Maryland transportation secretary reviews Route 22 upgrades with Harford leaders

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Improvements to Route 22, whether it was Harford County leaders’ desire to make the entire length between Bel Air and Aberdeen four lanes, or Aberdeen residents’ desire to see an end to three years of construction, dominated the conversation between Harford officials and Maryland’s transportation secretary Monday.

Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn and other top Maryland Department of Transportation officials appeared before five of Harford’s state legislators in the Harford County Council chambers in Bel Air Monday morning. Rahn was there for the Harford stop on MDOT’s annual tour of the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

“We understand there’s always more projects than there is funding,” Republican Del. Andrew Cassilly, whose district includes Route 22 between the Interstate 95 interchange near Aberdeen and the east end of the Town of Bel Air, said.

A number of Harford County leaders, such as County Executive Barry Glassman and Councilman Chad Shrodes, were also in attendance, along with representatives of municipalities such as Bel Air and Havre de Grace.

State Sens. Wayne Norman and Robert Cassilly and Dels. Susan McComas, Andrew Cassilly and House delegation chair Teresa Reilly, all Republicans, sat on the County Council dais as Rahn addressed them.

Andrew Cassilly said the state and county have been “making great strides” in improvements to Route 22.

He said the “pinch point” for congestion is in Churchville where the highway shrinks from four to two lanes, and the goal of local leaders is to make all of Route 22 “a continuous stretch of four-lane road.”

McComas also had concerns about lane shifts on Route 22, and she mentioned speeding there and along Route 543 east of Bel Air.

“[Route] 22 goes from four to two [lanes], and it’s quite a vast area and people do speed,” she said.

Route 22 is one of Harford’s most heavily-traveled roads, and the intersection with Route 543 is heavily used.

Rahn mentioned, among the multiple highway projects on state-maintained roads in Harford County, a $6.5 million project to resurface Route 22 between Prospect Mill Road in Bel Air and Route 136 in Churchville.

The project, which Rahn said should be finished by late fall 2018, includes widening Route 22 between Prospect Mill and Thomas Run Road/Schucks Road.

Rahn presented the state’s Consolidated Transportation Program, or its draft capital budget, Monday for the years 2018 to 2023.

He did not mention any other planned projects along Route 22. The CTP includes a project to make a 5.5-mile stretch of Route 1, another heavily-traveled route in the greater Bel Air area, a “multilane highway” between Route 152 and the Hickory Bypass.

The planning is complete, but no funding has been allocated for construction through the next five years, according to the document.

Aberdeen update

“We sincerely appreciate the patience of Aberdeen’s citizens and elected officials as we work to complete construction,” Rahn said of Route 22 improvements in Aberdeen.

Rahn said transportation officials expect the Route 22 project in Aberdeen, which has been overseen by the State Highway Administration, will be complete by summer 2018.

The $46 million project started in 2014. It involves the widening of portions of Aberdeen’s main four-lane thoroughfare, which required acquiring and razing 18 dwellings, as well as building noise-reduction walls and making extensive improvements to the intersections at Beards Hill Road, Paradise Road and Old Post Road.

“The Old Post Road improvements have already been completed. Paradise Road improvements are expected to be finished by next spring, and improvements at the Beards Hill Road intersection “continue to move forward,” Rahn said.

Sen. Robert Cassilly, whose district includes Aberdeen, said he expects motorists will appreciate the improvements once they are finished.

Cassilly called the project “a heck of a shot in the arm for Aberdeen, just on presentation of the community.”

Rahn reiterated that “we do appreciate the patience of everyone.” He said the project, which has been delayed over issues with relocating city utilities in the Route 22 right of way, “is a great example of how utilities can delay us in ways we certainly do not anticipate.”

Federal funding has covered the majority of the cost of the project, which has been designated a BRAC improvement project to facilitate the anticipated growth of Aberdeen Proving Ground during the 2005-2011 BRAC process.

Other projects, traffic safety

Rahn gave updates on multiple ongoing highway improvement projects in Harford, such as the start of the second phase this year of another BRAC project to improve the intersection of Route 40 and Route 7/Route 159 near Aberdeen.

That second phase should be complete by fall 2019, Rahn said.

A $5.8 million project to improve Route 755 in Edgewood, between the MARC commuter rail station and Willoughby Beach Road, should be complete by the end of 2017, according to Rahn.

Safety improvements at Route 23 and Grafton Shop Road in Forest Hill are underway, with left-turn lanes along Route 23, according to Rahn. Those improvements, along with turn lanes and a traffic signal at Harford Road and Connolly Road in Fallston, should be done by next summer, he said.

Shrodes, who represents northern Harford, said his constituents have made repeated requests for a roundabout at Route 23 and Grafton Shop. He said residents send him notifications and photos to indicate traffic accidents at that intersection on a regular basis.

Shrodes praised the improvements that have been made, but “ultimately, we really want a roundabout.”

David Glenn, president of the Havre de Grace City Council, petitioned Rahn for help in improving traffic safety at Ohio and Ontario Streets. He said city officials created a right-turn only lane from Ontario onto Ohio, which is designated Route 155, earlier this year, but he does not expect it will be a “quick fix” to the issue of accidents at the intersection.

“We just have to get together to come up with a viable solution,” he said.

Strong relationship

Rahn said the state is directing $12.4 million in Highway User Revenues over the next six years to Harford and its three municipalities for local road projects.

The county executive expressed his desire for Hogan to fully fund highway user revenues — county and municipal officials in Harford and other jurisdictions have petitioned the state for years to return HUR funding to pre-Great Recession levels.

Glassman said Harford uses about $15 million in bond funding each year to repair county roads.

“That’s money our taxpayers pay in [that] I think should come back to the county so that we can maintain our roads better,” he said.

Rahn said his agency is still working on a draft scoring system for transportation projects across the state. Officials plan to present a draft at the Maryland Association of Counties’ winter conference in December.

“I need to stress that this system will have no impact on the selection of projects,” Rahn said. “It is advisory only and it will be placed in the CTP as an appendix.”

Rahn and the Harford County leaders, in return, praised the strong working relationship between Harford and the state.

“We want communication to be open year round, and we are available to assist as we can throughout the year,” Rahn said.

Glassman thanked local MDOT employees, such as those at the SHA’s Churchville Shop, for helping to keep roads in Harford County in operation.

“Please share our local thanks for all of the hard work that they do to assist us,” Glassman said.

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