By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun
3:50 PM EDT, August 26, 2012
Ever since Harford County learned that the nationwide military base realignment would bring up to 10,000 new jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground, officials and residents have pushed for road improvements around the Army base.
Average daily traffic on Route 715 to and from the installation grew from 7,950 vehicles in 2004, the year before the Base Realignment and Closure process was announced, to 12,612 in 2011, according to the State Highway Administration. Traffic on U.S. 40 near the post increased by nearly 3,000 vehicles per day.
"As we prepared for BRAC, our No. 1 roads priority was upgrades to intersections closest to the installation," said Karen Holt, who manages a consortium of government agencies and business groups formed to promote economic development in the region.
Work has begun on an $18 million upgrade to the busy intersection at U.S. 40 and Route 715 in Aberdeen and will continue for about another year.
Teresa Kaltenbacher, a spokeswoman for Aberdeen Proving Ground, was away for nine weeks at Fort Meade when the project began June 29. When she returned, she expected that the construction would lengthen the daily drive from her home in Abingdon.
"I was pleasantly surprised at how little disruption there is," she said. "My commute was the same, if not quicker. The temporary light actually improved traffic flow. We don't have stacking cars on Route 40 anymore."
Planning was the key, said Fran Ward, community liaison for the State Highway Administration.
"We did a lot of outreach with APG, the town and the residents," she said. "Everyone has had advance notice, and we continually monitor what is happening."
The big test might be Monday, when summer vacation ends and area schools reopen for the first time since the project began, Ward said. While traffic will increase, she believes motorists will continue to adapt to the changing patterns.
The county has also worked with the many manufacturers and distributors located along the corridor to reduce the impact of the construction on truck traffic.
"So far, we have cleared all major hurdles," said Denise Carnaggio, deputy director of Harford's economic development department.
Other Maryland communities affected by BRAC are also seeing improvements.
About $100 million in planning, design, property acquisition and construction is budgeted for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. The work is intended to relieve congestion, improve pedestrian access and support modes of transportation around the expanded hospital.
Two projects are under way, including improvements at Route 185 and Jones Bridge Road, at a cost of $10 million, and a $10 million utility project at Route 355 and Cedar Lane.
About $55 million is allocated for upgrades around Fort Meade. A $19 million project on Route 175 at Rockenbach and Disney roads is under way.
Aberdeen Proving Ground saw the completion of the state's first BRAC-related improvement in 2009. The $23 million renovation of the main entrance included a visitors center, extensive upgrades to the security system and a seven-lane gateway with five lanes for cars and two for delivery and construction vehicles.
Officials say the new gate has made trips onto the base much quicker and smoother for commuters and visitors.
That success bodes well for road improvements still in the planning stage, Ward said. Most are part of a $9 million project to enhance safety and increase capacity along the Route 22 corridor.
"This is a tightly choreographed operation that shows the public that BRAC has really happened at APG," Ward said. "We will continue to work with the community and monitor progress throughout the next year. Commuters only have to dial 511 to learn what is going on."
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