The Route 22 morass [Editorial]

Well-intentioned though it may have been, the reconstruction of three key intersections along Route 22 in Aberdeen will go down as one of the most star-crossed public works projects in Harford County history.

Conceived more than a decade ago during the initial euphoria around the last round of military based relocations and closings known as BRAC, the project was touted as necessary to allow all those people coming to Aberdeen Proving Ground a speedy way to get to and from work.

While that goal remains, the project has been a tale of misery from the spring of 2012, when 18 Aberdeen families learned, much to their surprise, that their homes would be razed to accommodate the improvements planned at Old Post Road, Paradise Road and Beards Hill Road. A year later, the homes were gone.

Nearly five years later, the project itself has slogged along, with only one of the three intersections, Old Post Road, completed. The Maryland State Highway Administration, which is responsible for the project, insists the rest of the work should be completed by the fall of this year, though minor tasks could take until the end of the year or early next year, depending on the weather. Given the current state of work at both Beards Hill and Paradise roads, it's still difficult to believe that will happen.

The SHA has laid part of the blame for the length of the project on the City of Aberdeen concerning the relocation of water and sewer lines, where there was a dispute over whether SHA or the city was responsible for paying for them. Frankly, that issue should have been resolved in 2012 before construction began.

Several business owners complained to the Aberdeen City Council at its latest meeting on May 8 that the congestion caused by the construction at Beards Hill Road is causing them to lose customers. But, even when the project is finally completed, they also have concerns that improved highway will just enable people speeding between Interstate 95 and the APG gate to zoom on by their businesses without stopping.

Nobody appears too happy about this project. BRAC never brought the people to Aberdeen, or to Harford County, that state, county and city officials had hoped to see. People lost their homes. Business owners lost business. And the Route 22 project continues toward an uncertain completion.

At this stage, about all we can say is this was a $45 million-plus public works project that appears to have been ill-conceived and poorly planned and the best all of us can do at this point is hope for better times down that supposedly improved highway.

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