A heavily traveled section of Harford County highway is getting a $6.5 million makeover as workers begin resurfacing and widening portions of Route 22 between Prospect Mill Road and Route 136 in the vicinity of Harford Community College and Churchville.
The work will be arranged to minimize disruptions for drivers on a section of highway where backups occur frequently, said a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, which is overseeing the project. The work also includes improvements for bicycle riders and pedestrians.
Construction started Tuesday and is expected to be finished by fall 2018, according to the SHA.
The project is designed to ease congestion and improve safety, according to an SHA news release. Included is the addition of a "continuous second through lane" in both directions between the Prospect Mill Road and Thomas Run/Schucks Road intersections, the latter leading to the main entrances of the college.
The rest of the highway will remain two lanes between Thomas Run and Route 136 in Churchville, but it will be resurfaced, State Highway Administration spokesperson Charlie Gischlar said.
"Most of it is a safety resurfacing; however, there is that through-lane widening that's going to be happening," he said.
Workers will resurface and put new lane markings on the road, build highway shoulders that can be used by bicycle riders, upgrade the crosswalks and sidewalk ramps and make the sidewalk along the eastbound side accessible for people with disabilities, the SHA said.
Finally, workers will upgrade the traffic signals, improve the roadway drainage system, build "bio-swales" — vegetated channels that help with stormwater management — and add landscaping, according to the news release.
The Route 22 improvements are part of a wish list of nearly $28 million worth of local transportation projects Harford County Executive Barry Glassman's administration submitted to MDOT last year in hopes of getting them funded.
"We appreciate Governor Hogan, Transportation Secretary Rahn and our Harford County delegation for their assistance on this request," Glassman said in a statement issued Thursday through his spokesperson, Cindy Mumby. "This project had been our top priority for state funding and we are pleased to see it moving forward to reduce traffic congestion and improve public safety."
About 23,000 vehicles a day pass through that section of Route 22, according to SHA.
Much of the work will be done at night, since the area is so busy, and lanes will be kept open, but possibly shifted, when work is being done during the day, Gischlar said.
"All lanes will be maintained during the day, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., but they may be shifted accordingly, depending on the work that needs to be done," he said Thursday.
If a lane does need to be closed, it will only be closed at night.
"Because that's such a busy area, that's going to necessitate a night operation," he explained.
Gischlar added that "a lot of this work is going to be done behind concrete barriers."
Motorists are encouraged to plan "extra travel time" during construction, he said.
Drivers should be on the lookout for temporary lane shifts or closures during "off-peak" hours, such as 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday or 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Friday.
"We encourage SHA to work closely with the contractor during the construction phase to minimize any inconvenience for travelers and maintain access to area businesses, residences and Harford Community College," Glassman stated.
Gischlar stressed access to the college and business will be maintained.
Route 22 is a key link between Bel Air and Aberdeen — the SHA is also overseeing extensive improvements to Route 22 in Aberdeen between Beards Hill Road and the main gate to Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The stretch getting the two addition travel lanes is barely a quarter mile long, and the section of Route 22 between Route 543 and Prospect Mill Road will remain two lanes.
Gischlar said MDOT is developing its updated Consolidated Transportation Plan, its six-year list of transportation improvement projects statewide.
"We try to adjust funding to try to meet whatever we can in each county that needs funding," he said.
He added that "right now we want to get this section done" on Route 22 between Prospect Mill and Route 136.