Road project is almost done

SHA spokesman says work on U.S. 50 interchange is `90 percent' complete


By Christmas, state officials are hopeful that they can take the wrappings off a long-anticipated $18.2 million road project near Annapolis.

Nearly three years in the making, construction to widen and realign lanes and create new ramps at the interchange of U.S. 50, Route 450 and Solomons Island Road - one of the county's most congested junctions - is "90 percent" complete, said David Buck, spokesman for the State Highway Administration.

All that crews are waiting on is clear weather, so that they can open the new ramps and install permanent paving markers, Buck said.

"The cold shouldn't preclude us from getting this done ... in the next two weeks," said Buck, adding that the only impediment would be snow.

Weather has reared its ugly head since the project started in spring 2003. Construction was supposed to be done by spring 2005, but major rains throughout the spring and summer of 2004 brought the project to a crawl.

Development along the Annapolis Neck in recent years has severely hindered traffic at the point linking the three major arteries in Parole. More than 130,000 motorists use the U.S. 50/Route 450/Solomons Island Road interchange every day, according to the SHA.

SHA officials visited the site last week, Buck said, and are anticipating holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony next month to mark the completion of the project. Buck said crews will be back in the spring to do some "final touch-up work."

Among the project improvements:

A new merge lane on U.S. 50 between Riva Road and Solomons Island Road, or Route 2.

Access to westbound U.S. 50 and Jennifer Road for those traveling north on Solomons Island Road (previously, drivers only had access to eastbound U.S. 50 from that point).

A hiker-biker trail along Route 2 between Jennifer and Somerville roads.

A road extension and ramp from Jennifer Road that goes under U.S. 50 and connects to the highway's eastbound lanes.

SHA and Anne Arundel County are partners on the project, with the county contributing $10 million. One of the aims of the project was to improve access to Anne Arundel Medical Center.

"I am proud of this investment," said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens. "While initially the interchange was proposed to better serve the Anne Arundel Medical Center, it's clear that this interchange will benefit a number of Anne Arundel County residents by giving them travel options."

The completion of the project comes on the heels of three major construction projects that are about to start in Parole: the $400 million mixed-use redevelopment of Parole Plaza, which recently gained final approval from the county; a $200 million, nine-story addition at the medical center; and a $100 million-plus expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis that will expand it to 1.5 million square feet from 1.2 million square feet.

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