Lewis Lane traffic change to be brought before Havre de Grace city council

The plan to close part of Lewis Lane in Havre de Grace for construction at the railroad crossing is being delayed after Grace Manor residents complained about the road closure and the impact it was having on traffic in their community, city public works director Larry Parks said Tuesday.

Lewis Lane was set to be closed for two months beginning April 23 between Route 40, just west of the CSX railroad tracks.

The city council will take up the issue at its meeting Monday night, including looking into the possibility of a permanent change in traffic patterns for Grace Manor, Parks said.

Roughly 160 residents in the Grace Manor community received a letter about a week ago telling them the extensive project will require a temporary traffic change. Starting this past Monday, Grace Manor Drive was set to become one-way from Chapel Road to Joe Hill Drive, and Joe Hill Drive set to become one-way to Chapel Road.

Parks said the city DPW believed the new traffic pattern would have made it safer for the 300 or so cars that exit through Lewis Lane every day.

"We just felt it would flow better," he said.

Residents, however, e-mailed and called the city in opposition to the plan, with some being concerned that the temporary change would become permanent.

Parks, however, said a permanent change would not be possible without approval first from the mayor and city council.

A survey has since also gone out to residents asking if they want Grace Manor Drive and Joe Hill Drive to remain one-way after construction is completed.

"We might as well ask them," Parks said, adding he hopes to prevent misinformation and confusion.

"Any time something like this happens, people don't always get it right," he said. "It's on hold at least until the mayor and council listen to it."

He said he just hopes to get the project done by July 4. He said the contractor, Frank J. Goettner, has 53 days to get work done around the railroad crossing.

The nearly $300,000 project involves raising the grade of Lewis Lane by the railroad crossing so it is easier to navigate, installing some drainage systems, adding a median turn lane and adding sidewalks extending just past the shopping center.

The city has worked for almost two years to secure permits from both CSX and the State Highway Administration, Parks said.

John Van Gilder, a spokesman for the city, said he realizes people use Grace Manor as a cut-through to Route 40 and the east side of town to avoid exiting onto the complicated intersection of Chapel Road and Ohio Street.

He said the public works department has been working with State Highway Administration, which owns Ohio Street, on a better traffic solution at that intersection.

"It is a concern to all of us, really," Van Gilder said Wednesday. "We are working to try to come up with a long-term solution. I don't know if the more desirable solution will be found while we are doing the Lewis Lane construction piece."

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