Annapolis-area interchange work is slated to end this fall

THE BALTIMORE SUN

An $18.2 million project to unclog a crisscross of Annapolis-area highways won't be finished until fall, state and county officials said last week.

Work on the interchange of three major arteries in Parole -- U.S. 50, Route 450 and Solomons Island Road -- started in April 2003 and was expected to be done this spring. But officials say it's only about half-finished.

The State Highway Administration attributed delays there and at several other long-term road projects to rain in the spring and summer of last year.

Even with major development planned around the interchange, state and county officials anticipate that the widened and realigned lanes and new ramps will speed travel around one of the county's most congested junctures and improve access to Anne Arundel Medical Center.

"Giving the public and emergency vehicles better access made this a top priority," said county land-use spokeswoman Pam Jordan.

The county and SHA are working in partnership on the road project, with the county contributing $10 million.

"This was a very significant need that the county identified," said SHA spokesman David Buck.

According to SHA statistics, 130,000 motorists use the interchange every day.

The project will include new ramp movements between Solomons Island Road and U.S. 50 and a new merge lane on U.S. 50 between Riva Road and Solomons Island Road.

Motorists traveling north on Solomons Island Road, or Route 2, who pass West Street now only have the option of getting on eastbound U.S. 50 toward the Bay Bridge. With the change, they'll also be able to take a ramp that goes under U.S. 50, connecting either to the highway's westbound lanes or to Jennifer Road (and the Anne Arundel Medical Center area).

The plan also calls for a hiker-biker trail along Route 2 between Jennifer and Somerville roads, and a road extension and ramp from Jennifer Road that goes under U.S. 50 and connects to the highway's eastbound lanes.

Among the portions still to be finished:

The connecting ramp between northbound Solomons Island Road and westbound U.S. 50.

A retaining wall for southbound Solomons Island Road to eastbound U.S. 50.

Paving on U.S. 50 and drainage work throughout the interchange.

With plans under way for a nine-story, $200 million addition at the medical center and a $400 million redevelopment of Parole Plaza, SHA and county officials likely will stay involved in trying to keep burgeoning traffic under control.

Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis, which flanks the medical center, also has plans to expand, to 1.5 million square feet.

"Some of the intersections are already at the point of failing," said Buck, meaning that drivers are waiting more than one stop-light rotation to get through an intersection.

As for the mall, SHA and county officials and others will meet over the next few months to go over the developer's plans for easing congestion on access points along Solomons Island Road, Buck said.

"We hope this partnership will continue as we look toward other capital improvement projects at state intersections," Jordan said.

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