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U.S. 40 stretch gets $8 million for upgrades

U.S. 40, the aged, ugly duckling highway that handles a truckload of the traffic passing through the most commercial section of Harford County, is in line for a facelift.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has designated $8 million from the transportation funding package passed this year by the General Assembly to be used for a safety and beautification upgrade of a two-mile stretch of 65-year-old road in Edgewood.

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Some of the money will be used to eliminate the Jersey barriers that divide the eastbound and westbound lanes.

A stone-faced wall island containing trees, bushes, flowers and grass will replace the barriers, said Philip G. Humbertson, an assistant district engineer with the State Highway Administration.

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He said new energy-absorbing guardrails will be installed, which will help reduce the seriousness of auto accidents.

He said plans also call for the road to be resurfaced, and for the installations of sidewalks, a new drainage system and enhanced traffic signs that will be easier to read.

The upgrades will be made on the portion of road between routes 152 and 24. The area is primarily commercial, with a diversified collection of businesses including fast-food restaurants, car dealerships, a junkyard, a motel, self-storage facilities and shopping centers.

"This is great," Monica A. Worrell of the Route 40 Business Association said during the funding announcement at the Bulle Rock Golf Course on Wednesday. "It will bring a fresher look to the area, and that will help businesses by strengthening the curb appeal, how a property looks when people pass by. People want to go where it's pretty."

Humbertson said state Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford Republican, would organize a task force composed of property owners and representatives of business associations and community groups to determine other transportation improvements to the region.

During the announcement ceremony, Jacobs said the U.S. 40 beautification project was something that she and Del. Charles R. Boutin, a Harford Republican, had worked on for a couple years. "If you do enough screaming and hollering and have friends in high places, you can get things done," she added, referring to Ehrlich.

Boutin said U.S. 40 has been ignored for many years. "Every county executive that I can remember has talked about the need to do something about Route 40, but [County Executive James M.] Harkins was the first to do anything," he said.

He said the improvements could "make people want to come here, to do their shopping here," and could help stimulate an economic revival.

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James F. Ports Jr., state assistant transportation secretary, called U.S. 40 a vital economic center that is important to the financial success of Harford County.

He said 30,000 vehicles use the road each day.

County Councilman Dion F. Guthrie, a Democrat who represents the Edgewood area, said, "The aesthetic improvements are going to be fabulous. It's going to be beautiful. The trees and the vegetation will help absorb the exhaust of the cars. It's going to be a big boost to Edgewood."

The section of U.S. 40 passing through the county was completed in 1939, and it has been an artery for Harford commerce ever since.

Humbertson said the State Highway Administration hopes to advertise for bids from construction companies this summer. Construction is scheduled to be completed in early 2007.


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