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$20 million SHA project to improve two Annapolis bridges, intersection

The gateway to Annapolis will get a major facelift as a $20 million construction project that includes two bridges and an intersection begins next month along Roscoe Rowe Boulevard.

City and county officials have been anticipating the work for several years, but the State Highway Administration announced last week that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had appropriated funding for the project.

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"These have been on our list for quite a few years now," said Jeff Robert, a project manager with the highway administration's bridge department. "The bridge decks are some of the worst in the state."

During the first phase of the project, State Highway Administration workers will widen the intersection at Taylor Avenue and Rowe Boulevard, near the District Court and the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

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Workers will add a left-turn lane from southbound Taylor Avenue onto eastbound Rowe Boulevard. They also will add a dual left-turn lane from northbound Taylor Avenue onto westbound Rowe Boulevard. Work on that project is to start next month and be completed by the time the legislative session begins next year.

The second phase of the project will begin next spring and will focus on two bridges over Rowe Boulevard.

The two bridges, which were built nearly 50 years ago and carry about 70,000 vehicles a day, require major upgrades. Robert said that state workers have made many spot repairs on both bridges but that effort is costly and inefficient.

"On patches, we're spending more money than it would cost us to do a total rehab now," Robert said. "Eventually, it would lead to a bridge closure if we didn't do [the bridge work]."

The Weems Creek bridge will be replaced. The new bridge will have 11-foot-wide lanes, a 4-foot-wide shoulder, a wider concrete median than the current bridge and one sidewalk. In the future, the state may want to turn the median space into a fifth lane, Robert said, but that would entail a full project planning study that involves extensive public feedback. For now, two lanes in each direction will span the creek.

State workers also will refurbish the bridge over College Creek, replacing the bridge deck and the beams. Workers will widen the bridge to accommodate Annapolis' pedestrian traffic, something neighborhood groups had requested. The sidewalks on the bridge will be widened from 5 feet to 7 feet.

The bridge work is to be finished in late 2006. During the construction, Rowe Boulevard at College Creek will be reduced to three lanes - two inbound in the morning and two outbound in the evening. Weems Creek lane closures will be late at night, Robert said, when traffic is light.

Local officials have long awaited improvements to Rowe Boulevard because the main route through Annapolis often is congested.

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"The county executive knows that the city and the state have been working on trying to ease the traffic problems in the area for quite some time and hopes these projects help," said Matt Diehl, Anne Arundel County spokesman.

Two local task forces, one focusing on aesthetic issues and the other dealing with environmental concerns, advised the State Highway Administration on the design plans. Plans also call for trees and shrubs to be planted at both bridges to enhance the scenery.


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