SHA to hold input meeting for four projects in Arbutus

Starting in the fall, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) will begin the construction of four different projects in Arbutus.

Projects include:

• the mile-long replacement of two Interstate 695 (Baltimore Beltway) inner loop bridges over Benson Avenue, Amtrak lines, US 1 (Southwestern Boulevard) and Leeds Avenue;

• the relocation of the I-695 inner loop ramp from US 1 over Leeds Avenue;

• a 1.2 mile-long median barrier replacement from south of the Interstate 895 bridge to the Interstate 95 northbound lane bridge;

• the addition of bike lanes to US 1 that will span 2 miles.

Plans for the four separate projects will be on display at a community meeting to be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at Arbutus Town Hall.

The meeting will not be a formal presentation. SHA representatives will be available to answer questions about the projects and designs will be on display, according to a newsletter sent to residents by SHA.

"We thought it would be a good idea to get everyone together and hold a public meeting," said Fran Ward, District 4 community liaison for SHA. "We wanted everyone to be aware of what's going on."

The design for the bridge replacements and relocation of the I-695 inner loop ramp, were presented to the public at a meeting held May 23, 2011 at Arbutus Middle School on Shelbourne Road.

Ward said community input has been taken into account with both projects.

"It's fairly set in stone, but we want to make sure people know this is moving forward," Ward said.

A new ramp proposed under the plan will provide a direct connection between US 1 and the inner loop of I-695, which aims to lessen commuter traffic on local roads by providing direct access from the Halethorpe MARC station, according to SHA information.

Jim Buckingham, 67, owner of Buckingham Automotive on Southwestern Boulevard, said the changes will likely affect the area in a "positive way."

The Ellicott City resident said he is hoping the result will alleviate traffic in the business district.

The two inner loop bridges to be replaced were originally built in 1957 and widened in 1970, according to SHA information. Replacing the bridges, which are ending their lifespan, will, "reduce maintenance costs and support safety and mobility as part of SHA's bridge system preservation program," SHA said.

"The original plan called for the purchase and removal of the yellow house and veterinarian hospital (on Leeds Avenue) three years ago," said Terry Nolan, president of the Arbutus Business and Professional Association.

Both structures will stay in place with the new plan, Nolan said.

Nolan said Del. James Malone, who represents District 12A and grew up in the area, worked with SHA to ensure both structures will stay.

According to SHA, upon completion of the bridges, there will be an additional through lane along I-695 that will open to traffic, beginning at the I-95 ramps and continuing across both bridges. Three lanes from the I-95 ramps and three from I-695 will merge into four lanes of traffic at the Westland Boulevard overpass bridge, SHA said.

The bridge replacement and I-695 inner loop ramps are scheduled to open for traffic in spring 2017. The combined I-695 bridge replacement over Benson Avenue, Leeds Avenue, US 1 and Amtrak, along with the Leeds Avenue ramp has an estimated cost of $65 to $70 million, Ward said.

The construction of a third project to replace barriers on I-695 is expected to begin spring 2015 and will be open to traffic in fall 2015.

Plans are to replace the concrete barrier between the northbound and southbound lanes of I-695 and upgrade all steel barriers (guardrails) along the road, SHA information said.

That project will also involve upgrading drainage pipes and inlets under the road, grinding and resurfacing the pavement all lanes and the installation of reflective pavement markings. It is estimated to cost $8.5 to $9 million, Ward said.

A fourth project consists of upgrades to US 1 that will cost an estimated $3.5 to $4 million.

Ward said the SHA will be seeking community input for the project design. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2015 and open to traffic in spring 2016.

Segments of the road will be improved to increase multi-modal access to US 1 and to the Halethorpe MARC train station, which includes retrofitting bike lanes and upgrading existing sidewalks to become Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible, SHA information said.

The project will be done in two segments: from the Baltimore City line to Knecht Avenue and another from Linden Avenue Spur to Washington Boulevard. A newly proposed sidewalk will run along northbound US 1 between the MARC station and the I-95 overpass.

Ward said the improvements are part of a larger plan to improve the entire Beltway.

"The Beltway is more than 50 years old now in some sections...We have been upgrading interchanges, bridges and ramps," Ward said. "This is something we've been doing all around the Beltway in the past 10 to 12 years."

The funds were made available through the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013, with a goal to provide, "major Baltimore area transportation projects that will relieve congestion, improve safety and create jobs," said Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a May 29 press release.

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