APG commuting times expected to be five times higher by 2015

A nine-minute trip between I-95 and Route 715 today is expected to take 47.6 minutes during rush hour by 2015, making that route to Aberdeen Proving Ground a traffic priority, Harford County's BRAC coordinator Steven Overbay told the Harford County Council Tuesday.

Those projections are based on data from the Maryland State Highway Administration comparing trips in 2006 and estimated trips in 2015. 

Trips are expected to increase because of the limited access points to APG, the assumptions that no intersections along Route 22 will be upgraded before 2015 and the middle gate at APG will remain closed to inbound traffic, Overbay explained later via e-mail.

BRAC brought about 8,200 direct jobs to APG with another 7,000 to 10,000 anticipated before 2017, he wrote.

Council President Billy Boniface said the statistics show that traveling in that area, along Route 22, has been steadily getting slower.

"I think it's the number one priority, really," Boniface said. "It is getting worse. You can notice it happening day after day and pretty soon we're not going to be able to travel."

Overbay said there is talk of a future stimulus package.

"That is really what everyone is preparing for," he said. "That's why the push has really been getting [projects] to design level…We have a great case to make as to why these roads should be selected and prioritized in our state."

He said the state has a $60 billion backlog in highway projects, and is considering options like a 10-cent gas tax. That tax, however, would only raise about $22 million.

Other options include proposing a front footage charge for every property that abuts a state, county or municipal road, he said.

"Sprawling properties require more roadway and you would pay your fair share, so to speak," he said.

A project already under way to improve the intersection of Routes 40 and 715 is expected to help that commute, but "you can see that we do have our work cut out for us," Steven Overbay told the council at their meeting. He also briefed council members on some other BRAC-related road construction projects.

Ground was broken for the 40/715 intersection project in December 2010 and pavement completion was set for the end of October. Work around the intersection will include a new stoplight.

"We are going to have a year's worth of a detour around Aberdeen Proving Ground, which will create some traffic issues along Route 40," Overbay said. "This is a good-news project. This is a $43 million project that is actually fully funded, so we expect completion of that by summer 2013."

He listed some transit statistics from different parts of the county, noting at least 80 percent of commuters drive alone and only up to 2.9 percent of residents anywhere use transit to get to Aberdeen Proving Ground.

A project to widen Route 7, with two left-turn lanes onto the east side of Route 40, will be advertised Dec. 13; the road is scheduled to be open for traffic in January 2014.

Design for construction at Route 22 and Paradise Road was funded 35 percent and is eligible for defense access road funding. Overbay said the county would have to get rights of way from 16 homeowners, and a semi-final review was expected in October.

The design for Route 22 and Old Post Road is 90 percent funded, but it has no construction dollars.

Councilman Dick Slutzky said he would like to see bus transportation included in any future studies.

"If we had a significant improvement in large or double-decker buses that would transport people from Bel Air to Aberdeen Proving Ground, from a rest stop in Cecil County, from White Marsh, we could significantly cut down on the single [drivers]," he said. "The problem is people will only take buses if they're convenient and safe."

Overbay agreed and said that has been a priority.

"To date, APG has never really had one. It is in the discussion," he said.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti suggested high-speed, water-based transportation, which has been used in other regions.

Overbay said there has already been discussion of that, although the main concern is security.

"We have had an incredible amount of interest in that very thing. We've heard from companies interested in ferry service to open up the Eastern Shore for employment," he said. "The reason it's not being considered is because Aberdeen Proving Ground does some testing over the water, which could be unpleasant [for a commuter]…The beauty of the gates is they can manage who comes in and out of the facility very well."

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