I-70 improvement project to start near Frederick


FREDERICK -- A media blitz today will launch long-awaited improvements to Interstate 70 in Frederick County, but a new group here says the $20 million project is not enough to alleviate traffic woes and is lobbying for more.

The first phase of a proposed $100 million project, scheduled to start this month, will complete missing interchanges connecting I-70 and heavily traveled U.S. 15 and U.S. 340. Those roads, respectively, link a rapidly increasing number of commuters with Interstate 270, which runs south through Montgomery County toward Washington and with Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The lack of interchanges between the highways has created congestion along Frederick County roads, particularly U.S. 40, also known locally as the "Golden Mile."

Motorists on southbound U.S. 15, for example, must travel the Golden Mile, a busy stretch of shopping centers, restaurants and other businesses in Frederick, to reach westbound I-70 to Hagerstown and Western Maryland.

"The Frederick area is virtually the last place in the United States where major crisscrossing interstates lack complete connecting interchanges," said Gail Guyton, chairman of the new Frederick County Consortium to Complete the Interstates.

"Frederick's missing links affect the safety and efficiency of highway transportation for everyone in the region," she said, "from Hagerstown to the Baltimore and Washington suburbs to our West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania neighbors."

Construction of the federally funded interchanges involving I-70, U.S. 15 and U.S. 340 is expected to be completed in the fall of 1997, state highway officials said.

"This is the first of six planned phases to upgrade this section of I-70 to interstate standards," said Hal Kassoff, state highway administrator. "This project will not only enhance motorist safety on I-70, it will also improve traffic conditions on Frederick's local road system."

The Frederick group, of county, city, business and tourism representatives, is lobbying state and federal officials for

additional money to complete other planned improvements sooner, including a new interchange at I-70 and I-270. That project would ease traffic on congested Route 85 or the Buckeystown Pike, a major road leading to Frederick's Francis Scott Key Mall.

The cost of the new interchange at I-70 and I-270 would be about $37 million. The state Highway Administration has earmarked $5 million for right-of-way purchases. But construction money has not been appropriated. Future alterations that local interests are seeking include widening the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-70 around Frederick, new ramps from eastbound I-70 to Route 355, relocation of Routes 355 and 85 and additional ramps in the Frederick area.

Expected to attend today's groundbreaking are Gov. Parris N. Glendening, U.S. Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, Congressman Roscoe G. Barlett and Frederick County and city officials.

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