BERLIN – Twenty million dollars has been dedicated to the next phase of the Route 113 dualization and to more planning funds for Route 589 improvements in the state’s consolidated transportation plan, showing that the highest levels of Maryland government have not forgotten Worcester’s highways.
The Maryland consolidated transportation plan calls for $18 million to fund the dualization of Route 113 between Goody Hill Rd. and Massey Branch, a 1.8-mile stretch south of Berlin.
“We’re hoping to be under construction by the spring of 2009,” said Chuck Gischler, a Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) spokesperson.
After hearing the news, County Commissioner Bud Church said, “I’m pleasantly surprised.” He added, “I had some reservations on whether they were going to do it or not. If they include it in the budget and it gets through the process, that’s wonderful.”
County Commissioner Linda Busick welcomed the planned funding but wondered why it had taken the state 30 years to start getting the dualization work done.
“We’re talking about 4.6 miles of roadway here, and certainly that could be addressed in a quicker time frame,” Busick said.
County Commissioner Louise Gulyas expressed an interesting in seeing Route 113 completed before proceeding with any plans for Route 589.
“I would like to see 113 completed before they begin work on 589. I think that should be the uppermost priority. It needs to be finished,” said Gulyas. “My fear is that if and when the slot machines come to Ocean Downs that 113 will be sidelined and 589 will be started and completed. I just think that would be so wrong.”
Church acknowledged hearing that very possibility.
“We have heard that that’s a possibility. I would be very upset if that happened,” Church said. “There are a lot more deaths on 113 than on 589. There are a lot more accidents on 113 than on 589.”
Locals, visitors, shipping and other travelers heavily use Route 113.
“I think [the state] realizes it puts a lot of lives in jeopardy,” Gulyas said. “In the summertime, it’s the connection between the bridge in Virginia and everything else on the shore. We move a lot of chickens on that road, plus a lot of industry.”
Another $2 million has been assigned to planning the Route 589 improvements, stretching from Route 50 to the Route 90 intersection.
“The $2 million that was allocated will totally complete the project planning for this,” said Gishler. “It could take up to three years to complete.”
Previous monies only funded the planning in part.
“I’m certainly looking forward to the planning phase of Route 589,” said Busick. “Something really needed to be done.”
Inclusion in the consolidated transportation plan does not guarantee funding, however.
“The capital improvement budget is submitted to the legislature with the rest of the budget,” said Jack Cahalan of the Maryland Department of Transportation. “It does require the legislature’s approval.”
The consolidated transportation plan tends to come through the budget process as it went in, with few cuts made by Annapolis lawmakers, he said.
“Typically, the projects selected for the consolidated transportation budget are approved as submitted,” Cahalan said. “We have not seen major changes in what is submitted versus what is approved.”
The Route 113 and Route 589 projects have a higher profile now that may protect them from cuts. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley mentioned both projects in the State of the State address Wednesday.
“We are moving forward with…the next phase of widening US 113 on the Eastern Shore and the planning study to improve traffic flow and safety near Ocean Pines,” he said, mentioning five different projects in total.
Upgrades to Eastern Shore railroad lines and railroad grade crossings are also listed in the plan, along with capital funding for transit buses and transit facility improvements. Under the plan, about $7 million for transit system operating expenses will also made available to local governments by the state to defray rising fuel, labor and insurance costs.
Transportation projects elsewhere on the shore include a roundabout and sidewalks at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, drainage improvements along Route 13 and local Salisbury roads, funds for engineering work on the dualization of Route 404, and a study of capacity expansion on Nanticoke Rd. in Salisbury.
“Investing in transportation means investing in Maryland’s future,” said O’Malley last week. “We are moving our state forward with projects that reflect a balanced approach to transportation. We will improve transit, help reduce traffic congestion and preserve the roads, bridges and rails we already have in place. This strong level of investment reflects our shared commitment to expand economic opportunities for Maryland’s families and small businesses, improve public safety and homeland security, and protect our quality of life.”
Overall, the plan includes $43 million in Eastern Shore projects and $10.6 billion for transportation work across Maryland.