Main Street Work Surprises Berlin

BERLIN – Berlin residents were surprised to wake up Monday morning to a blocked off Main St.

Berlin’s elected officials and staff were just as stunned as residents to wake up to the repaving work.  Main St. is also known as Maryland Route 818, meaning repair and maintenance responsibility lies with the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), not in the hands of the town of Berlin.

“They didn’t give us any formal notice. I suppose they don’t have to because they own the street,” said interim Mayor Gee Williams, a former spokesperson for SHA. “Personally I was pleased it’s being done. It’s very beneficial and it looks great. It’s not a problem as far as I was concerned.”

When asked about the street work, Administrative Director Linda Bambary said, “I haven’t heard directly from State Highway. We weren’t advised,”

Bambary added that SHA is usually in touch when it plans to undertake street or sidewalk work in the town. In the past, SHA has even called to inform Berlin when a traffic study was planned for the town. To find out more about the project, staff was forced to call SHA for information.

While SHA does inform the town of construction projects, the repaving was just maintenance work, according to Williams.

The work was prompted by safety concerns, said Hicham Baassiri, an engineer with SHA’s special projects division.

“We put a very small layer of hot mix asphalt to cover the bad spots, to improve the friction on the roads,” Baassiri said. “We test the roads every year. We test it for cracking, rotting and low friction.”

Low-friction tests show that the road could become slippery.

“We don’t want any roadway in our district that has a low-friction rating,” Baassiri said.

Engineers moved to repave the road quickly once they saw the friction reading.

“Because of safety, we try to repave the road as soon as they know of it,” said Baassiri.

The Main St. work was completed by Wednesday.  “The paving is complete. It didn’t take long because it’s a very thin layer,” said Baassiri.

Williams is happy with the finished product.

“I’m glad they’re able to keep up the condition of the road so it’s as nice looking as the rest of the town,” said Williams. “Any time they can repave one of our streets, that’s fine by me. We’re kind of spoiled. They keep the roads repaved on a regular basis. Personally, I wouldn’t want to do anything to discourage that.”