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Aberdeen residents, businesses tire of Route 22 construction

The State Highway Administration is overseeing a slew of improvements, along Rt. 22 including installation of the first highway noise barriers in Harford County, between the intersection with Beards Hill Road and the main gate at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The State Highway Administration is overseeing a slew of improvements, along Rt. 22 including installation of the first highway noise barriers in Harford County, between the intersection with Beards Hill Road and the main gate at Aberdeen Proving Ground. (Matt Button/BSMG Staff)

Jim Baxendell offered a free sandwich to three State Highway Administration employees if they can drive from Klein's ShopRite on one side of Beards Hill Road in Aberdeen to his restaurant, Chap's Pit Beef, on the other side in less than 10 minutes.

"My dinner time has pretty much gone to nothing," Baxendell, who's been in Aberdeen for a year, told the three during Monday night's Aberdeen City Council meeting. "From 5 to 7 p.m., there's usually no one there."

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More than a dozen business owners and residents, frustrated with traffic congestion and backups, noise and general inconvenience in connection with the prolonged work along Route 22, came to the City Council meeting to voice their complaints.

Intersection improvement projects that began more than three years ago don't appear close to completion many of the speakers complained.

SHA spokesperson Fran Ward, as well as Tom Briggs, construction area engineer for Harford County, and Amy Andrews, construction engineer/BRAC projects coordinator, listened as citizens brought up problems they're having and shared their concerns.

Business at Klein's ShopRite is down 15 to 20 percent, said Michael Klein, one of the principals in Colgate Investments, which operates the grocery store and owns the shopping center the store anchors, The Plaza at Beards Hill.

"Our tenants are experiencing a loss of business that far exceeds that," Klein said.

Brenda Weber is one of those tenants. She owns Mamie's Cafe, and said her lunch business has been cut in half.

"I depend on Aberdeen Proving Ground for my lunch business," Weber said. "It takes 45 minutes to get in [to Aberdeen] and 45 minutes to get out. They have an hour for lunch. No one has time."

"What resources can you give, can you bring, because... we're hearing from businesses big and small, some are not going to make it," Aberdeen City Manager Randy Robertson asked the three representatives from SHA, who provided the Aberdeen City Council with an update Monday on three construction projects along Route 22 related to BRAC expansion at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"They've been doing this for three years and looking for another year," Robertson said. "I know how hard they're struggling."

Project updates

Only one of the three projects – an upgrade to the intersection of Route 22 at Old Post Road – is finished, Ward said. It was completed in December 2016.

That $6.4 million project done by Allan Myers, of Fallston, included a third through lane to Route 22 added eastbound and westbound, right turn lanes added and lengthened on Route 22, double left turn lanes onto Route 22 eastbound, she said.

The two projects still underway are the $8.2 million upgrade of the intersection at Route 22 and Paradise Road and the $9.5 million upgrade at Route 22 and Beards Hill Road

The Paradise Road work, awarded to A-Del Construction, of Newark, Del., began in April 2015. The Beards Hill work, awarded to Allan Myers, of Fallston, was initially supposed to begin in April 2014, but because of utility relocations, was delayed until April 2015, Ward said.

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Most of the work on both projects should be finished by late fall or winter, with final paving done by spring at the latest, depending on the weather, Ward saud.

This winter was mild, she said, which meant crews could work through most of the year.

Both projects include adding third lanes to Route 22 in the eastbound and westbound directions.

The Paradise Road project included lengthening the right turn lane off of Route 22 eastbound, adding a double left turn and single right turn onto southbound Paradise Road and adding a single right turn lane onto Paradise Road. Sound barriers are also being installed south of the intersection, a first for a Harford County highway.

The Beards Hill project included lengthening the right turn lanes on Route 22 in both directions, adding a right turn late on Route 22 eastbound and westbound at Beards Hill, adding a double left turn lane onto Route 22 eastbound at Beards Hill and a double left turn to Beards Hill north and south at Route 22.

Storm drain work, curbs and gutters, sidewalks, boxing out the road, putting down stone then paving, marking, lining and signing in both areas remain to be done, Briggs said.

