Like the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, highway construction linked to BRAC growth is a lengthy process that is being phased in over time, after ample study and consideration.
While the BRAC moves have been completed, infrastructure changes to accommodate them likely will be ongoing until 2017 and possibly longer. By far the most obvious infrastructure consideration is that posed by vehicle traffic on Route 175, which bisects Fort Meade and is a major artery used by workers commuting to jobs on post.
In recent years, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has been focused on road widening and intersection improvements on the stretch of Route 175 located between Route 295, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 32. The construction phase of this project began in 2011 and is projected to be completed in 2013.
“We’ve removed the center islands from Route 175 and have begun foundation widening,” said Bob Rager, a district community liaison for the SHA. “Motorists should expect to see this work continuing through the summer, with occasional lane closures.”
The project got off to a slow start due to utility issues, he said. “This is a fairly complicated area in terms of electric, gas, water, sewer, fiber optic and other lines that run underneath and along [Route] 175.”
Part of the problem is that many of the utility lines encountered date back several decades and are not in perfect condition.
“SHA has been working with Anne Arundel County, Fort Meade and several utility companies to resolve conflicts as they arise,” Rager said. “While motorists naturally want things done as quickly as possible, SHA cannot rush this critical infrastructure work. We’re getting back on track now and are pushing for fall 2013 completion.”
The current construction project targets improved traffic flow, with an additional through lane on Route 175 in each direction.
Additionally, plans call for widening at the intersection with Rockenbach and Ridge roads for an additional left turn lane in both directions; adding a dedicated right turn from Route 175 onto Route 713 in both directions; and adding a six-foot-wide concrete median to separate Route 175 traffic.
Route 175 will be widened at the intersection with Disney Road and 26th Street to include an additional left turn lane from Route 175 east to Disney Road; a dedicated right turn from Route 175 onto Disney Road and 26th Street in both directions; and a six-foot concrete median.
Infrastructure improvements throughout the work zone include stormwater and biofiltration controls, grade improvements, new asphalt, signals, markings and signage.
“A hiker/biker trail will also be provided along eastbound [Route] 175,” Rager said.
The $9 million contract for the project was awarded to Concrete General of Gaithersburg.
Once the current project is complete, the SHA will shift its focus to another aspect of the Route 175 corridor, between the parkway and Route 170. According to Project Manager Matt Harrell, the follow-on phase will involve partial reconstruction of the Route 295 interchange.
“We will be realigning some ramps to improve the service and safety levels,” Harrell said.
This phase will also include expansion of Route 175 to three lanes in each direction starting west of Brock Bridge Road and tying in to the current project east of Clark Road and Max Blobs Park Road.
“This construction is going to include a sidewalk and bike lane on the westbound side of [Route] 175, and a hiker/biker lane continuation on the eastbound side,” Harrell added.
A total of about $7.9 million has been allocated for the planning and engineering phases of this project.
While the right-of-way and construction phases of this project are currently unfunded, Harrell said planners will be working to secure a combination of state and federal funding to cover those expenses. Construction of this phase is slated to begin in 2014 and will take at least three years to complete.
Good Idea, Now …
Local and regional transportation advocates agree that improvements to the Route 175 corridor are long overdue.
“Fort Meade is a major employment generator that is absolutely facing gridlock without these projects,” said Michele Whelley, president and CEO of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.
But at the same time, the shared sentiment of commuters is that the sum of these improvements will be one of minor degrees, not major magnitudes, Whelley said. “We’ve got an area that was being congested long before the upsurge.”
The addition of the U.S. Cyber Command on post will mean the addition of thousands of new jobs on and around Fort Meade, new housing projects and a need for a larger social, retail and service infrastructure to support it all.
“Our position is … that there needs to be a directed and focused management plan that includes mass transit improvements as well,” she said.
As part of that effort, particular emphasis should be placed on expanding MARC service to Odenton, Savage and Dorsey on nights and weekends and making the so-called last mile connection between this service and its users, Whelley said.
“What it comes down to is recognizing that transportation is a priority,” she said, “without making more of a mess for employment, congestion and residential areas.”