Officials ramp up road plans

A proposal to build a new ramp off the Baltimore Beltway to Southwestern Boulevard in downtown Arbutus could become part of a regional transportation plan after the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board votes on the matter June 28.

The new ramp would allow the Maryland State Highway Administration to close an existing ramp on Leeds Avenue that has been a source of concern for a group of residents who live along the street.

"This is something that has been considered as part of SHA's long-term strategy to improve the Beltway," said Fran Ward, community liaison for Baltimore and Harford Counties at the SHA.

Based on a 2007 concept study, the SHA determined that its "preferred alternative" would be to close the Leeds Avenue ramp by building a ramp and bridge that would connect Southwestern Boulevard to northbound Interstate 695 by crossing over Leeds Avenue, Ward said.

Before SHA could attempt to find funding for the design and construction of the ramp, Ward said the project had to go before the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, an organization that does long-range planning for Baltimore City and five surrounding counties, to be included in the long-range transportation plan for the region.

The SHA submitted a request to the regional board to amend the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program to include the ramp proposal with an existing SHA study to widen I-695 from the southwest interchange of I-95 to Security Boulevard, Ward said in a June 3 email.

The regional board held a public meeting about the proposal on May 16 in Arbutus.

A public comment period on the plan ended June 6.

If the regional board approves the highway administration's request, it would enable $1 million in funding so the SHA could begin the engineering/design phase for the ramp study, Ward said in the email.

Ward cautioned that residents shouldn't expect to see the project start anytime in the immediate future.

"This is not something that's going to happen this year," she said.

If the proposal is added to the transportation plan, Ward said the SHA would begin looking for the additional funding needed to design the project.

That process could take several years, as SHA would need to do engineering, conduct environmental studies and determine whether there are any right-of-way or property issues in the proposed area, Ward said.

"If the project is approved and we were able to move forward with the project, it would be several years before it could even go to the construction (phase) and that would also depend on construction funding availability," she said.

The Baltimore Regional Transportation Board will meet at 9 a.m. June 28 at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council offices at 1500 Whetstone Way, Suite 300, in Baltimore.

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