The Town of Sykesville has partnered with Carroll County and the state of Maryland to give Main Street a rejuvenated look.
The State Highway Administration has proposed a Community Safety and Enhancement Project that will change some long-standing features of the historic town, said Ayende Thomas, SHA project manager.
"Typically for projects like this, we improve the roadway, sidewalks and the design of the drainage system," Thomas said. "Any signage will be looked at too."
Dennis German, division chief of the design program at the SHA, said the town has also shown interest in adding pedestrian lighting. The SHA has asked the town to contribute in that endeavor.
"[The SHA] would assume the cost of design and infrastructure," German said. "That means conduits, the foundations of lighting and hand boxes. Anything other than that for lighting would be a 50/50 split between the town and the SHA."
Thomas was put in charge of the project in the beginning of the year and will oversee it from design to construction.
Preliminary limits of the project cover about a mile of Main Street, Thomas said, starting south of the bridge crossing the Patapsco, and following the road north through downtown Sykesville to where it intersects with Third Avenue.
SHA and Sykesville will be holding a public meeting to get feedback from residents and business owners in the area 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22, at Sykesville's Town Hall. Though there aren't any other public meetings planned, Thomas said she expects there will be meetings in the future. The SHA wants to work closely with the town to determine exactly what is wanted and what is needed, she said.
"We are hoping to get some ideas from residents and businesses to find out what they would like to see in the design process," Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw said.
The SHA is still early in the conceptual phase, Thomas said. This should take about a year to complete after which they will begin designing an enhanced Main Street.
The town requested and secured the funds from the state for the conceptual stage last year, Shaw said.
"It's pretty unprecedented to get the funding in the same year you request it," he said. "We were excited about that. I think the county and state realized this is an opportunity to take advantage of [an opportunity] to work with the state, county and town."
Shaw said $500,000 was budgeted for this phase. The design phase will require additional funding, but he said he was not sure how much will be needed for that.
"It's a process; first you have to get the money to do the initial conceptualization," he said. "Once conceptualizing is done, we'll request money for design, and when that is complete, we'll request money for construction. You can't ever request money to have it built until these things are in place. Once they are, they'll have an idea of what they'll need to budget."
Shaw said he first heard of the Community Safety and Enhancement Project around this time last year at a presentation held by the SHA outlining what sort of work would be done and the advantages to the town.
"We've been having some infrastructure issues down on Main Street, so this was a good time to work together with the state and the county to get these issues addressed and possibly do Streetscape at the same time," he said.
For years, Shaw said, the Town Council has wanted to get involved with the state's Streetscape program, which is an effort separate from the Community Safety and Enhancement Project that deals specifically with the revitalization of state highways that run through cities. Many of these roads have been bypassed by larger highways, Shaw said. In the early 1960s, the completion of Md. 32 in the Sykesville area cut the town off from major traffic flow and successfully limited access to the town.
"It is no longer in the state's best interest to own [Md. 851] because Md. 32 bypasses the town," Shaw said.
The Streetscape program includes work such as sewer and water infrastructure, and road paving and repair. Once the program is completed, ownership of the highway is handed over to the town. That also means the town would absorb future repair costs.
"The initial investment [from the state] is high, but they save over the long haul with maintenance and the town gets the benefit of having control of the road," he said. "We'll be able to close the road whenever we want for festivals and events."
The SHA is planning on doing the work for the enhancement project and Streetscape at the same time so that the road will only need to be worked on once, Shaw said. The $500,000 budgeted for the enhancement project will also be used to start conceptualizing the Streetscape program.
"We want to have the least amount of disruption possible for residents and businesses too," he said.
German said the time frame to begin construction is some time in 2017, and the additions and improvements could take up to two years to complete. Luckily, he said, Md. 851 is asphalt, not concrete.
"When you take down a concrete roadway, you go down about 8 to 9 inches," he said. "Normally with asphalt its fairly easy. Maintaining traffic though the town is a must, but we haven't worked out those details yet."
When both projects are completed, the town will not only benefit from improved amenities, but will gain control of the main thoroughfare for the town, Shaw said. Hopefully, this will make the commute of residents more comfortable, a trek by visitors to the town more desirable and make businesses in the downtown area more profitable, he said. All of these things hinge on the condition of Md. 851, he said.
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"[Sykesville] will have a road that can last 20 to 25 years; that's what we're hoping," Shaw said.
Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go:
What: Informational Public Meeting
Where: Sykesville's Town Hall, 7547 Main St., Sykesville
When: 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22.
For More Information: Contact the Town Hall at 410-795-8959.