State Highway Administration officials provided an in-depth look Wednesday night into the first phase of Gov. Larry Hogan's $152-million improvement project to widen Route 32 from a two-lane road to a four-lane divided highway between Route 108 and Interstate 70.
Officials from Howard and Carroll counties have pushed for commuter improvements along the corridor to reduce traffic in the northern Howard and southeast Carroll County regions. Hogan unveiled the three-phase project in January 2016.
During a public meeting June 28, SHA district engineer John Concannon said construction crews will begin the first phase of the project in late August to early September to widen Route 32 between Route 108 and Linden Church Road. Improvements will cost approximately $33 million, split between Howard County and the state.
Phase II, which should begin construction in 2019, will widen the road between Linden Church Road and I-70 and replace the bridge on Tridelphia Road over Route 32. Phase III is in the preliminary stages as the state studies how to widen Route 32 from I-70 to Route 26 in Eldersburg.
This strip of roadway is expected to see traffic almost double by 2035, Concannon said.
Phase I is broken down into three zones, beginning with grading — making the ground level — about 3,000 feet south of the Linden Church Road interchange and continuing to Route 108.
Montgomery County-based contracting company Concrete General will oversee the project.
"The contractor will be placing temporary concrete barrier walls along the southbound shoulder of Route 32," Concannon said. "That shoulder will be narrowed and then all the excavation and earth work will take place behind that barrier wall."
Once completed, crews will move the barrier north toward the Linden Church Road interchange along the southbound shoulder and continue grading. Construction will create two 12-foot lanes and shoulders, and a 34-foot open section median.
The new travel lanes will eventually become southbound lanes on Route 32, while its original lanes are converted for northbound drivers.
"Because the lanes can be added outside of the existing travel lanes, it lends itself nicely to provide a project where there's very little impact to the daily commuter," Concannon said.
Other projects, such as the third-lane construction on northbound Route 29, are more difficult, he said, since crews have to shift traffic from the median to the outer area.
Widening the roadway on Route 32 will provide a better commuter experience, Concannon said. All through-lanes will stay open during morning and evening peak travel times, only closing temporarily at off-peak times.
However, there will be some impact to traffic when the project reaches the ramps at southbound Route 32 and Linden Church Road. Concannon said crews can only close the ramp, which carries traffic from Linden Church Road onto southbound Route 32, for one 48-hour period due to its fairly high volume of traffic. A detour will take drivers around the construction using southbound Ten Oaks Road.
"That's necessary to make some tie-in work and minor modifications to that ramp as it meets the new lands being constructed on Route 32," he said. "The other ramp, which comes from southbound Route 32 onto Linden Church Road, is going to potentially be closed for about six months [but] doesn't carry as high a volume of traffic."
The longer closure will provide time to build a larger storm water management pond in the area and realign the ramp to meet the revitalized roadway. Multiple drainage and box culverts — pipes that allow underground water flow — will be installed in addition to storm water ponds and low tracts of land to keep pollutants from reaching nearby streams.
Off-site mitigation is completed, Concannon said. About 1.4 acres of wetlands; 4,000 feet of stream; 9.4 acres of floodplain; and 33 acres of forest will be impacted.
Jason Stolicny, the design project manager, said environmental studies were completed back in 2005 to prepare for the interchanges at Linden Church and Burntwoods roads. The design team will "avoid and minimize" any potential impacts to the environment; however, he said there will be significant tree clearings.
"But, we're also going to be meeting all of our Department of Natural Resources requirements to either replant on-site for every acre of trees we impact or compensate them monetarily," Stolicny said.
Noise levels were studied along the entire corridor using the federal and Maryland Department of Transportation/SHA regulations, he added.
"None of the impacted communities qualify for a noise barrier based on the policy as set forth by the state," Stolicny said. "It's something that we follow strictly."
Dayton resident Russ Crobett said he has lived about half a mile away from Route 32 for 41 years, watching the roadway become busier. The widening project is essential for the growing traffic numbers, he said.
"I'm willing to put up with whatever inconvenience we have and we will have some inconvenience" from construction, Crobett said. "I live off of Morning Star Drive and every time there's a back-up on 32, everybody takes Ten Oaks Road and you literally can't get out of the subdivision. You're sitting there 20 minutes, waiting to get in."
"It's about time," said Dottie Cook, another Dayton resident. "My only concern is that, even today, people know how to cut through our neighborhood [when there's traffic]. We want to see more police presence while this is going on."
Phase I should conclude with landscaping and reforestation by late fall 2018, including the relocation of utilities and fiber networks such as Verizon and Lightower.
More public meetings are planned during the construction to provide updates on the project's status, and SHA will post information on the project on its website.
The State Highway Administration also announced Wednesday that it will begin resurfacing another portion of Route 32 between the Middle Patuxent River and Route 108 in July. The $2.9-million project will patch, grind, pave and restripe more than 3 miles of roadway, which should be completed by late fall.
Resurfacing will be completed overnight between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays. A temporary lane closure is expected during construction hours, with barrels, signage and boards directing traffic through the work zone.