The three most critical highway construction needs in Harford County, not in any particular order, are widening the Bel Air Bypass to four lanes in both directions between Winters Run in Fallston and Route 1 in Hickory; widening Route 152 to two lanes in each direction from at least Route 1 in Fallston to Interstate 95 in Joppa; and widening Route 22 by two lanes in each direction from Route 543 in Fountain Green to Long Drive in Aberdeen.
All three roads are state highways that for the most part look like they belong in the 1950s or 1960s. The Bypass is downright dangerous because of its high speed and limited access. Route 22 and Route 152 are congested beyond rational explanation. Have an accident on any one at the wrong time of day, particularly during the morning and afternoon/evening rush hour, and chaos ensues, because there are few relief points for traffic to leave and get somewhere.
If you have read this far, well, we know you've not seen anything you didn't already know. You also know that generations of elected officials, both at the county and state levels, are responsible for these intolerable conditions. Ultimately, widening the three highways is a State Highway Administration responsibility, which also means the governor and the Maryland General Assembly must agree to fund such projects.
Last week, the SHA began working on a project that will add one more travel lane in each direction along Route 22 between Prospect Mill and Thomas Run roads. Contractors will also repave the highway from Prospect Mill Road to Route 136 in Churchville and make other improvements to benefit pedestrians and bicycle riders.
Not being ones to turn up our noses at any improvements to the Route 22 mess, we'll point out it took some good spadework by Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, and his administration, as well as some good lobbying by Glassman and others, and acquiescence by Gov. Larry Hogan's office to secure the $6.5 million funding for this project, which is scheduled for completion in fall of 2018.
While it's a very piecemeal approach –– and a small one at that –– the planned improvements should at the very least ease some of congestion coming to and from Harford Community College and other nearby schools. It's better than doing nothing at all, and may be the best long suffering motorists, who frequently travel Route 22, could hope for under current fiscal and political conditions.
Let's not, however, kid ourselves because none of those really big critical local highway needs is likely to be addressed by the SHA/governor/legislature for years to come. Harford's situation can best be summed up by a take what you get and like it — or not — mindset toward state highway funding.