Unusual not having penalty clauses. Having outside contractors involvement such as gas, electric & water typically handled by general contractor with individual penalties as well. City leaders were too eager to begin process. These details likely would have delayed the start. Looks like process was not thought out. Inexperienced Government leaders.

ABG

Thank you.

mikec

With the closure, it's a pain to get to downtown Frederick. Because of this, we don't go to downtown Frederick as much. When we want good food we go to Mardones and pass on downtown.

gary4books

Doing things "the easy way" is not always fast or easy. Just "by gosh and by golly" and sooner or later it is way too late. They ought to expedite a finish and let it be.

huskycats

The previous article mentioned that there was no end date, therefore no penalties. Rather unheard of in the construction business.

gary4books

I suspect it was the only way they coud get the price they wanted.

KMRD1

Regardless when the road is done, Lord Frederick Michael O’Connor and his court jesters the alderman(at least 4/5ths if them) should be elected out.

DickD

Does the City control this contract? Most of it is outside of the City. Seems like this would be a County problem.

gary4books

No. Inside the City now. Many still call it "Gas House Pike."

gary4books

No. It NOT in the city. My presumption was wrong. Sorry.

gary4books

A quick jusgment is not always the best. Give them time and wait for the next election.

Reader1954

there must not have been a penalty clause in the contract. Otherwise you would think they would be working 24/7 to get the project done.

bzkaufman

The article does not mention whether the contractor will be subject to penalties for blowing through the finish date? Because businesses in that area have been penalized since the road was closed. Obviously, it has been a BIG problem moving around the city all over the east side for a LONG time. This affects my business in a very large way. What is the City doing to press for a quicker finish?

EABiker

If the contractor was building a 250 house development, I'd bet there would be kids swimming in backyard pools this summer!

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