BY BRYNA ZUMER, email@example.com
11:00 PM EDT, June 27, 2012
Sixteen Aberdeen homeowners will lose their houses, and about 60 more could lose part of their properties, as the State Highway Administration moves forward with plans to widen parts of Route 22 between I-95 and Route 40.
State officials confirmed at a public meeting Wednesday they plan to buy 16 properties on Route 22 around the Paradise Road intersection for the major, BRAC-related intersection improvement project.
Other details for the project, which is estimated to cost $7 million to $10 million per intersection, are yet to be finalized.
The SHA is working on designs to add a third through-lane to both sides of Route 22, add a left-turn lane from Route 22 onto Beards Hill Road and widen parts of Beards Hill, Paradise and Old Post roads.
Besides the 16 houses to be destroyed, about 59 properties would be affected if the SHA were to purchase rights-of-way along Route 22.
A noise-barrier wall is also proposed just east of the Paradise Road intersection.
The project has not been funded yet and is set to start construction in the spring of 2015, to be open for traffic by spring of 2017.
Several residents who stand to lose their homes attended the public meeting Wednesday at Aberdeen High School, joining many others from surrounding neighborhoods.
Karen and Ewan Pinnock were notified a year ago they might have to give up their house at Roberts Way, where they have lived for nine years. About a week ago, they got a letter saying it was certain.
"I'm upset," Karen Pinnock said, visibly emotional about her prospects. "I don't have an idea of what we are going to do."
She did not know if she and Ewan would stay in Aberdeen, but said she refused to start looking until they get a concrete offer from the state.
"I really like the area. I didn't think I was going to relocate," she said, acknowledging the traffic is a problem on their street.
"I must say that it's been quite dangerous," she said. "If they didn't do anything, it would be the best, but I understand they have to because of the traffic."
Beth and Claude Lapointe, who also got a letter dated June 14, have lived on Roberts Way since 1971.
"We were going to die in that house," Claude Lapointe said, explaining grimly he had just done extensive renovations to the home.
Now he is considering moving farther west.
"Under no circumstances would we stay in Maryland," he said. "I think this is a horrible situation."
Claude Lapointe does not think the project is a good way to relieve traffic, and said he has been unable to reach government officials to talk about it after he submitted a comment sheet at a previous public meeting.
"Nobody has any record of any comment sheets," he said, adding he has talked with engineers from Harford County and from the Aberdeen Proving Ground about the project.
"They are unanimous that this will not solve the traffic problem," he said. "It's going to create a traffic hazard. You have got schoolkids crossing that highway."
The SHA should connect Route 715 to I-95 instead, he said.
"Not only will that handle the traffic problem, but it will alleviate the traffic problem that is getting worse on Route 7," he pointed out.
He said he has not been especially worried about traffic on Route 22.
"We have watched the traffic and we know when it gets worse," he said.
The SHA did have rights-of-way specialists available Wednesday to talk to concerned homeowners.
"We are in the beginning stages," SHA spokeswoman Fran Ward explained about the project. "I think there would be adjustments made."
The razing of the 16 homes, however, is definitely final, SHA real property manager Tom Hinchcliffe said.
Hinchcliffe said he does not expect any formal offer to be made to the residents for at least two months, pending an appraisal process, an environmental document and other formalities.
The homes would be razed quickly after being bought, Ward said.
"We do understand the neighborhood's concern about vacant houses," she said.
Project manager Lindsay Bobian said most residents asked about the construction schedule, how the project might affect their daily trips and how any sound barriers might work.
She also said residents along Route 22 already face significant traffic hazards.
"Their condition today is unsafe," she said.
Bobian said she did not have a rebuttal to claims that the project would not alleviate traffic.
"The analysis shows it's going to get better," she said, explaining the intersections are expected to fail in the near future if improvements are not made.
"Some people say, 'If you build it, they will come,'" she added about the common theory that widening roads increases traffic over the long term.
She said design is expected to be done this winter, with the Old Post Road being closest to completion. The Beards Hill intersection is only about 65 percent complete, and the Paradise Road intersection is closer to 90 percent completion.
Aberdeen residents who were less directly impacted by the project are nevertheless skeptical about it.
Bill Braerman, a planning commission member, lives next to a house that is expected to be razed.
"Do they have the money to buy the people out?" he wondered, adding that his neighbors "are not happy about it because it's not the right way to solve the problem."
He said the project does not make sense because SHA does not have money to widen the Route 40 overpass, which is where it is needed.
"They don't have money to do the job right," he said. "I think it's a waste of money."
The mentality, he said, is "when you have BRAC money, let's spend it."
Braerman added he is "not fine" with the razing of the 16 houses.
"They are nice, well-maintained," he said.
Cathleen and Robert Bartholomew, of Colaine Drive, also are unsure the project would alleviate traffic and wish it would include more pedestrian improvements.
Robert Bartholomew said people have been killed at the Beards Hill intersection, and more sidewalks are needed along Route 22 connecting Middleton Road to Graceford Drive.
"Aberdeen has people who walk because they have to," he said. "I think if they are going to do this, they need to put in more sidewalks."
He nevertheless understood why the project is happening.
"BRAC created the traffic and we are accommodating the traffic," he said. "We have no choice."
George Rusche said his home backs up to Route 22, and he could lose part of his yard.
"I don't like the idea at all," he said, although he does like the possibility of a noise wall.
"You are taking away nature and putting in construction that you are looking at," he said about the effect of the project. "I am not happy about any of it."
Diagrams of the proposed project are expected to be on the SHA website soon. For more information, contact Lindsay Bobian, 410-545-8765 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.roads.maryland.gov.