The other two projects are not expected to be finished until late fall or winter, possibly into next spring, Ward said.

One of the holdups, Briggs said, is abandoned utilities.

"For the safety of everybody involved, we've got to stop [when we come across one]. That's what's been slowing us down," he said.

Ongoing problems

"I hope you can be accommodating," Klein said to the SHA representatives. "A year is do or die for many of these people. We feel the impact, we feel for every single one of our tenants. Whatever you can do to make better accommodations would be very much appreciated."

Some things are short-term, practical matters, such as traffic signal timing, that could be addressed quickly. Others are more long-term, such as scheduling, that have to be considered, Ward said.

They planned to take all the concerns discussed Monday back to SHA officials Tuesday to see what can be resolved quickly and what will take more time. They are scheduled to be back at the next Aberdeen City Council meeting, which is May 18, to share with the same business owners and residents what can be done.

Things can be done to improve the situation, Tom Fidler, and executive vice president with Mackenzie Real Estate, which has been contracted by the City of Aberdeen to assist with its retail development strategy.

"One more year of this and many of those businesses may not be here," Fidler said.

He suggested adjusting the timing of traffic signals in Aberdeen so traffic flows more easily. That could alleviate some of the backups.

Baxendall said he recently sat through eight cycles at Route 22 and Beards Hill Road, and only one car got through.

"Altering signal timing would be extremely valuable to businesses," Fidler said.

Changing traffic patterns drivers aren't familiar with generate confusion and, at times, road rage and multiple near-accidents, the residents and business owners said.

"I have a small business. I work very hard," Weber said. "I have a wonderful landlord who's been very good to me, but the State of Maryland is not being good to me right now."

Saxon's moved its jewelry store from Route 40 to a larger building on Beards Hill Road three months ago, into the midst of a construction project that should have taken seven months, but has turned into three years, owner Lance Hersh said.

He asked SHA how it intends to help local business owners.

"What type of relief will there be to business owners when dates are not met - and there seems to be a history of that in Aberdeen - to help small business owners who have been greatly impacted," he asked.

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Saxon's and Chap's are in the same new shopping center, developed by Wayne Tapscott, which the developer said was sold to tenants "largely on the convenience of getting in and out."

"I had no idea it would take this long and we still have another year," Tapscott said.

Aberdeen Councilman Tim Lindecamp asked if a study would be done when the project is finished to look at what will happen with traffic after motorists proceed past Aberdeen.

Route 22 will go from three lanes to two at I-95 then to one lane at Long Drive - "are people going to fly through Aberdeen then have a backup" at Long Drive, he asked.

Briggs said a project is about to begin on Route 22 near Harford Community College where some of the lanes will be widened.

Other concerns

Amy Brewner, of the 300 block of Hillcrest Drive, questioned why the sound barriers being installed stop halfway between Paradise Road and Mt. Royal Avenue on Route 22.

"We're still affected by the noise," Brewner told SHA representatives.

She was told, she said, where the barrier ends is based on where the road will go from two to three lanes.

"But my home is within a few feet of that," she said. "It's just as much a burden as everybody else."

Brewner said she can't stand in the backyard and have a conversation with her husband, nor can her daughter sleep with her windows open - because it's too loud.

"To me it doesn't make sense why it stops in the middle," she said.

Bob Hartman, who lives in the 200 block of Paradise Road, asked SHA officials if they could restrict right turns from Paradise onto Route 22 from either direction during construction.

"The barriers, the equipment, you can see oncoming traffic," Hartman said. "It's a hazard."

State Sen. Robert Cassilly and County Councilman Patrick Vincenti, both of whom represent the area, said they will work with SHA as best they can to help the project move forward.

"We continually get calls from citizens asking us to find some relief. We have no control," Vincenti said. "We appreciate anything you can do not only for the businesses, but for the citizens who deal with this every day."

This story is updated from previous versions to reflect a name correction and that the challenge about crossing Route 22 in 10 minutes for a free sandwich at Chaps was made to the SHA employees, not the general public.



Harford County’s “Choose Civility” campaign kicked off with a breakfast event at the Water’s Edge Events Center in Belcamp on Wednesday.
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