Commissioners, State Debate Route 113 Phasing Schedule

BERLIN – The Route 113 dualization must continue, the Worcester County Commissioners told State Highway Administration (SHA) officials this week, and some were equally emphatic that the dangerous intersection of Routes 113 and 12 must be fixed.

SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen and District Engineer Donnie Drewer appeared before the County Commissioners on Tuesday to discuss the next phases of the Route 113 dualization. Phase 2a, from Hayes Landing Rd. to north of Goody Hill Rd., is under contract and construction should begin by July, while Phase 2b, from Goody Hill Rd. to Massey Branch, should go out for bid in late August. The sequence after that is not clear.

Pedersen asked the County Commissioners to think about whether the state should pursue Phases 3, 4, and 5 in sequence, or jump ahead to Phase 5. The question before the Commissioners is whether to ask for Phase 5, the addition of roundabouts to the Routes 12 and 113 interchange, before Phases 3 and 4. Phase 5 would cost an estimated $29 million.

According to Pedersen, roundabouts are safe because they slow traffic down to 15 to 20 miles per hour and give drivers time to make safe decisions. The state has installed over 70 roundabouts in Maryland, including one at a notorious five-way intersection in Towson. People are often resistant to roundabouts, according to Pedersen, but there is good data to prove the design’s worth.

“We reduced personal injury accidents on the order of between 70 and 90 percent,” Pedersen said.

Drewer agreed stating, “I just think they are the safest thing going.”

The SHA administrator said he did not have a recommendation on the next phase, because there are arguments to be made on both sides.

“We started off with higher number of accidents than we wanted,” said Pedersen of the intersection of Routes 12 and 113. “The frequency with which accidents have been occurring have dropped off significantly.”

The single lane sections of Route 113 see fewer accidents, but they are more serious, and more likely to result in a fatality.

SHA is in a financial bind, with revenue forecasts down, and projects cannot be added to the agency’s capital improvement plans. Projects are more likely to be cut or delayed, Pedersen said.

Although no decision was made, the Worcester County Commissioners emphasized the need to continue work on Route 113 and find a solution for its dangerous intersection at Route 12.

“We want you to continue with Route 113. That road in itself is dangerous, very dangerous, until we get it dualized,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs.

Commission President Virgil Shockley pushed hard for the transformation of the Route 12 and Route 113 intersection.

The fourteenth accident at the intersection in late March almost killed a seven year old boy, Shockley said, if not for a paramedic in a car a few vehicles behind the accident.

“We got real lucky that morning,” Shockley said.

The child injured in that accident still wears a patch on one eye, and has pains in his chest and arm six weeks later. He spends two days a week at Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

“While numbers are numbers, that is the reality,” Shockley said. “That’s number 14, by the way. You may not be keeping track but we are.”

At a public meeting last fall on the possible fixes for the intersection, SHA officials were given a petition for a traffic light at that spot, signed by 745 people, he said.

“People around here, the 745 people that signed that, believe me, have had enough,” Shockley said, who himself has been speaking out against the design of the intersection since before construction was completed and who has been keeping track of the accidents there.

“We don’t want to stop 113. People who go through that intersection shouldn’t have to put their life in danger every day going through that intersection,” he said.

Pedersen told the commissioners to be patient, however. “We probably do still have some time before making a decision on what phase it will be,” said Pedersen.

But Shockley said current budget constraints could set back improvements for years. “You’re looking at FY ’10, ’11 before you’re going to end up with any kind of funding for anything,” he predicted.

Commissioner Louise Gulyas asked about the status of the dualization of Route 589 and the Route 50 overpass proposed for the 589/50 intersection.

Route 113 is the priority, Pedersen said. Until last fall, when the commissioners raised the question of the Route 12 and Route 113 intersection at the annual meeting with the Maryland Department of Transportation, the agency planned to follow the Route 113 phases in order.

Pedersen promised to continue to be “a broken record” with his superiors on the subject of Route 113.

Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari and officials will be back in October for the annual meeting.

“We have plenty of time,” Shockley said.